Investigating AdSense for Feeds, Tim Bray has found a rather annoying piece of legalese in their Terms and Conditions:
For a real dose of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, check out the "Terms and Conditions" language. Uncharacteristically for Google, it's a bad piece of legal drafting; you have to agree that 'You will ensure that each feed user complies with, and each feed user's display of AFF Ads is in compliance with, all of the terms and conditions of the amended Agreement applicable to the Site in the same manner that such terms and conditions apply to You and the Site."
Huh? What's a "feed user"? I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean a person-or-program-reading-the-feed, but I'm also pretty sure that I don't understand what it is they mean. And until I do, I'm damn well not going to sign up for "You agree you will be responsible and liable for any and all use of the AFF Ads by any feed user and will indemnify Google for any lawsuit or proceeding (a) relating to or arising from any feed user's use of AFF; (b) relating to or arising from Your failure to ensure any feed user's compliance with the terms of the amended Agreement; and/or (c) brought by a feed user against Google that arises from or is related to Your provision of AFF Ads to such feed user."
If you think this is a tempest in a blog pot, be aware that Google has already tried to enforce in front of a court the idea that only their AdSense customers are legally responsible for the use they make of the technology. In France, at least, they have failed and the judges have consistently condemned Google for infringement on trade marks, arguing that although Google denies all responsibility, it has an active role in suggesting names to their AdSense customers to refine the pertinence of their ads. I can see legal cases coming if some big brands discover that Google serves ads for their competitors on feeds that mention their names.
P.S. Jason Shellen has responded to Tim and promised an update.