PetaPixel

FUD Over Google+’s Terms of Service

Last year Scott Bourne caused some commotion among photo-enthusiasts by claiming that Twitter’s ToS forced photographers to give up rights to photos shared through the service. After Google launched their new Google+ social network, Bourne again wrote a very similar post warning his readers about the ToS. We weren’t planning on weighing in, but seeing that the FUD has spread to our comments and even The Washington Post, we’d like to clear some of it away for our readers.

Well, there’s actually only one thing I’d like to point out. Here’s how Bourne quoted the ToS in his post, writing “please carefully note these sections…”:

“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.”

“You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.”

“You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.”

Now let’s take a look at what the Terms of Service — which he links to — actually say:

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. 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. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services. [Emphasis added]

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.

What happened? Of the six sentences in the “sections” he quotes, he omits two of them — two sentences that don’t support his argument! Trying to interpret Terms of Service is one thing, but taking them out of context is a big no-no.

Here’s an illuminating comment left by a commenter named “metagrapher” over on WaPo:

It’s practically the same ToS that exists for every photography website on the internet. The fact is, in order to resize an image you have to have the rights to do so. In order to display an image, worldwide, in a format or dimension or crop other than the original you have to have the rights to do that. This ToS doesn’t mean, in any regard, that you are giving up your rights to make money from your work. You aren’t transferring nor losing any rights at all, you are simply allowing a website to display your image. If you don’t want your image displayed on the website, then why are you trying to upload it? It just means you are giving them the right to manipulate your image so that it can be displayed on Google+. [#]

For a more reasonable analysis of how Google+ handles your rights, check out this post by photographer Jim Goldstein — it’s much more deserving of your eyeballs.


Image credit: scream and shout by mdanys


 
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  • http://twitter.com/craigd Craig Damlo

    Wow, really, Scott would lie and mislead people to get attention. I for one am shocked.

  • Tim Zenner

    Excellent, I assumed all that fuss was over nothing.

  • http://spangborn.myopenid.com/ Sawyer

    This kind of crap is exactly what Scott Bourne wants. He’s a sucker for attention, really. It gets him pageviews and ad revenue. I wish people would just stop giving him attention and let him fade into the distance.

  • Kel Hinkle

    I hear what you’re saying, and I agree.  However, this part is what’s got everyone a little wary, including myself: “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.”

    Also: “You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such
    Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with
    whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services,
    and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those
    services.”

    So the bottom line is that Google *does* retain rights to edit and copy your photos, and then they can also make your photos available to other companies or organizations.  That’s not something that a lot of photographers are going to find acceptable.

    The obvious answer, if you want to use Google+, is to not post any photos you don’t want to risk being altered/copied/shared. 

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    Hi Kel, Check out the WaPo comment I just added to this post. :)

    Basically, these are VERY standard ToS for image sharing websites. They need these terms just to offer you the services. The altering and copying has to do with displaying the images you upload through the website, and making the content available is for syndication (e.g. a third-party mobile app that lets you view your friends’ Google+ photos, etc…). 

  • http://profiles.google.com/bennydanny Benjamim Daniel

    Or use a BIG FAT watermark.

  • http://www.facebook.com/foxberry.studios Koke Momo

    Then you shouldn’t post online at all. All websites have this, facebook, deviantArt, G+, etc. 

  • Kel Hinkle

    Fair enough!  =)

  • http://www.casagli.com Alessandro Casagli

    what about Flickr? Does Flickr has the same licensing requirements?

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    Flickr is owned by Yahoo, and their ToS (http://info.yahoo.com/legal/us/yahoo/utos/utos-173.html) has similar statements, though it seems to be more reader friendly and less heavy on legalese, so it’s easier to understand that the terms are so Yahoo and provide the Flickr service.

  • http://www.casagli.com Alessandro Casagli

    It is important to know if there is any online service that allows you to sell the displayed pictures as exclusive.

  • Chris

    Flickr isn’t quite the same in that their license is not perpetual and irrevocable (the ToS actually states it is granted only as long as you elect to post your photos).  Facebook is much worse in that theirs allows them to relicense.

  • Confuzzlebot

    To anyone who has seen South Park, Scott’s a dick!

  • Bob Roberts

    There are two issues here: copyright and Scott’s crack.

  • Flavio Camus

    i rwmwmber the Scott’s post, and remember too he says “if you want to make money and preserve the rights over your picture, dont use G+”.. its pretty straight to me. He doesnt says “dont use G+”. Remember to how fast Google changed a year ago teh TOS of Chrome Browser for the same reason.

  • DustinFinn

    The only issue I have with all of this, is that Scott Bourne was also stating in his post that using such a service and agreeing to the TOS of that service could prove it difficult for a “licensing of images” type of business…  Not one person that’s complaining about Scott Bourne’s post seems to mention that… Isn’t that a little misleading in your post here ?

    Any lawyer with any reputation is going to recommend that you do not use these sites because of the TOS and what you’re agreeing to.

    The thing here is that there is “Faith and Trust” between a user and the TOS that the TOS  is there for the site to function and that the site won’t do ” any evil ” afterwards…

    But oh, wait, whats that ? Oh yeah – didnt some Twitter sharing service decide to start licensing and selling your photos because in the TOS you agreed to you also agreed that they can change it at any time and you have an option opt out – and then you just trust that your content goes away too…

    Here is his statement:

    “The reason is simple. If I do share images on Google services – under
    the current terms of service – I will risk genuine harm to my ability to
    earn income from those images. As a professional, I don’t see the
    reward of using the Google services as being worth more than the risk.”

    So he is saying, that when you agree to such OPEN TOS such as those on the service of Google+, he may have a difficult time in licensing images to other clients that should out-right pay for the license – but there is a perception of “devalueing” your work when you share it for free on a site that you give open TOS to, which just so happens to be the opposite TOS you normally give to someone when you’re licensing your images to them…

    It’s a very difficult world we live in… Sometimes being safer is better than being sorry…

  • DustinFinn

    And after all that I wrote – I see another post – where he clarifies my point… yet another item you may have left out of your post:

    http://photofocus.com/2011/07/07/google-google-fanboysgirls-mischaracteriation/
     

  • http://twitter.com/DanMarshPhoto Dan

    He’s right in as much as there is some potential for problems, if you want to licence one of your photos, under an exclusive rights-managed licence, and that photo already exists on one of Google’s services.

    For most people, and in most situations there shouldn’t be any major issue.

    But, I do have a minor gripe, because Google is able to display photos along with their adverts, and share no revenue with the photographer.

  • http://twitter.com/chentiangemalc Malcolm McCaffery

    I wrote a similar blog http://chentiangemalc.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/facebook-rights-responsibilities-vs-googles-terms-of-service/ The only issue is, as Dan says, license your photo under exclusive rights-managed license. But the rest of his argument is BS, he hasn’t read the full ToS.

  • http://twitter.com/mashiroikaze M. Kaze

    Except that in this case, he’s omitting the bigger picture – EVERY SINGLE USER DRIVEN WEBSITE says the same thing in their ToS.  Flickr.  DeviantArt.  Facebook.  MySpace.  Hell, even ModelMayhem!

    What people are missing is that this isn’t Google trying to claim they own your work – they are not asking to relinquish copyrights, but rather that you are giving them a perpetual license to use your work in transmission and display of material pertaining to YOUR Google+ page.  Everything in the actual ToS basically boils down to, “You’re giving Google the right to enable your work to be displayed on the internet, regardless of what the viewer is using, but you maintain copyrights.”  Including companies et cetera is necessary for people viewing the material from work networks, people viewing from proprietary media displays, et cetera.

    Why don’t people start yelling about the fact that G+ probably makes the same claim for text contributions to G+ sites?  LiveJournal had the same problem when it adapted its ToS to mimic industry standard for user-driven content, as everyone assumed that it meant LiveJournal was grabbing rights to everyone’s writing, when it was really just to protect itself saying, “You want us to make it available, and we’ll do so, but you have to agree that we’re allowed to make it available.”

  • Charles Mason

    so basically everyone who hopes to make money with photography needs to stay under a rock and offline completely, correct? EVERY time you upload your photo to be displayed on a third party website, you’re giving them a license to display that photo. the only difference is that some services don’t use the complicated legalese that people like scott can use for sparking controversy.

    scott’s blog, photofocus, is hosted on WordPress.com. Check out WordPress’ ToS:

    “By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your Website, you grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your blog”

    how is that any different than Google’s? basically, scott should shut down his own blog if he really believes what he’s preaching

  • http://twitter.com/mashiroikaze M. Kaze

    As I stated above – the specific clause in the ToS is standard to any and all user-driven content sites.  I had to agree to one when I signed on to ModelMayhem, and that’s one of the last places you’d think people would want to give away their photos.  And it’s an understandable concern to a certain extent – yes, you are giving Google a right to your content.  That doesn’t mean it has the right to transfer that right to an interested party (any lawyer worth his or her salt would be quick to point out the non-exclusive license refers to within Google’s massive network and to allow transmission over non-Google networks, such as proprietary kiosks).  

    Could someone still steal your image off of Google? Why, yes, s/he could.  Would it be legal because s/he got it from Google, who licensed it from you?  No, because you aren’t granting Google the rights to re-license your image, nor are you relinquishing copyrights to Google.

    If you are really concerned about this, you have three options: 1) Don’t use G+, 2)Put a predominant watermark on your images, 3) Upload your images in sizes that are usable on a computer, but useless for mass publication (640×480, 800×600).  Now, if you’re in the micro-stock image business, you probably shouldn’t put anything online on a user-driven website that you are trying to sell elsewhere, just to be safe.  But if you’re trying to sell your images as prints, for exhibits, et cetera, the last option should pass muster.

  • http://twitter.com/mashiroikaze M. Kaze

    As I stated above – the specific clause in the ToS is standard to any and all user-driven content sites.  I had to agree to one when I signed on to ModelMayhem, and that’s one of the last places you’d think people would want to give away their photos.  And it’s an understandable concern to a certain extent – yes, you are giving Google a right to your content.  That doesn’t mean it has the right to transfer that right to an interested party (any lawyer worth his or her salt would be quick to point out the non-exclusive license refers to within Google’s massive network and to allow transmission over non-Google networks, such as proprietary kiosks).  

    Could someone still steal your image off of Google? Why, yes, s/he could.  Would it be legal because s/he got it from Google, who licensed it from you?  No, because you aren’t granting Google the rights to re-license your image, nor are you relinquishing copyrights to Google.

    If you are really concerned about this, you have three options: 1) Don’t use G+, 2)Put a predominant watermark on your images, 3) Upload your images in sizes that are usable on a computer, but useless for mass publication (640×480, 800×600).  Now, if you’re in the micro-stock image business, you probably shouldn’t put anything online on a user-driven website that you are trying to sell elsewhere, just to be safe.  But if you’re trying to sell your images as prints, for exhibits, et cetera, the last option should pass muster.

  • http://twitter.com/mashiroikaze M. Kaze

    tl;dr – basically, the ToS is saying more politely what Google has already been doing for years – taking your content, modifying it to be republished in other digital formats for internet use, and then sending it to the ether.  G+ is just being more deliberate in making sure its butt is covered for doing that exact thing.

  • http://twitter.com/mashiroikaze M. Kaze

    God(s) save us all if he ever realizes that Google Image Search has been doing this all along, WITHOUT his permission!  Oh, heaven’s no!

    Hell, the Internet should come with a giant EULA/TOS that you have to sign before being granted access, as it’s been this way all along, it’s only that now people are getting more dramatic in including it in their ToS.  From search engines to blog sites to LJ to Flickr and Picassa to Facespace and MyBook – it’s been done for years.  Now they’re just asking our permission.

  • http://twitter.com/mashiroikaze M. Kaze

    God(s) save us all if he ever realizes that Google Image Search has been doing this all along, WITHOUT his permission!  Oh, heaven’s no!

    Hell, the Internet should come with a giant EULA/TOS that you have to sign before being granted access, as it’s been this way all along, it’s only that now people are getting more dramatic in including it in their ToS.  From search engines to blog sites to LJ to Flickr and Picassa to Facespace and MyBook – it’s been done for years.  Now they’re just asking our permission.

  • http://twitter.com/anshelsag Anshel Sag

    Good thing i read petapixel and not photofocus. I used to read photofocus, till, uh…yeah. I just find Petapixel more attractive towards the general things about photography rather than just technique.

  • http://twitter.com/PleoPhoto PleoPhoto

    This is a side question that relates to… 
    “It’s practically the same ToS that exists for every photography website on the internet. The fact is, in order to resize an image you have to have the rights to do so. In order to display an image, worldwide, in a format or dimension or crop other than the original you have to have the rights to do that.”
    If I submit a link, to a photograph — say Flickr — one of mine or someone else’s that I think is worth sharing (via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.), the social medium attaches a thumbnail preview to the link. Now, how does posting a link translate to giving up image rights for them to display the image?

  • http://khurtwilliams.com/ Khürt L. Williams

    I find it interesting that he post things on his web site that are controversial but provides no means to comment.

  • mpetersheim

    If you read Scott’s follow-up post (http://photofocus.com/2011/07/07/google-google-fanboysgirls-mischaracteriation/) you should realize that Google Image Search doing this without his permission is irrelevant to the discussion. His issue with the TOS is that it grants Google a non-exclusive license to the image, which prohibits him from granting a paying client an exclusive license to that image. If you’re not selling exclusive licenses to your images, the issue raised in his post is of no consequence to you.
      And to Charles, in light of this explanation, the comparison between Google+ and WordPress doesn’t even make sense. Scott’s not granting an exclusive license to the posts on his blog… ?!?

  • mpetersheim

    Sorry, make that link http://photofocus.com/2011/07/07/google-google-fanboysgirls-mischaracteriation/

  • http://twitter.com/pete_boyd Pete Boyd

    One angle people don’t seem to be considering is that these TOS are about a specific upload of an image, not every instance of an image whether uploaded or not. So if you keep the quality of the image you upload low, keeping the higher quality version to yourself, then you go some way to mitigating against others who might want it for print or web, you can sell them the higher quality version.

  • http://twitter.com/pete_boyd Pete Boyd

    One angle people don’t seem to be considering is that these TOS are about a specific upload of an image, not every instance of an image whether uploaded or not. So if you keep the quality of the image you upload low, keeping the higher quality version to yourself, then you go some way to mitigating against others who might want it for print or web, you can sell them the higher quality version.

  • http://profiles.google.com/chudez Ted Bautista

    lesson learned: do not feed the trolls

  • Kevin Fairchild

    They should make a new version of “The Bourne Identity” in which Scott escapes from the government lab that created him.  Once out in the real world, he begins to carry out his mission — making threats of copyright infringement, terms of service abuse, etc. — thus distracting others from actual photo-taking activities…

  • mpetersheim

    Have you read his blog? I’ve been following it for the last year or two, and I’ve found his posts to be fairly well-balanced and logical. I certainly haven’t seen him accusing anyone of being a government lab rat, anyway. :-)

  • mpetersheim

    Have you read his blog? I’ve been following it for the last year or two, and I’ve found his posts to be fairly well-balanced and logical. I certainly haven’t seen him accusing anyone of being a government lab rat, anyway. :-)

  • RZSharp
  • Gary Gardiner

    A quick analysis of metadata on Goggle+ photo handling was the topic of a posting I wrote on July 8. It, again, shows that creating a watermark for your photos may be the simplest and most efficient way to make notice of your copyright.

    http://bit.ly/nxcdlp

  • http://profiles.google.com/logosmonkey Steve Wallace

    It should also be noted that this is the exact same language that’s in the Gmail TOS. So, right, if you are afraid to use G+ then stop using Gmail. Also, stop using hotmail… or any web based email provider since they all have pretty much the same terms.

  • Charles Mason

    it’s EXACTLY the same issue with wordpress then, and scott should shut down his blog because he’s granting a non-exclusive license to his images by uploading them for photofocus.
    http://photofocusblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/ball.jpg?w=286&h=500

    he’s not being consistent. if he really believed his argument, he shouldn’t be using ANY photo sharing site, since simply by uploading to any of them, you’re granting them a non-exclusive license to display your work. the wording is the same EVERYWHERE. he’s just trying to stir up controversy and drive traffic to his blog

  • mpetersheim

      It should also be noted that you probably aren’t planning to sell an exclusive-use license to the emails you’re sending through Gmail. I can’t even think of a business case where that makes sense….
      The issue raised by Bourne is a valid concern only for those photographers involved in exclusive licensing of their images. As soon as you grant google an irrevocable, non-exclusive license you can no longer grant your paying clients an exclusive license. Doesn’t matter whether google does anything with your pictures or not. If this isn’t you, it’s a non-issue.

  • mpetersheim

    Hey! That’s a good point about images posted on wordpress, Charles… I don’t know why I didn’t consider that. In that case, I retract my former statement; thanks for pointing that out. :-)

  • mpetersheim

    That’s amusing; it certainly looks like a younger version of him… :-D

  • http://kjpweb.myopenid.com/ Klaus

    Glad to hear, that Scott Bourne is once more revealed as hot air.

  • MrFrench

    Yes, that’s him…always has and always will be a con man.

  • MrFrench

    Sorry, forgot this bit:
     Bourne spent time in jail in the 1980s for a variety of crimes including being a con artist and stealing computers and software. He had arrest warrants in eight US states.
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Bourne

  • Screenbeard

    Isn’t it just common sense that if you want to sell a client an image that has never been used before, that you don’t ever use it before you sell it? Is a client going to want to use an image that everyone who follows you on Google+ has seen and can download anyway?

  • Screenbeard

    Isn’t it just common sense that if you want to sell a client an image that has never been used before, that you don’t ever use it before you sell it? Is a client going to want to use an image that everyone who follows you on Google+ has seen and can download anyway?

  • mpetersheim

    Yes, it is common sense, I agree. That’s the one thing that seemed strange to me about Scott’s post; I don’t really understand why he would want to be posting his commercial, rights-managed images on social networking sites…