Google Contacts Copyright Madness

Google has rightly received praise for its reworked "Contacts" functionality. But there is still a rather glaring error.

One of the things I love to do is add images to my contacts. It gives me a visual cue when I'm scrolling through looking for a person, it prompts my memory when I see the face of a friend calling me, and it helps me remember what people look like.
Contact List With Images
As you can see, I'm pretty good at keeping everyone's photo on my phone up to date.

Which Conditions Are Appropriate?

Google's interface for uploading images has some rather confusing conditions attached to it...

Upload a picture
"Do not upload pictures containing celebrities, nudity, artwork or copyrighted images."

What? Those are some strange terms and conditions to have attached to a contact image. I'm not sure if they're copy-and-pasted from another app - or if they're intentional. Let's take a look at each one.

  • "Celebrities".  If I've got a friend who is a celebrity - why can't I have her image as her contact picture?
  • "Nudity".  It's my phone.  I am not going to offend myself if I see a nude picture of a friend that I've uploaded.  This is before we get in to what defines nudity.
  • "Artwork". This is just bizarre.  If a street artist has drawn a caricature, I can't upload it?  I can't use a company logo to indicate where my contact works?
  • "Copyrighted images". Again - what? I own the copyright on images I've taken.  I may have permission to reuse a copyrighted image.  I may even be justified in using a copyrighted image for my personal use.  I suspect they mean "images to which you don't have permission from the copyright holder to use for this purpose".  But even that doesn't cover the Fair Dealing provisions of many copyright laws.

If you try to use an image which is already on the web, you get this curious message.

Bad manners
"Remember, using others' images on the web without their permission may be bad manners or - even worse - copyright infringement."

This is an odd statement.  A mixture of folksy advice and legal warnings.  I don't see how personal use of a thumbnail from even the most copyright laden of images could be construed as infringement.  As for "bad manners" - is it really Google's role to advise me on etiquette?

People Don't Read - But Copy Editing Matters

It's been well known fact for over 13 years that users don't read.  That's especially true if the text is small and grey - as it is in these examples.

But if you do want to impart vital information, you need to employ a skilled writer to help you craft your message.  You need to understand what it is you're trying to say, why you're saying it and what you expect your users to understand.

In this case, Google has a very muddled and confusing set of conditions which seem illogical and users - if they read them at all - are likely to ignore them.

One thought on “Google Contacts Copyright Madness

  1. rpr says:

    I am really pleased to find someone who shares the same concerns with me. I read these bizzare terms the first time I tried to upload a contact photo and the first thing I did was to search for these conditions to see what people are saying about it. There is nothing except this article. I wonder what Google does with the uploaded pictures.

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