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Skype’s End User License Agreement

I was looking at the End User License Agreement to which Skype wants people to assent. I noticed the following odd provision (Section 3.2.4):

You hereby grant to Skype a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable and transferable licence to Use the Content in any media in connection with the Skype Software, the Products and the Skype Website.

And what is “Content”? According to Section 1, it

means any and all content consisting of text, sounds, pictures, photos, video and/or any type of information or communications.

People have to give Skype a license to use what they say via its service? People want Skype to transmit sound and images, not use it “in any media”.

Perhaps I’m being too cautious here. Section 3.3 of their Terms of Service states that

Skype does not control, or have any knowledge of the content of any communication(s) spread by the use of the Products.

Certainly, Skype has always claimed that they can’t peek through their own encryption to hear what is said on Skype-to-Skype calls. But what about voice mail? SkypeOut and SkypeIn, which permit connections—obviously, unencrypted—to the regular phone network. Are they truly asserting they have license to use what is said on such calls “in any media”?

Possibly, their lawyers were too cautious or drafted the agreement inartfully. Maybe the intent is to give Skype permission to relay your calls over whatever channels are needed to deliver your communications. “In any media in connection with the Skype Software, the Products and the Skype Website” might mean they can use the Internet, the phone network, etc., to deliver your calls. On the other hand, “media” can refer to the press, and their own PR could certainly be seen as “in connection with the Skype Software, the Products and the Skype Website”.

I hope I’m being too paranoid…

Update (Sept 15, 2009): I’m happy to report that they’ve contacted me to report a change to the agreement. The new text in 3.2.4:

You hereby grant to Skype a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable and transferable licence to: (i) reproduce, modify and publish any Content that you Use on the publicly accessible areas of the Skype Website (e.g. Skype forum, blogs) for the purpose of displaying and distributing such Content on the Skype Website for such time as You continue to Use such Content on the Skype Website; and (ii) distribute and/or display through the Skype Software any Content that You provide or make available using the Skype Software for the sole purposes of making the Skype Software and the Products available to You.

Answers my objections completely. Thanks, Skype.

By Steven Bellovin, Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University

Bellovin is the co-author of Firewalls and Internet Security: Repelling the Wily Hacker, and holds several patents on cryptographic and network protocols. He has served on many National Research Council study committees, including those on information systems trustworthiness, the privacy implications of authentication technologies, and cybersecurity research needs.

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...probably not... Rebecca MacKinnon  –  Sep 14, 2009 6:15 PM

See “Breaching Trust: An analysis of surveillance and security practices on China’s TOM-Skype platform” by Nart Villeneuve. http://www.nartv.org/mirror/breachingtrust.pdf

Thank You - and - Apple Version Too? Vik Solem  –  Oct 14, 2009 1:15 AM

Thank you Professor Bellovin.  While trying to update my Skype installation I had the same issue with the license agreement.  I found your posting here while searching to see if I was the only person who had noticed the wording.  It’s encouraging to know that I’m not the only one who pays attention to license agreements.  Unfortunately, I’m on the Apple version, and it does not appear to have the updated license you reference.  I’ve asked Skype about it.  I hope they’ll be able to provide one for the Apple version as well.

-Vik Solem

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