Recently I was engaged in a Facebook exchange among a group of successful business women. Someone asked for opinions on using Grammarly—an app that is marketed as “A FREE, ACCURATE GRAMMAR CHECKER BUILT FOR EVERYONE.”
The comments started rolling in: “love it!” “best thing I have used in a long time.” “Cuts my writing time significantly.” And more like that.
I actually had installed the free app a few weeks before to give it a test run. I found it to be a nuisance because that little app was popping up and sticking its grammar-nose in every single thing I wrote. My emails. My blog posts. My word documents. That spelled danger to me, and I immediately deleted it.
Smelling a rat, I checked the Terms of Service (which, admittedly, I should have done first). Here is what I found:
By uploading or entering any User Content, you give Grammarly (and those it works with) a nonexclusive, worldwide, royalty-free and fully-paid, transferable and sublicensable, perpetual, and irrevocable license to copy, store and use your User Content (and, if you are an Authorized User, your Enterprise Subscriber’s User Content) in connection with the provision of the Software and the Services and to improve the algorithms underlying the Software and the Services. (emphasis added)
Here's what you need to know:
- Grammarly, Inc. is a Delaware corporation, with offices in San Francisco and Kiev. They include in the definition of “Grammarly” not only the corporation, but also all of its subsidiaries AND other affiliates.
- The definition of “Software” is “the software.
- The definition of “Services” is … wait for it … “services.”
- And, although it is poorly drafted, it seems to be attempting to include any future Software and Services provided by Grammarly, which you recall also means any subsidiary or affiliate.
It means that if you install Grammarly, whether it’s a free service or a paid service, you are specifically giving an unlimited perpetual license to your content to Grammarly and any company they affiliate with and any of their subsidiaries basically for any service they provide now and decide to use in the future.
That means that if you use Grammarly, instead of your own brain or a copy editor, you are no longer the exclusive owner of your content. That means they can republish, provide to third party affiliates, and use your data and materials any way they see fit.
The bottom line is that Grammarly has access to—and the unlimited, forever—right to use your content. Period.
And, once you install Grammarly, it is everywhere. It pops up in every document you create. Every. Single. One. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself.
Of course, lawyers and other professionals with a confidentiality responsibility to their clients are ethically prohibited from using Grammarly. (And, I hope they read the fine print.) But even if you don’t have an ethical responsibility to keep information confidential, do you really want to give up the right to your content?
Think about it! And next time, read the fine print. … or call me, and I’ll read it for you.
*This post has been updated here.