Who Owns Your Photos Online?

World Entertainment News Network announced several days ago that they have now become the “exclusive photo agency partner” of Twitpic. There are more than 20 million of us using this service, which allows us to easily upload snapshots and link them through Twitter. This deal lets the company sell images posted to Twitpic for publication within other avenues. The problem I’m finding, though, is that Twitpic’s own Terms of Use are quite conflicting when you read through them. Do they have the right to do this – or do you have exclusive rights to your photographs?

In the TOU, Twitpic states unequivocally that “all content uploaded to Twitpic is copyright the respective owners.” However, the very next sentence states that the company reserves the right to use or distribute your content on their sites – or any affiliated ones. There you go – you own your content, but they have the right to do with it as they please. They are very specific throughout the TOU in stating that no one else can ever use your stuff.

This is also part of the reason for partnering with World Entertainment News Network. That agency plans to initiate legal action against anyone doing so – other than themselves, of course. “There has been much unauthorized use of Twitpic images which we shall be addressing without delay,” said Lloyd Beiny, the agency’s chief executive. The claim is that only the accounts of celebrities will be affected, but neither company has agreed to answer questions for the press at this point. It could, in theory, apply to EVERY account on the Twitpic site.

A few paragraphs further down the Terms of Use, you’ll see that the only time someone is allowed to use your content is via “traditional” retweets, which will automagically link back to the originating photo on Twitpic’s site. Then again, someone can obtain permission to use your work commercially by “obtaining permission from Twitpic in advance of said usage and attribute credit to Twitpic as the source where you have obtained the content.” Yup – even though you own your pictures, you don’t have to give permission for them to be used on commercial sites or services. The company itself will gladly do this for you.

The bottom line here is that you don’t own your photographs. The more information we put online, the less control we have over it. Note that I’m not intentionally picking on Twitpic. They are simply the latest company to do what every other kid on the block has already done: pray that you use their site without truly reading the terms and conditions. It doesn’t matter if you read them or not, y’all. You’re still bound by them once you sign up.

If you don’t want anyone other than yourself to have control over your pictures, written words and other data, then you likely should not put it anywhere online. You might get away with owning your own site and chasing down idiots who steal without permission on a constant basis, but who has the time for that?

4 thoughts on “Who Owns Your Photos Online?”

  1. Posting anything online such as Photos, information etc always poses a risk, of it either getting stolen or misused.  It doesn’t matter if you trust the company/service or not. 

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