Beware of Posting Code: SmartThings Terms of Service & Rights


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #1

SmartThings has some Smart Lawyers on their side.

I recommend that developers & makers who may wish to control the licensing of their intellectual property, should:
(a) Consider using a Forum that is not hosted by SmartThings.
(b) Seek legal advice before releasing any code into the SmartThings ecosystem, including their IDE.

WHAT ABOUT INFORMATION I POST TO THE SERVICE?

Anything you post, upload, share, store, or otherwise provide through the Services (including any information or data that is provided via any application or physical device that is connected to the Services, including via any automated collection process) is your “User Submission.” You own your User Submissions, and SmartThings does not claim any ownership over your User Submissions. By submitting User Submissions to SmartThings, by posting User Submissions on or through the Services, or displaying, publishing, or otherwise posting any content on or through the Sites or the Services, you hereby do and shall grant SmartThings a worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, fully paid, sublicensable and transferable license to use, modify, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, perform, and otherwise fully exploit the User Submissions in connection with the Services, and SmartThings’s (and its successors’ and assigns’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Services in any media formats and through any media channels (including, without limitation, third party websites). For User Submissions that you elect to share with other users or make public, you also hereby do and shall grant each user of the Services a non-exclusive license to access your User Submissions through the Services, and to use, modify, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform such User Submissions as permitted through the functionality of the Services and under these Terms. Please note that the foregoing licenses are subject to our Privacy Policy to the extent they relate to User Submissions that are also your personally-identifiable information. You represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all rights to such User Submissions and that disclosure and use of such User Submissions by SmartThings (including without limitation, publishing content on the Services) will not infringe or violate the rights of any third party.

You hereby grant SmartThings a royalty-free, worldwide, transferable, sublicensable, irrevocable, perpetual license to use or incorporate into the Services any suggestions, enhancement requests, recommendations or other feedback that you provide to SmartThings relating to the operation of the Services.

SmartThings does not endorse and has no control over any User Submission. You acknowledge that all Content accessed by you using the Service and all User Submissions provided by you are at your own risk and you will be solely responsible for any damage or loss to any party resulting therefrom.


(Justin Novack) #2

Yeah, this whole day has left a sour taste in my mouth. First, the pricing, now this comes to light. I clearly need to cool down, I am out of here for a while.


(Sorli) #3

Wow…I can see why they would like to have these options, but it doesn’t leave much for the developer who puts in significant effort and then gets ripped for all their hard work. Sadly though, I come from the open source perspective and was hopping for groups of developers willing to work together (like with other Arduino projects), offer ideas, and share programming concepts and otherwise. The more restrictive this becomes, the harder it will be to instill this open standard and source footprint. Maybe that’s not in their plan?

Honestly I don’t know and I like many are having a hard time finding needed information to help out and guide anyways. I’m sure more info will come and hopefully someone at ST will shed some light on terms and requirements. Sorli…


(Alex) #4

Hi there,

Just checking in to say hello and weigh in here. From me (CEO) to you, there is ZERO intent at anything disingenuous here. We are completely committed to both A) and open environment that fosters creative collaboration in solving problems and adding value for all and B) protecting the rights and intellectual property of those that choose to build using our platform and tools but aren’t proactively sharing their IP with others in the community.

We will work on clarifying TOS that establish clear open source guidelines for purposefully public submissions while also clarifying that developers that write apps using our platform and tools who do not intend to share it as open source retain full ownership of their work.

Open to any and all suggestions and appreciate these issues being flagged. We take our mission of creating an open platform very seriously.

In terms of pricing on the shop, please bear with us there as well. We are still at low volumes and pricing efficiencies can come with scale. In the meantime, we’re doing our best to provide a great product coupled with superb service and tons of ongoing innovation on the platform.

One step at a time. Thanks and keep the feedback coming!

-Alex
alex@smartthings.com


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #5

Hi @alex_hawkinson;

I very much appreciate your acknowledgement and reassuring response.

I apologize if I inferred or implied that you guys were “disingenuous”, but I honestly was shocked to discover and read the Terms of Use page today, even though I’ve actually been expecting it sooner or later.


The most direct feedback I can give you is this: I would have appreciated a proactive and thorough “heads-up” prior to having these Terms covertly sprung upon us. You missed an opportunity to explain (line by line…) exactly what the implications are of the “legalese” is to us early adopters, backers, developers, makers, and now, retail purchasers through the “Shop”. You have so many means at your disposal to send us advance notification for feedback and questions: the Build Blog, the Kickstarter Updates, and/or the email List. These terms affect every user of SmartThings, but I think there are particular implications for Developers & Makers who may want certainty regarding the disposition of their work and the chances of profitable SmartThings related ventures.

Speaking of the “Shop”; I can’t find any clear indication in the purchase pages for the Hub or Kits that there is or is not any subscription charges for the SmartCloud. There has been some confusion in discussions on the Forum regarding this. I will fully admit that I have personally raised these concerns in the Forums in various contexts.

The Terms of Use are complex and multiple clauses are quite frightening. Nobody reads licenses and Terms of Use anymore due to the legalese and powerlessness we feel to reject them. Just one example: What does it mean to pay $99+ for a SmartHub that is useless without the SmartCloud – and the Terms of Use, to my layman’s eyes, make it very clear that SmartThings can “suspend or discontinue” the Cloud “at any time, for any reason”. To me this means that you can legally pull the plug and I would have no legal recourse. Furthermore, SmartThings could simply change or amend the “Terms” to something (anything) I cannot agree with, and thus be forced to reject them and “will no longer be able to use the Services”.

Please also note that a particular reason that I created this new Topic in the Developer’s forum, is because of the relevant discussion I was having with the Community (and with SmartThing’s unofficial participation from Andrew @Urman) regarding code sharing, and the implied default copyright vs. public domain or common open source licenses [http://build.smartthings.com/forums/topic/how-do-you-submit-your-app-for-approval/]. The discussion was left inconclusive, yet the Terms of Use include a confusing clause on this exact concern: “WHAT ABOUT INFORMATION I POST TO THE SERVICE?” (http://www.smartthings.com/terms/).

Well, there’s not much I can do to change my reputation as a muck-stirrer and complainer. I can only include an explanation that my cynical nature is not intended to belittle the efforts of the company and community, and never directed as a personal insult upon anyone. My disparaging remarks are meant to cut to the chase – I simply don’t sugarcoat my concerns and feedback. I am “one of those people” who would rather point problems and disappointments, than praise accomplishments and pleasant surprises. I am one of those people that appreciate a diverse online community, since I can interact with peers across the global, technical, business, and emotional spectrum. We agree and disagree and it’s all good.

Let me attempt to sign-off for the evening with positive comments:

  • Thank-you, Alex for responding to this thread as quickly as you did. I appreciate your acknowledgement.
  • Thank everyone on the ST Team (and the community members, and support@, build@) for their active and "beyond the call of duty" participation here, in the IRC and the Office Hours. The discussions have ranged from lively venting, to highly productive and educational cooperative problem solving. Despite my public criticisms, multiple SmartThings employees/gurus have generously reached out to me directly with professionalism and honesty. The response time from the support and build emails has been outstanding.
  • Thank-you for creating a connectivity / automation platform that is so very promising and exciting that it attracted nearly 6000 KS Backers, many of whom are active on these Forums (though I wonder how many are "active"?... curious).
  • Fact is, this platform has sparked enthusiasm, creativity, education, and passion in ME because of its potential, so much of which is solidifying before our eyes. It is this last sentiment that drives me to express impatience, frustrations, wishes, and fears: Love and hate are very closely related ;-)

Looking forward to continued education, growth, and mutually beneficial opportunities.

Sincerely,
…Terry. (@tgauchat)


(Chrisb) #6

In my humble opinion I don’t think this was a malicious attempt by SmartThings to take advantage of it’s users and the community. Nor do I think they have any intent to just “shut down” out of the blue. I STRONGLY suspect that this was written up by the lawyers as a strong CYA move. Everything in the section there seems to be designed to absolve ST from possible legal action is the unforeseen happens. I think Alex’s comments kinda confirm this.

Now, having said this, I learned a hard lesson earlier in my life when I was attempting to break a lease at an apartment. After calling and talking to four different levels of managers (local, regional, corporate, etc.) we had verbal instructions on exactly what we needed to do to get out of our lease. We followed those instructions to the letter. Then were promptly billed for another month and would have had to pay even more if they hadn’t found another tenant.

After many more phone calls it eventually came down to this: Some at the corporate office told me: “It doesn’t matter what someone said verbally because that person is no longer with the company. It comes down to what’s on paper.” Now, I know that’s not 100% true. But at the same time it was an important lesson. If there is a dispute here than ends up going bad (not that I suspect there ever will be, but it could happen) and ends up in court the TOS will be used and give a LOT more weight than Alex’s comments above.

Alex’s comments are “verbal reassurances.” But the TOS will probably be the more binding legal terms.


(Chrisb) #7

@alex_hawkinson

Open to any and all suggestions and appreciate these issues being flagged. We take our mission of creating an open platform very seriously.

I guess this is perhaps the area that bothers me the most:

By submitting User Submissions to SmartThings, by posting User Submissions on or through the Services, or displaying, publishing, or otherwise posting any content on or through the Sites or the Services, you hereby do and shall grant SmartThings a worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, fully paid, sublicensable and transferable license to use, modify, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, perform, and otherwise fully exploit the User Submissions in connection with the Services, and SmartThings’s (and its successors’ and assigns’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Services in any media formats and through any media channels (including, without limitation, third party websites).

For User Submissions that you elect to share with other users or make public, you also hereby do and shall grant each user of the Services a non-exclusive license to access your User Submissions through the Services, and to use, modify, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform such User Submissions as permitted through the functionality of the Services and under these Terms.

On one hand I understand that ST has to protect themselves. If I post some code here and someone else here uses bits or parts of it I shouldn’t be able to go back to ST and sue them saying they provided the means for someone else to access and “steal” my code. I need to be aware that even if I know a copyright or license on my code that’s no certainty everyone is going to be nice and not steal it.

But on the other I think saying that just by posting it I give ST rights to do whatever they want with it goes too far. For example, if I post something here and want to put a GPL on it, this contradicts the TOS because I’ve “given” ST rights beyond the GPL.

I’d like to see this area cleaned up. I understand the need and even want ST to be able to cover themselves legally. But I don’t want to give up my ability to license my code as I see fit.


(Dan Lieberman) #8

I just wanted to bump this thread and let you all know @chrisb, @tgauchat, @jnovack, @sorli – we’ve updated our Terms of Use to clarify this issue. There’s more info available on @hagins ’ blog post here: http://build.smartthings.com/blog/updated-terms-of-use/

In short, by posting code directly to this site (the terms apply across the board to all of the services that SmartThings operates), you agree to apply the Apache v2.0 open source license. This also applies to any code that we post here. The same goes for code that you explicitly share in the SmartThings IDE by clicking the “Is Shared” checkbox. If you do not want to apply Apache v2.0, but still want to share your SmartApp or Device Type Handler code, we suggest that you post it to another service and post a link to your code on Build. Our Terms of Use will not attach to code posted to services not operated by SmartThings. While the new terms are in effect for new content beginning today - October 25th 2013 - there will be a 45-day grace period before the terms are applied to existing content. If you do not wish to have the new terms affect your existing content, please remove it before December 9th 2013.

The other point of clarification is around “Private Code Submissions” - SmartApps or Device Type Handlers that you save in the SmartThings IDE but do not explicitly share. You own these, but we will require that you grant us a license only so that we may execute that code in the SmartThings Cloud on your behalf and audit it to ensure that it plays nicely with the platform from a security and stability perspective. No other rights are conferred by that license.

Thanks,
-d


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #9

@dlieberman:

Great news!

Thank-you for alerting me (us) to the update, and particularly for making the announcement in a visible Blog posting!

The clarification in Terms is encouraging and, I presume well thought-out since it sure took a while (snark, yes…) … ; I would like to read other feedbacks, however.

…CP.


(Chrisb) #10

@dlieberman

Without knowing specifically what Apache 2.0 says, I’m over all very happy with this. The biggest issue in my opinion was how SmartThings would get license to the app. Again, I understand that they need to have some rules to safe guard themselves but the way it was worded before seemed WAY too far. I like this much better:

SmartApps or Device Type Handlers that you save in the SmartThings IDE but do not explicitly share. You own these, but we will require that you grant us a license only so that we may execute that code in the SmartThings Cloud on your behalf and audit it to ensure that it plays nicely with the platform from a security and stability perspective. No other rights are conferred by that license.
This seems reasonable to me.

I think SmartThings is also providing ways for us to to shared or not to share as we choose. In order to make things simple they setup if you do this, then it has this license. If you’re not happy, don’t post it here and instead just link it.

The only area that I think might need to be addressed is if some one posts someone else’s code. For example, let’s say I’m not happy with the Apache license, so I post some code on Github and link it here. Then someone who’s looking for info on it or maybe has a question on it… if they copy and paste the code on this forum, what then? Obviously that other person isn’t the owner of the code so they didn’t have the right to post it here (and therefore put the apache license on it).