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A Look at What Top Cloud Storage Services Say About Your Photo Rights



In the age of digital photography, many of us turn to online cloud solutions to help us backup our precious moments. However, the question that many of us want to know is what permissions a perspective service has with our content. With a form of hysteria sweeping the Web, we have decided to take a look at the industry’s top storage solutions and what their terms of service say about the files you upload. By using any of these solutions, you are automatically accepting their terms.


Apple iCloud

License from You. Except for material we may license to you, Apple does not claim ownership of the materials and/or Content you submit or make available on the Service. However, by submitting or posting such Content on areas of the Service that are accessible by the public or other users with whom you consent to share such Content, you grant Apple a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Service solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available, without any compensation or obligation to you. You agree that any Content submitted or posted by you shall be your sole responsibility, shall not infringe or violate the rights of any other party or violate any laws, contribute to or encourage infringing or otherwise unlawful conduct, or otherwise be obscene, objectionable, or in poor taste. By submitting or posting such Content on areas of the Service that are accessible by the public or other users, you are representing that you are the owner of such material and/or have all necessary rights, licenses, and authorization to distribute it.

Apple’s iCloud storage solution is an easily accessible option for fans of iOS and Mac. With automatic uploading of your iPhone’s content, when enabled, iCloud can be a powerful tool for making sure none of your memories go missing. According to Apple’s terms of service, you retain copyright of the content you upload. In addition, Apple’s only rights to use the content are in conjunction with the cloud service; example, sharing photographs that you willingly decide to make public. Apple does not have permission to use your photographs for usage outside their cloud service.



When you use our Services, you provide us with things like your files, content, email messages, contacts and so on (“Your Stuff”). Your Stuff is yours. These Terms don’t give us any rights to Your Stuff except for the limited rights that enable us to offer the Services. We need your permission to do things like hosting Your Stuff, backing it up, and sharing it when you ask us to. Our Services also provide you with features like photo thumbnails, document previews, email organization, easy sorting, editing, sharing and searching. These and other features may require our systems to access, store and scan Your Stuff. You give us permission to do those things, and this permission extends to our affiliates and trusted third parties we work with.

Dropbox has always been a popular option and, after initially displaying questionable terms of service, they went back and made everything right. By using Dropbox, the company only has permission to use your content in conjunction with their cloud service, which includes backing it up and sharing it with those you choose to share with in your account settings. Dropbox may scan your content for a number of purposes such as generating photo thumbnails and document previews. Dropbox does not have permission to use your photographs for usage outside their cloud service.


Google Drive

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

Google Drive has the first terms of service that may call for a cause of concern for privacy moguls. As the company’s terms of service note, Google receives a ‘worldwide license’, which they can use to “host, store, reproduce, modify, creative derivative works, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display, and distribute such content’. Google notes that the rights are for the “purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services”, but the terms are very vague. The company may also continue to use your content after you have pulled them from the service – possibly troubling information for photographers.


Amazon Photo

We may use, access, and retain Your Files in order to provide the Service to you and enforce the terms of the Agreement, and you give us all permissions we need to do so. These permissions include, for example, the rights to copy Your Files for backup purposes, modify Your Files to enable access in different formats, use information about Your Files to organize them on your behalf, and access Your Files to provide technical support. Amazon respects your privacy and Your Files are subject to the Amazon.com Privacy Notice.

Amazon’s cloud service began to grab attention when they started offering unlimited photo storing from Prime members – something to seriously check out if you have Amazon Prime. Amazon’s Terms of Service are straight forward, as with Apple; the company can only use your photographs in conjunction with their cloud service for ‘backup purposes’. Amazon does not have permission to use your photographs for usage outside their cloud service.


Microsoft OneDrive

Who owns my Content that I put on the Services? You do. Some Services enable you to communicate with others and share or store various types of files, such as photos, documents, music and video. The contents of your communications and your files are your “Content” and, except for material that we license to you that may be incorporated into your own Content (such as clip art), we don’t claim ownership of the Content you provide on the Services. Your Content remains your Content, and you’re responsible for it.

Microsoft’s Terms of Service are also straight forward. Any content you upload to service remains under your control. In accordance with Microsoft’s ‘Trustworthy Computing’ stance, the company notes that they are not responsible for your content, leaving all legalities and copyright in your hands. Microsoft’s privacy statement also details that they only share your photographs based on the permissions within OneDrive (public or private).


After analyzing the above solutions for your photo cloud, it would appear that the privacy hysteria of online file storage and photography is exactly that — exaggerated. Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and Amazon Cloud all allow you to keep full control of your content and do not use your data outside the service. However, Google’s terms of service may be somewhat concerning for some as they are not specific and do note that Google gains a license over your content. We have reached out to Google for a comment on their terms of service and will update this article when we receive a reply.

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. For the most reliable legal definitions and advice on the terms, please contact your cloud service provider and consult an attorney. Please also note that the terms of service for any given solution may have been updated since this article was published.