Google tries to define a valid family. Predictable awfulness ensues

They wouldn’t have coped with my family when I was growing up then. My dad worked in the merchant navy and was only at home four months of every year. The rest of the time he was travelling between the UK and Hong Kong/Japan/Australia/New Zealand.


There’s really only one good solution.

They want me and my son to be able to share one software license, but not me and my neighbor. That makes sense - except the boundary line seems to be a fractal of dimension 37. The only way out of the dilemma is to un-ask the question. Stop licensing software. Build a different revenue model.


Wait wait.

  • A family can have only five members.
  • Individuals cannot be members of more than one family.

Have these engineers not had “the talk” with their parents yet? Like, do they literally not understand the rudiments of human reproduction?

That’s before even starting on non-reproduction-based family arrangements of course - but it’s at least not terribly surprising that they don’t understand those.


It all makes vastly more sense if you weigh the solutions according to the perceived value of the customer and the ability to sell licenses.

The only real surprise is that they appear to have ignored the matter of military families with someone deployed overseas. That one is not good PR to mess with.


“Oh honey, Google says he’s not your dad anyway!”


Maybe she could get one of these smiling judges involved in her case.


See also: keeping a family together through immigration proceedings. The US defines a family exactly the way the GOP would and no deviations are permitted. (Even when they’re biblically correct! In some parts of West Africa, men assume care of their deceased brothers’ children, for example, no formalities required. Good enough for Deuteronomy, not good enough for USCIS.)


But can’t you appreciate the extraordinary diversity of ties? All the way from navy blue to mustard yellow with a huge variety of purple in-between?


Military service members and their families are routinely shat upon by government and corporate bureaucracy alike. Mouthpieces only pay lip service when the cameras are rolling.


Easy solution is to simply change the wording. Stop using the insulting “this counts as a family and thus YOU don’t count as a family.” Instead say “Each license covers up to 5 members of your local family. More members or geographically distributed members will need an additional license… blah blah blah”


The real problem(whether because families are the intended use case; or whether ‘family’ just sounds nicer than ‘license-defined end user group’) is that they are trying to achieve results that are more or less reasonable for licensing purposes; but borrowing terms from a context pretty much entirely unsuited to the job.

I can see what they are trying to do(and to the extent that I’m willing to overlook being opposed to DRM on ideological grounds) I can sympathize: With things bound to a physical medium, ‘sharing’ mostly took care of itself. The end user could decide how they wanted to trade off between the high convenience and low risk of keeping something in their personal stash; vs. having it on the shelf in the living room, vs. loaning it to friends, etc.

If you want to sell digital downloads, people are going to get annoyed if John Smith has to log out of the xbox/roku/google-whatever because Jane Smith was the one who purchased Cartoon Merchandising Adventure to entertain Junior Smith. If you want greater user buy-in(and less informal password-sharing, which is what users usually do if they can’t get what they want through official channels; but is a security nightmare); you need to find a way for anyone in House Smith to access stuff with at least the ease of the old cabinet-o’-DVDs; which actually gets a bit tricky(you can’t use being on the same LAN as a reliable indicator, since somebody on cell data is going to be on a different network than somebody on house wifi; and that breaks the ‘equivalent to bringing a DVD over to movie night’ use case); but you don’t want to make it too easy to just authorize random friends to access your account, since the risk of loss/damage when you ‘loan’ a digital copy is zero, so people will do it a lot; and you also, if possible, want to support temporarily disconnected devices; but without making it trivial to load up a movie stash then keep it offline forever to retain the ‘rights’ to everything on it.

The trouble is that these objectives, while not entirely unrelated to ‘family’ behavior(given that families often do live in shared dwellings and informally share purchased media among themselves); definitely don’t line up with ‘family’ in any rigorous way.

They would have been a great deal better off if they had come up with a different way of branding this. At least with more expensive software, it’s quite routine for various per-install, per-concurrent-user, per-organization, etc. licensing schemes to exist, and (while often a nuisance), they don’t push any social buttons because they make no reference to human relationships, aside from the ‘per organization’ stuff, which might need to clarify whether just employees of a corporation are covered, or wholly owned subsidiaries as well; but that’s totally doable.

If Google just said “Google Play purchases can be used by up to N user accounts in a ‘license group’, the ‘group manager’ must be a legal adult; minors can only have accounts created and license group invitations accepted by their parent/guardian as defined in their jurisdiction; as a customer convenience, compatible devices on the same network as a device with a licence group member logged in may also have access to material purchased by members of the license group”; they’d have an ugly, somewhat aseptic, policy; but they wouldn’t have to say anything dumb about what ‘family’ means.

The real point of confusion is no so much about what families are; but the(frankly much creepier) notion that ‘family’ should correspond to ‘consumer software/media group licensing unit’.

The notion that Google doesn’t want one purchase of Album X to be usable for more than 5 people, even if my 40-ish member neo-tribe/polyamorous commune is a ‘real family’ isn’t terribly controversial, hard to understand, or unreasonable. The idea that Google would take ‘our desired licensing group’ and call it a ‘family’ out of laziness or a desire to co-opt warm-and-fuzzy terminology for tedious software license verbiage is far less pleasant.


There are a lot of families with more than three kids. Awkward conversation: Sorry, Billy, you aren’t part of our family this year. We’ll vote again at Christmas, but only family members get to vote.



I certainly can’t disagree with you there; this just struck me as a situation where ignoring the ‘eh, sending mommy away to work as a nanny or having daddy slaving in Dhubai is so developing world; why bother supporting that use case?’ logic runs into a major American counterexample; and one that is reasonably well placed in terms of getting lip service; and also spends a fair amount of money.

It’s not news that people writing licensing agreements don’t care very much about those too poor to be their customers; so I was unsurprised that “Families where one or more members works overseas as a construction or domestic laborer” was relegated to ‘edge case’; but(in architectural terms) that is pretty much identical to ‘military family with deployed member’(ie. ‘legally recognized family group with one member residing outside of home nation state for work reasons’), which is a less easily dismissed demographic; and it is also quite similar to various(much less common; but often rather well heeled and capable of making their voices heard) jet-setting-expat family arrangements.

I’m not expecting Google to care because Support Our Troops™; but because the mechanisms you’d need to support the ‘family with overseas breadwinner’ case(while most commonly associated with foreign poors of limited interest); also covers the(rather large) US military population and their families; as well as various other international-traveler-on-business groups that Google has much more obvious monetary incentives to cater to.


Someone thought it would be a good idea for parents and kids to share content?


Saw that picture on Clickhole this morning.

1 Like

Well, I don’t see a uniformed representative of the most influential local religion(indeed, no hats at all, funny or otherwise) there to provide ‘moral’ sanction for the operation. Other than that, looks pretty much exactly like most of history’s decisions-about-teh-womens working groups.


Recirculated off Facebook to the BBS. I’d love to criticize your use of a clickbait factory, but then… I just admitted to using Facebook, so…


This reminds me if when I was training sales support people in India, and we had to explain what did and didn’t count as a “family plan”.

All the trainees were completely confused by what counted and what didn’t, and could easily come up with several ways to abuse the discount offer while including only actual relatives. “But if the wife has a brother…” was how one started – basically they figured out how to daisy chain the offer so going by the rules it never hit the maximum, yet loads more people than intended got the deal.

Eventually we figured out what the client really meant and agreed to stick to that, but I wish the people who had come up with the rules could have heard them.

IMHO, basing anything on “family” is difficult and antiquated. The “five friends” deals some phone plans offer are much more sensible. Less to verify, fewer hard feelings.


In the sense that the one with the credit card needs to be able to buy kiddie cartoons, yes. In other senses; Not So Much(and, actually, that’s probably the hilarious and/or horrific other half of the difficulty with the ‘authorized domain’: it has long been recognized that things like ‘incognito mod’ are important for, um, buying birthday gifts for family; and other legitimate activity you might wish to conceal from members of the household; and creating yet another ‘sharing’ mechanism means creating yet another ‘potential for oversharing’ mechanism.)

It wouldn’t surprise me if this problem actually gets some attention, since anyone with an interest in selling you stuff will fairly easily recognize that some stuff isn’t going to get purchased if it isn’t available in inconspicuous packaging and without immediately showing up on your ‘family library’ on every streaming device in the house; so unless they want to give up their porn, B-movie guilty pleasure, etc. sales, they’ll need to figure out how to allow people to keep certain items out of the ‘authorized domain’ without being visible about concealing them(the old ‘you can’t just refuse to friend your mom on Facebook; because if you do she’ll lean on you’ problem); and do so simply enough that embarrassing errors aren’t a constant, harrowing, presence in the back of shoppers’ minds.