Such contracts "give the provider of these cloud services a lot more discretion than you would ordinarily negotiate with someone who is merely providing you with access to servers that you use to store your data," said Jeffrey C. Johnson, a partner at Pryor Cashman LLP in New York who works in the law firm's intellectual property group.
John Watkins, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, said providers typically specify an acceptable-use policy, which, in broad terms, will generally prohibit the use of services for illegal activities, harmful activity, infringing content or offensive content. (For details see the Amazon contract's Term, Termination and Suspension section .)
While the legal risks of termination associated with cloud computing are a concern, Watkins said in an e-mail response to a question, "in most cases probably [they] rank somewhat behind security, privacy and uptime concerns, among others."
Among those who see a need for changes in the terms set by cloud providers is Mark Gilmore, president of consulting and integration firm Wired Integrations in San Jose. He reviews cloud service-level agreements as part of his work and is critical of them. "They are really geared toward the service provider and not the end user at all." And if they pull the plug "you have no recourse of action," he said.
Gilmore believes Amazon's action against WikiLeaks highlights the issue, but "there's not enough people paying attention to this kind of circumstance to put any weight or pressure on the service providers to change their business model."
Bill Roth, executive vice president of IT monitoring company LogLogic, said Amazon's action is a "diminution of their brand as sort of an open neutral provider. On the other hand, as an American citizen, I completely understand why they did it."
Even so, the Amazon move sends a message, Roth added. "Amazon is going to be watching and is going to be making a judgment" on whether the content it hosts is appropriate or not.