Are You Giving Your Photo Rights Away?

July 6th, 2011

Everyone is stoked about Google+ and it looks like it has some very cool features. But, Scott Bourne, over at, has a great article that professional photographers should read before posting photos on Google or FaceBook.

Were you aware that when you post photos on Google and FaceBook you are granting them rights to pretty much do whatever they want with your photos? Here’s a sample that Scott Bourne highlights from the Google TOS:

By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

If you are a professional photographer who’s in business to make money by licensing photos is this what you want to do? The FaceBook TOS are very similar.

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8 Responses to “Are You Giving Your Photo Rights Away?”

  • Larry what you are inferring in the above quote is that Facebook has the right to sub-license images to third parties but thats not what you quote states. It mentions nothing about granting rights to sell images on to third parties at all only distributing publicly “through the services”. Thats pretty clear on a legal basis that the content can only be distributed “through the services” and not as you say “pretty much do whatever they want”. There is a difference.

  • Thanks for the heads up, I suppose I should start watermarking anything I upload so at least I am getting credit and maybe some free advertising.

  • Watermarking is definitely the way to go. I also applaud you for pointing out the fact that the terms for Facebook and Google are very broad regarding the use of uploaded photos.

  • Gil,

    Not so fast, by posting onto their service, you are indeed licensing their unlimited royalty-free use. These type of TOS are being looked at very carefully by several trade organizations right now. Do I think that they would re-sell the images? No, but words like “perpetual” “irrevocable” and “distribute” should give you great pause.

    Copyright laws are being tested daily, and violations number in the millions, daily.

    Anyone of us can go onto Google and look at images of our private homes (from the street and from the air). I didn’t give them permission to photograph my house. Did you? I’m just saying, that 5 years ago, it was unthinkable that this would be unchallenged.

    20 years ago, non of us knew much about how the internet and digital would affect photography. At this point we have no idea where it will lead 10-20 years from now, and that is where those little words mentioned previously come in.

    If you just like taking pictures and don’t worry about income from licensing, fine. But, as a professional photographer who should be deriving significant income from licensing, we should indeed be very careful.

    Clearly Google and others are currently storing an enormous amount of images and what will be permissible/acceptable in the future, we know nothing about at this point, so caution is appropriate I think.


  • Hey – I often send photos through gmail. Do their broad reaching ‘terms’ apply to photos transmitted through their email service? I’ve looked through the TOS and can’t see it, but don’t know if I’m missing anything.


  • @Craig- I doubt this has anything to do with e-mail. It relates to photos you post on social network sites.

  • The problem isn’t going to be what WE’RE doing with the images – it’s what our clients are doing. How many of us have clients with FB pages where they post the listing photos? And it’s all fair game since it’s covered in their license to use the photos to market the property.

  • Actually, Google+ Photos are hosted on Picasa, which has more specific terms for photos. The loose license above counts for text and links, but the photos you post in Google+ are governed under the Picasa Terms:

    Your Intellectual Property Rights
    Google does not claim any ownership in any of the content, including any text, data, information, images, photographs, music, sound, video, or other material, that you upload, transmit or store in your Picasa account. We will not use any of your content for any purpose except to provide you with the Service.

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