The Digital Skeptic: Terms of Service Could Shatter Google Glass
"It is hard to see a case where someone who uses this thing outside their home can use it without potentially violating some law," Castle told me over the phone. We'd been going back and forth in recent weeks on the startling legal ramifications of the wearable computer that, if early demos are any indication, will enable just about anybody to record, store and share anything they see, hear or say -- copyrighted or not -- with anybody on earth.
Castle has deep experience in the legal ramifications of disruptive technologies. He is the managing partner of Christian L. Castle Attorneys, an Austin, Texas, digital music and content law firm. Castle says that over his 25-year legal career he's been in the content rights trenches providing advice for Last.fm, Liquid Audio, MySpace Music and even Napster. And he spins a heck of a convincing legal yarn that the 24/7 media world Google Glass will almost certainly create poses almost limitless legal exposure for the company -- and headaches for investors.
"This is major litigation waiting to happen," he said. "And not just civil litigation. I could see states attorneys getting involved, too."
Terms of service get ugly
What's surprising about Google Glass is that, even though it's not yet available to the general public, it doesn't take much spying to see what investors will be looking at with it.
Several Google executives, including co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have made high-profile public appearances wearing the thing. There's a slick, branded Glass website and an army of so-called Glass Explorers acting as beta testers, among them actor Neil Patrick Harris, politician Newt Gingrich, Foursquare's Dennis Crowley and Thomson Reuters social media editor Anthony De Rosa.
For the record, Google Glass is a tiny computer married to a video camera, small display and sound recorder. It's voice activated and can up- and download audio and video content and record images. It will display Web content, get directions and offer Glass versions of Google apps. Once it does that, it can broadcast the whole shebang to anybody with a Web connection.
And it does it all in a unit about the size of a hip pair of sunglasses.
"It is about our relationship to technology," Timothy Jordan, developer advocate for Google Glass, said in a video grabbed at the last South by Southwest music and tech conference in Austin conference last month. "You can still have access to the technology you love. But it won't take you out of the moment."