We've been hearing some misconstrued perceptions on what the "Your Content" clause in Discord's Terms of Service actually means. To be fair, it's kind of a lot of legalese and not a particularly easy task to understand, so we thought we'd help decipher it a bit!
tl;dr: We need these rights to deliver the messages you're asking us to send — it doesn't allow us to pretend that your works are ours or sell them, and we would never do that.
The Text Itself
Any data, text, graphics, photographs and their selection and arrangement, and any other materials uploaded to the Service by you is “Your Content.” You represent and warrant that Your Content is original to you and that you exclusively own the rights to such content, including the right to grant all of the rights and licenses in these Terms without the Company incurring any third party obligations or liability arising out of its exercise of such rights and licenses. All of Your Content is your sole responsibility and the Company is not responsible for any material that you upload, post, or otherwise make available. By uploading, distributing, transmitting or otherwise using Your Content with the Service, you grant to us a perpetual, nonexclusive, transferable, royalty-free, sublicensable, and worldwide license to use, host, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display Your Content in connection with operating and providing the Service. The Company does not guarantee the accuracy, quality, or integrity of any user content posted. By using the Service, you acknowledge and accept that you may be exposed to material you find offensive or objectionable. You agree that the Company will not under any circumstances be liable for any user content, including, but not limited to, errors in any user content, or any loss or damage incurred by use of user content. The Company reserves the right to remove and permanently delete Your Content from the Service with or without notice for any reason or no reason. You may notify the Company of any user content that you believe violates these Terms, or other inappropriate user behavior, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
First, an example of why we need this, and then we'll look at every phrase:
You hop on Discord one fine morning and you think to yourself, 'I wanna share this really cool bit of art that I drew last night!' You drag and drop the JPG into Discord, and of course you @everyone, and five seconds later, you're getting a lot of wows and congrats and :blobthumbsup: emojis.
What happened there? Well, you uploaded 'Your Content' (that part's pretty easy). What did Discord do? A bunch of things. It saved a copy to our servers (because otherwise you would have to upload the image to all of your friends directly) and then it made a thumbnail of it and smaller versions of it, so that your friends on their mobile phones didn't have to download the original 90 MB file but still be able to enjoy the image.
Legally, Discord just reproduced and modified and published and created derivative works. Of course, it did it all behind the scenes, and what you saw was that you dragged a file over and it appeared in the chat window... but behind the scenes, a lot of tech was happening. And that tech is governed by intellectual property laws, which is why we need the rights we're asking for.
Okay, but what does this actually allow Discord to do?
Let's break it down section by section, and why each part is necessary. First, all the words about the license:
- Perpetual - We need this to make sure that we can keep showing that message that you sent three years ago! (or maybe in thirty years, thirty years ago!)
- Nonexclusive - We want to make sure that you can grant permission to other parties besides us to do whatever you want with your stuff. So maybe you put a first draft on Discord for your three friends to beta-read, but then you want to publish — we don't want to stop that!
- Transferrable & sub-licensable - We may need to transfer the rights to other parties to get the data where it needs to be — we use Google for our backend, and so if we can't say 'hey, Google, you can show this image', the image wouldn't get shown!
- Royalty-free - This is to make sure that you're not charging us for sending your messages. After all, we're not charging you for it!
- World-wide - Discord is used by people all over the world — without this, you might be caught in a situation where what you type or upload can be seen in some countries but not others.
So that's why we ask for that type of license. Now what can we do with this license to your stuff?
use, host, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display
A bunch of things! Why does it have so many parts? Essentially, because of the law — the law says that if you create things, you get a bundle of rights that only you can do with that creation. In the real world, if you wanted to show your friends some art you'd invite them over. But in this digital age, the bits and bytes you upload aren't the bits and bytes that we show your friends, and so we need a lot more rights to do exactly what you're asking us to do — send messages to your friends.
But what's the most important part of this? It's limited by this part:
- in connection with operating and providing the Service
"in connection with operating and providing the Service"
What this means is that we get this license, but only to provide the Service to you. We only get these rights to be able to send the messages that you want sent to your friends (and future friends) — it's not an unlimited license that we can do anything we want with. So uploading your novel on Discord doesn't mean we get to sell it. Uploading art doesn't make it magically ours. It's still yours, just as it ever was, and all we need is to be able to send it to the people you want us to send it to.