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Google Drive: first impressions, who owns what


(CBS News) Google Drive, the free online storage service from Google, launched Tuesday.

While it's not open to the general public yet, a handful of journalists got to test out the cloud storage service and raised a few questions over who owns the files stored on Google Drive.

Full coverage of Google at Tech Talk
Google Drive online storage launches

To get Google Drive, you need to install software onto your computer, which then acts as a drive on your computer and syncs with a remote server or the cloud. Once a file is saved on your Google Drive, Google Document files will automatically sync. Any other files can be dragged into your Google Drive folder, which will sync to the cloud.

CNET: The Google Drive FAQ

One thing to note is that once you install Google Drive, it will replace Google Documents. But, the file sizes of all your documents do not count toward Google Drive's storage limit.

Saving files on Google Drive is a simple as dragging and dropping. If you're familiar with cloud storage service Dropbox, the user interface is similar. The main feature that sets Google Drive apart from the rest is deep integration with Google products, like Google+ or Gmail.

Because it's Google, the search function of Google Drive is emphasized. You'll be able to search by keywords, file type and owner, but that's not all. Using technology called Optical Character Recognition (OCR), you'll also be able to search text in scanned documents.

Google describes OCR as technology that "lets you convert images with text into text documents using automated computer algorithms." An example of how this technology can be used is if you scan a newspaper article. You can later search the scanned image for the text from the article.

Questions over who owns the files stored on Google's servers have surfaced. The quick answer is: you. But, it's complicated. Here are the terms for personal Google account holders.

ZDNET: How far do Google Drive's terms go in 'owning' your files?

"Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps)."

You own your content, but Google can use it for the purposes listed above. However, that doesn't mean the search engine giant will frivolously use your photos and documents for promotional purposes. The simple truth is we don't know what Google might do with our data.

"The chances are Google's terms will never be an issue - and it is likely over-zealous lawyers making sure Google doesn't somehow get screwed in the long run by a lawsuit - but it may be enough to push away a great number of entrepreneurs and creative workers who rely on holding on to the rights to their own work," ZDNET's Zack Whittaker weighed in on Google Drive's terms.

If you can accept those terms, Google Drive is a pretty great free service. Anyone who signs up gets 5 gigabytes for free, to start. More space can be purchased for $2.49 per month for 25GB, $4.99 per month for 100GB and $49.99 for 1 terabyte.

The service is not widely available yet, but you can sign up to be notified about availability at

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