TwitPic Updates ToS to Reassure Users About Photo Copyright Ownership

Since launching in 2008, TwitPic has been at the center of quite a few copyright controversies and legal battles, especially when disasters strike and Twitter users are able to publish photos of things that are happening well before major news outlets. Back in early 2010 photographer Daniel Morel had an iconic photograph taken during the Haiti earthquake widely republished in newspapers across the world without his permission after he uploaded the photos to TwitPic, then later that year Twitter’s decision to display TwitPic photos directly on their website caused a brouhaha. TwitPic has finally decided to update their Terms of Service to make it clear that users of the service retain the copyright of everything they upload.

In a post today on the company blog titled “Your content, your copyrights“, founder Noah Everett writes,

To clarify our ToS regarding ownership, you the user retain all copyrights to your photos and videos, it’s your content. Our terms state by uploading content to Twitpic you allow us to distribute that content on and our affiliated partners. This is standard among most user-generated content sites (including Twitter). If you delete a photo or video from Twitpic, that content is no longer viewable.

As we’ve grown, Twitpic has been a tool for the spread of breaking news and events. Since then we’ve seen this content being taken without permission and misused. We’ve partnered with organizations to help us combat this and to distribute newsworthy content in the appropriate manner. This has been done to protect your content from organizations who have in the past taken content without permission. As recently as last month, a Twitpic user uploaded newsworthy images of an incident on a plane, and many commercial entities took the image from Twitpic and used it without the user’s permission.

To sum everything up, you the user retain all copyrights to your photos/videos and we are very sorry by the confusion our old updated terms of service caused.

It’s good news, but might not do much to prevent future infringements from happening — past cases generally weren’t due to news outlets being confused about TwitPic’s Terms of Service.

Your content, your copyrights (via ReadWriteWeb)

Image credit: Large copyright graffiti sign on cream colored wall by Horia Varlan

  • cmiper

    I wonder why both TwitPic and 500px ( both decided to come out with this at the same time? Did I miss something?

  • Pete


    Read the whole TOS, especially this part:

    “You retain all ownership rights to Content uploaded to Twitpic. However,
    by submitting Content to Twitpic, you hereby grant Twitpic a worldwide,
    non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to
    use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and
    perform the Content in connection with the Service and Twitpic’s (and
    its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation
    for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and
    derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media

    This is lawyer speak for “We can do anything we want with your pictures. Forever”

    Also, they never delete anything and can and will use it:

    “You understand and agree, however, that Twitpic may retain, but not
    display, distribute, or perform, server copies of your media that have
    been removed or deleted. The above licenses granted by you in user
    comments you submit are perpetual and irrevocable. Deleted images are
    only accessed in the event of a legal issue.”

    I’m not a lawyer, but that last paragraph is so open to interpretation that I would presume that they could effectively do anything they want with your pictures. Whenever they want.

    I have asked for my account to be permanently deleted as I do not agree to the new terms. Let’s see if I get my wishes.


  • Wing Wong

    Twitpic’s “reassurances” amount to nothing, as they do not address the fears that people have, which is the wholesale rights grab of peoples’ copyrights. Sure, you retain “copyright ownership”, but if you have effectively given everyone else the right to copy, display, print and otherwise use your image, what does that residual copyright ownership actually mean?

    This right here is the reason why I refuse to use services like twitpic and flickr. It sucks, especially with regards to Flickr, but education about copyright is either exceedingly lacking in the business/marketing/news/etc. these days, or people have completely adopted the “easier to ask for forgiveness and maybe fend off a lawsuit, than ask for permission”.

    It’s also the reason why I limit publishing images on facebook and just about any other site out there. The standard TOS/EULA is absolutely depressing to read…

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