Giving Away Rights to Your Images on Pinterest, Facebook and Google

Terms and Conditions - we all agreeI know a good number of photographers, they range from those loving snapping people, to architecture and beyond. I also know many print and graphic designers. But I wonder whether they know they are giving away their intellectual property rights when they post them to an online service such as Pinterest, Facebook or even Google - even if they simply upload the image but never make it public or only list it for friends to see.

The reality is that very few people read the terms and conditions of websites and services such as these. The reason, so many of us trust them with our stuff so why shouldnt they... and well yeh, thats where the internet makes a liar out of everyone. I know of very few people who will trawl through terms of service or privacy policies on websites before using them or signing up for their service. We're all liars, but some people give away more than they think, as in the case with photographs and designs.

Now there was uproar when Pinterest, fairly new on the block, changed it's terms to give it and it's parent company rights to use those images. Tech Drink covered the backlash over Pinterest's change in terms that ensued, and meant thousands of users left the service.

But Pinterest are small fry when compared to Facebook and Google. So here are 2 questions for users of these services.

Did you know "you grant us (facebook) a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook "?

Did you know "When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights that you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones."?

My bet is that you didn't know either of those facts. Nor do you realise almost any large scale businesses will claim such rights of your works. But before you go deleting your account or those images let me explain a little about why these online services claim such rights today.

Imagine if your computer died and you lost all of your photos, thats a bad day. But if Google or Facebook did it, wow there would be backlash and one of the reasons you give away these rights is so that the services can create copies of those photos (so they never get lost).

Now imagine that a company wants to grow and create a new service (for example Google Plus came about after Picasa which is owned by Google). If you had not given Google the rights you had you wouldn't have had a seemless transition into being able to share your picassa photos on Google, nor your contacts list from GMail or anything like that... Giving away rights is part of a modern image of a seamless internet.

Another great reason that these online services ask for these permissions to create and use copies is that even to resize a photo they need this permission or could risk being sued. So if facebook created 10 different sizes for usage you could sue had this not been in the terms, but as you gave permission they can go ahead and do that. It doesn't mean they are going to say add some wierd stuff to it or crop it down, you give permission to apps to do that stuff, they just want to make the service usable and not always ask for every image "do you give permission...".

Finally, these services are free for the most part. So collecting this permission for images and documents is saying they can access them to make things more useful over time, both to you and them. By them I mean if you type in anything to twitter or facebook, it's tracked to give you better advertising that is targeted to you and you alone, you are the product for facebook and twitter and google. you make them money through adverts - nothing is really free my friends.

So although they collect "more permission than is really needed" in most cases it is generally for a good reason. When they say they may use them to promote their service, don't worry I've never heard a case where they don't ask permission anyway from the owner and in most cases the owner is named and so gets kudos from that service's audience. To be honest that is how it should be, you get the permission in terms but you still ask permission - otherwise the company can be seen as "doing stuff it shouldn't be doing".

Anyway, my message is the same to all people concerned with rights like this:

Read the terms of service before using the service

Read it again when they get updated

If you don't want it to be used, dont upload it

Weigh up the pro's and con's of uploading to that service

Do you care about your IP? will the news above make you stop uploading image? Leave a comment and let me know.

Facebook's Terms | Google's Terms | Pinterest's Terms