Controversy Over Walmart Canada Photo Centre’s “Rights Grabby” Terms


If you’re the type of photographer who’s wary of the rights you sign away when using most photo-sharing services, you might want to avoid having your photos handled by Walmart Canada’s Photo Centre. Reddit user Plerophoria noticed the following section in the service’s Terms and Conditions:

You grant to Walmart Canada Corp. a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, unrestricted, world-wide right and license to access, use, copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, display, perform, communicate to the public, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, and otherwise use such Materials (in whole or in part) in connection with the Site and/or the Products, using any form, media or technology now known or later developed, without providing compensation to you or any other person, without any liability to you or any other person, and free from any obligation of confidence or other duties on the part of Walmart, its affiliates and their respective licensees;

It’s fairly common these days for companies and services to grab more rights than they need for their operations, just to cover all their bases and protect themselves from painful lawsuits. Costco and Walmart USA don’t have such “grabby” terms, though.

Update: Alex of Walmart contacted us with the following note:

I wanted to let you know that Walmart Canada Photo Centre customers can be assured their images have not been used by the company for any purpose other than those requested by the customer. The intent of the terms and conditions currently posted to Walmart Canada’s Photo Centre website is to ensure a third party could process the images in accordance with customers’ instructions.

Updated terms and conditions have been drafted as part of a planned update to the Photo Centre website. In view of concerns expressed by customers, we will publish the updated terms and conditions in advance of the overall site update.

Image credit: Walmart Clareview – Entrance by markyeg

  • Steve Stevenson

    There really is no reason to ever go to Walmart.

  • Paul Melo

    The crazy element to this and similar stories is how modern culture continues to allow smarmy lawyers to write these types of ridiculous terms with clear intent to subvert common copyright law and basic business ethics, and that these companies continue to try these tactics.

    Much like the instagram debacle, the best response is to simply never do business with companies that let their lawyers re-write their consumer relations through completely unlawful and ridiculous terms.

    Lastly, the mention of companies doing this to ‘protect’ themselves from litigation is preposterous. These terms create not deter litigation.

  • Ralph Hightower

    Do I have to agree to WalMart’s TERMS if I want to have film developed there?
    If yes, then no, I’ll send my film out to an independent lab.

  • Mrmleduc

    I thought changes to the Canadian copyright act meant that you always had rites to your images no matter what these clowns try to pull.

    It i just easier to not go to Wally World.

  • Nathan Blaney

    I’m willing to bet that this is just a convenient chunk of language that lawyers inserted to give Walmart the broadest protection possible for their printing services. Not that it excuses it, but I’m fairly sure they have no interest in poaching anyone’s dark, out of focus birthday party photos. They’re much more likely to do what they have in the past – license images from iStockphoto to use on their point of purchase displays in the photo studio.

  • Renato Murakami

    There should be laws that overrule crap like that, specially for abusive ToSs, if it’s not already the case.
    I studied a bit of copyright law for photography here in Brazil, and found out that no matter what sort of ToS you agree with, should the company use your intellectual property without direct license from the author, the company could still be held liable for copyright infringement, to be judged case by case.
    Since it’s a fact people mostly won’t read lenghy legalish ToSs, the law always defaults to the standard Copyright Law.
    Simply put, in Brazil, Walmart wouldn’t be able to just use a costumer’s photo and then say “but you agreed with our ToS”.
    They still make them hoping that if the scenario happens, this will convince people not to press charges as lots of people don’t even know how copyright works here. To tell the truth, I think this is the case for most services… a ToS can never overlap common law.

  • Jason Gold

    As a company they suck. No workers rights. Using factories without any safeguards or protection for the workers.. Simple.Don’t do business with Ghouls. Don’t buy their products. The lawyers used would have proved that slavery in the Southern States benefited the workers..
    It cannot be legitimate to USE any photos or films or storage devices sent there for processing. ANY CONTRACT THAT LEAVES ONE POORER AFTER AN ACT. WOULD BE CONSIDERED ILLEGAL IN ANY REASONABLE COURT>

  • 9inchnail

    If you’re a proud member of the white trash community, you might beg to differ.

  • 9inchnail

    You never lose your rights, it says “non-exclusive” in the terms. This means that they can do whatever they want with your photos but don’t touch your rights. You can sell your photos or do whatever you please with them. That’s not the point here.

  • 9inchnail

    Maybe some jokers tried to pull something on Wallmart. Like sueing them for copying photos that the client actually brought there himself. Never underestimate the stupidity of people. Now they’re covering their butts.

  • wickerprints

    Copyright and licensing are not the same thing. Copyright establishes the legal ownership of the original work. Unless otherwise specified, the creator/author of the work is its owner. In Canada, this was not actually the case until the copyright reform you mentioned–a photographer who was hired by a client to produce a work did not actually own the work he or she created. This is akin to a “work-for-hire” arrangement in the US.

    Licensing a work, however, is about granting legal permission to use the work. It has bearing to copyright in that only the copyright holder can grant such a license. Walmart absolutely can legally require an original content creator (copyright owner) to consent to any licensing agreement it chooses as a condition for processing that content, but this will not infringe copyright, since Walmart is not claiming ownership rights, but usage rights. So copyright law is not applicable.

    That said, the problem here is that the license is far too broad. Such overreaching terms are completely unnecessary for the purpose of processing and printing a customer’s photos. It would, for example, give permission for Walmart to use any images they receive under these terms for the purpose of advertising. If they wanted to, they could use it in print, display, online, and television advertising. They could enlarge the photo and use it in-store. Forever. And they would not have to compensate the copyright holder in any way for the use of their content or the likeness of anyone depicted.

    And this is where the copyright holder is exposed to his or her own legal liability by agreeing to such terms. For example, suppose Walmart prints a photo that you took of some random stranger you saw on the street. The photo prominently features his likeness. They like it so much they decide to use that photo in their advertising in a way that suggests his endorsement of Walmart. Under the terms of the license they obtained from you, they are entitled to do so. But YOU did not secure a model release from that person to grant the use of his likeness in such a fashion. Should he find his face in Walmart’s advertising and object, YOU are the one in trouble, because by agreeing to Walmart’s license, you implicitly represented that you had obtained permission for that person’s likeness to be used. That’s how broad the license is!

    You may think that because the stranger was on public property, that you might not need a release. That is incorrect–no matter where someone is photographed, they have a right to the usage of their likeness for commercial purposes. Otherwise we’d have advertisements of Justin Beiber selling Trojan condoms. Would Walmart actually exercise the license in such a way? Unlikely. But that is not protection against the scope of the contract.

    The law seems complicated. And often, it actually is as complicated as it seems. But where the law is established, it is very often logical in its purpose.

  • Can’t shut the barn door…

    Except that you can’t give/sell “exclusive” to whoever wants to buy your photo since Wal-Mart already has a “perpetual, irrevocable, unrestricted” license.

  • View Minder

    People love to give up their rights! It’s practically the national pastime!

  • pvbella

    So go spend all your hard earned money at higher priced stores who buy their goods from the same places Wal-Mart does. Me, I would rather save money.

  • pvbella

    Most retail stores buy their stuff from the same factories as Wal-Mart.

  • Charlotte Schreck

    The Photo Studios at Walmart are not owned by Walmart but by CPI which is the company that also owns the Sears and picture Me studios operating in those stores and use images produced in their main headquarters in St. Louis,MO the PhotoLabs are completely separate from the studos

  • Nini Leduc

    I never to there..

  • Joeeyy

    Walmart sucks. End of story

  • Simon Johnston

    You really are that ignorant as to Walmart’s buying strategies, aren’t you kiddo?

    This bizarre assumption that ‘it’s all made in the same factory’ is an extremely successful PR strategy that has fools like yourself even inserting it into your now-nothing political ideology.

    Walmart is a huge buyer, and often is the sole customer of factories throughout China. They have been caught knowingly buying product from political prisons forcing political prisoners to make such thing as Xmas lights for Walmart.

    They refuse to pay enough so that factories are safe to work in.

    Higher priced stores are higher priced not only because of economy of scale, as Walmart would have you believe – because in China, that theory is simply not an issue.

    The higher price, little mister brainless cheapskate, is an indicator that staff are not working in death traps. That they are not living in squalid conditions, victims of China’s informal system of indentured servitude, primarily of the children of poor farmers.

  • Simon Johnston

    That’s simply not true.
    But Walmart surely love that you think that.

  • pvbella

    Sorry, and since you are an insulting little squib, I do not believe the tin foil hat theory of economics. I buy strictly on quality and price- the highest quality at the lowest price. I could care less where it is made, who makes it, or anything else. All retailers buy from the same factories. the tin foil hats just target Wal-Mart because they believe any and all propaganda. There is no difference between the stuff from Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, Sears, or any other retailers, designers, and clothing manufacturers except quality and price.

  • Ronald Santerre

    How long have you been working for Wal-Mart? Brainwashing is a powerful thing…

  • erin edwards

    if they all get their stuff from the same factories then why would the quality be different like you said?

  • Me

    Good on them for taking the issue seriously. The solution that I would suggest for Walmart to follow is that if a specific set of terms is included to enable 3rd party processing, then it should be labeled as such.

  • Zack

    Wow… go suck Walmart’s dick a bit more would you?

  • Mitch Labuda

    Processing films does not involve printing on the web, unless the negs are scanned and uploaded to the web site of the business.

  • Mitch Labuda

    In addition, to not loosing our rights, products can be made from the images and to do that permission needs to be granted, as the products, mugs, blankets, pillows, are not made on site and are out sourced to a vendor, that makes the products for the store. I represented the HP Store Front systems in the U.S. for two years in local Wal-Mart locations. HP has nearly the same terms.

  • H C

    “The intent of the terms and conditions currently posted to Walmart Canada’s Photo Centre website is to ensure a third party could process the images in accordance with customers’ instructions.”
    If this is true, why do they need the rights to “distribute, transmit, display, perform, communicate to the public… [and] publish” photos?

  • CoopKoda

    What is funny is none of that paragraph is contained in the TOS or Intellectual Property section of the link provided…