There’s something to be said for coming back to a platform that had been unusable for a long time, but which has made corrections to bring itself back to a functional option. For a long time, I had refused to go back to using Google Docs. Initially, I had opted to utilize it as a convenient method of always having access to whatever project I was working on, whether I was at work, at home, or even just out and about running errands when I had an idea or wanted to pump out a quick paragraph, or even just a couple of sentences in the current work in progress (WIP for writing wonks). A couple of years back, however, Google got into a bit of hot water in the indie publishing scene when it was discovered that a large number of storytellers had copyright and royalties claims being issued against them, almost all of them by Google staff. You see, based upon the Terms and Conditions as written originally for Google Docs, the moment someone utilized the software to write a document, Google was granted an unlimited license and partial ownership stake in whatever intellectual property was created using the Docs program. Faced with a furious backlash that gained the support and backing of various literary groups, including the American Library Association, the PEN Writers Program, the Science Fiction Writers of America and Horror Writers’ Guild, Google, after facing two years of constant, quiet admonition, finally went back and settled with numerous indie and small press authors and publishers, and restructured the Terms of Service for Docs, relinquishing all claims on material produced by storytellers using the software. It was a major win for small-timers such as myself, one that made me feel comfortable finally returning to use of the program.
Now, however, Google is once again trampling all over their own toes, and it’s as a result of their YouTube platform mismanagement. According to the upcoming ToS changes taking effect as of December 10th, 2019, any YouTube channel determined to be ‘commercially unviable’ will be subject to being banned. Not ‘deleted’, not ‘throttled’, but banned. The choice of words here is vital, and though I don’t believe it was intentional on their part, Google has once again muffed a situation entirely because of oversight and a lack of appreciating the extrapolated results.
You see, when a YouTube channel or account is ‘banned’, the user almost invariably loses access to ALL of their associated Google functions. This could very well include their access to their own Google Docs, which are created completely independent of YouTube. But this doesn’t matter, you see- as far as Google is concerned, banning an account because its YouTube channel will never garner them any revenue in the form of ad sales is just good fiscal sense. The question I would put to them is this: what about people who don’t care about being boxed out of uploading YouTube videos, but who still want to have the functionality of Docs? If they are banned from Google services, what happens to their documents?
I can already foresee some folks saying that this is no big deal, but I want you to consider the following: almost every indie author has and has attempted, at some point, to make use of YouTube as a means of promoting their written material and advertising their commercially available works. Many of these folks use Google Docs to construct their narrative, since it’s free to use, and they can access their projects from literally anywhere that they can get access to the internet. Their trailer videos and adverts and promotions don’t generally generate a lot of traffic, so they’re going to be labeled ‘commercially non-viable’ by either YouTube’s algorithm, or by an actual member of YouTube’s staff. If and when their YouTube account is banned, being tied to their Google account, are they going to then also lose access to those Docs?
Until such time as this is cleared up, I’m going to have to once again go through and back up everything that I’ve constructed using Docs to a Microsoft Word file on my laptop, which is aging and moving slowly. Still, at least I’ll have those files on hand to work on through my copy of Word. I’ll do what I can with my Alphasmart (still one of the best purchase decisions I’ve ever made), transferring that material to the laptop and Word as I go, then copy-and-pasting to my website and elsewhere.
And all the while, I’ll be waiting to see how many small press authors have to scream at Google before they realize they need the advocacy of one or more larger bodies to represent and protect them, since Google will only respect organizations with enough size and influence to actually make them look bad.