Want to turn your friend’s Facebook photograph into a mug to sip your morning coffee from? A new service called Photos At My Door can help you do that. It’s an app that can access any of your Facebook friends’ public photographs and turn them into products ranging from photo prints and canvases to mugs and mouse pads.
If the thought of having your photos sold as commercial products without your permission makes you uncomfortable, you’re not alone: the app is attracting criticism for it’s apparently flippant views on photo copyrights.
Over on DPReview’s coverage of the app, commenters write that they “smell a lawsuit a brewin’ here” and that Photos At My Door does not have their permission to commercialize their photos.
Let’s take a look at how the service works. It’s a very sparse website that looks like it was designed in the 90s or by a 7th grader. Click the main welcome image and you’ll be asked to give the service permissions to access your Facebook account and your friends’ photographs:
Once permission is given, you’re shown a listing of all of your Facebook friends:
Click on any friend to view a listing of their photo albums. Click on any album to view a gallery of the photographs it contains:
All that has been pretty innocuous. After all, there are plenty of third-party apps out there that are designed for browsing Facebook and viewing your friends’ photos.
Here’s where it starts getting messy: click any photograph, and it brings it up as a product purchasing page. Click the “Prints + Products” button and you’ll see all the different things you can order the photo as:
As you can see, ordering any of your friends’ photographs takes just a few clicks and costs just $11:
It appears that Photos At My Door is attempting to rid itself of responsibility by using its Terms of Service to put the copyright infringement risks on the users of the app. Here’s what the document says under the section “User Contributed Content”:
WD Web may provide users of its Application with the ability to contribute content to the Application and to sell content through the Application, which may include but is not limited to text, photographs, audio files, comments, profile information, name, likeness, and designs (“User Contributed Content”). By submitting User Contributed Content to the Application, you grant WD Web a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty free, irrevocable, and perpetual license to use your User Contributed Content for the customary and intended purposes of the Application. These purposes may include but are not limited to the sale, rental, lease, or lending of your User Contributed Content, the reproduction of your User Contributed Content, the making of derivative works of your User Contributed Content, the public display of your User Contributed Content, and the public performance, whether by digital audio transmission or otherwise, of your User Contributed Content.
By submitting User Contributed Content to the Application, you warrant that your User Contributed Content will not (i) violate any term or condition of this Agreement, (ii) violate the rights of third parties, including but not limited to intellectual property rights and rights of publicity and privacy, and (iii) violate any applicable law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or treaty.
Notice how users must declare that their use does not “violate the rights of third parties, including but not limited to intellectual property rights.” Basically the app is saying, “we’ll make it easy for you to purchase any of your Facebook friends’ photos as a product without the photo owner’s permission, but first YOU must seek out the permission before doing so.”
In that sense, this whole thing doesn’t seem to be that different from downloading any of your friends’ photographs from Facebook directly and then commercializing it through any number of photo-to-product services out there.
However, many people (particularly photographers) aren’t seeing it that way, so this service (and services like it) will likely continue to generate controversy as long as it’s around.