I just used Autodesk Cloud Documents for the first time, and was asked to confirm my acceptance of the Terms of Service. Fair enough. But just what is in those terms, and what do they mean to you if you are dubious about using the Cloud? Will you be reassured by what you find there? Maybe not. Here are a few clauses that might make you go hmmm…
The terms applicable to a particular service may vary.
Translation: Autodesk can move the goalposts.
Autodesk has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor Your usage of the Service to verify compliance with these Terms.
Translation: Autodesk can keep its eye on you.
You acknowledge and agree that: (a) You will evaluate and bear all risks associated with Your Content; (b) under no circumstances will Autodesk Parties be liable in any way for Your Content, including, but not limited to, any loss or damage, any errors or omissions, or any unauthorized access or use; and (c) You (and not Autodesk) are responsible for backing up and protecting the security and confidentiality of Your Content.
Translation: whatever happens, it’s your problem, not Autodesk’s.
Third Party Content and services may be made available to You, directly or indirectly, through the Service (including Content shared by other users of the Service, through Forums or by any other means). In some cases, such Content and services may appear to be a feature or function within, or extension of, the Services or the Autodesk Software. Accessing such Content or services may cause Your Computer, without additional notice, to communicate with a third-party website … for example, for purposes of providing You with additional information, features and functionality.
Translation: Autodesk and others can use the service to advertise to you.
Autodesk reserves the right to delete inactive accounts or purge related Content (and all backups thereof), without further notice and Autodesk Parties shall have no responsibility or liability for deletion or any failure to store Your Content.
Translation: don’t just leave your stuff up in the clouds and expect it to still be there a few years later.
You acknowledge that Autodesk may use third-party service providers in connection with the Services, including without limitation the use of cloud computing service providers which may transmit, maintain and store Your data using third-party computers and equipment in locations around the globe.
Translation: it’s not just Autodesk here, there is a chain of responsibilities and vulnerabilities.
THE SERVICE OFFERING IS PROVIDED “AS IS” AND “AS AVAILABLE.” AUTODESK PARTIES MAKE NO, AND HEREBY DISCLAIM ALL, REPRESENTATIONS, WARRANTIES, OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND…
YOUR USE OF THE SERVICE OFFERING IS AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION AND RISK.
AUTODESK PARTIES DO NOT WARRANT THAT THE SERVICE OFFERING WILL PERFORM IN ANY PARTICULAR MANNER AND HEREBY DISCLAIM LIABILITY FOR NEGLIGENCE AND GROSS NEGLIGENCE.
Translation: Autodesk lawyers LOVE SHOUTING. Whatever happens, including gross negligence on Autodesk’s part, it’s still all your fault and you’re severely out of luck.
…for all Service Offerings accessed as part of Subscription, these Terms and Your access to the Services will terminate when Your Subscription (and the Subscription Program Terms applicable to Your Subscription) terminates or expires.
Translation: here’s a further disincentive to ever dropping out of Subscription once you’re on it.
It is Your responsibility to retain copies of Your Content. Upon termination Autodesk shall have the right to immediately delete, without notice, Your Content, if any, and all backups thereof, and Autodesk Parties shall not be liable for any loss or damage which may be incurred by You or any third parties as a result of such deletion.
Translation: don’t rely on the Cloud alone.
Autodesk reserves the right, from time to time in its sole discretion, to (a) modify or release subsequent versions of the Service, (b) impose license keys or other means of controlling access to the Service, (c) limit or suspend Your access to the Service, and (d) change, suspend or discontinue the Service at any time.
Translation: Autodesk can do pretty much whatever it likes, including killing the whole thing.
I don’t think any of this means Autodesk is evil. Looked at from the point of view of a corporation that needs to cover its backside and reduce risks to itself, it’s quite understandable. Much of it is just very sensible advice. You can expect similar conditions from other companies providing Cloud services. But what if you’re not happy with using a Cloud service that has such conditions attached? Well, you can use it anyway and keep your fingers crossed, or you stay away from it altogether.
How do you see this? Assuming you were happy with everything else about the Cloud, would clauses like those above be a dealbreaker?
Edit: this post is also being discussed on the Dezignstuff blog.
Note: the above clauses are Autodesk copyright, reproduced here under fair use (comment and criticism).