Thursday, October 14, 2010

Twitter can do WHAT with your photos?

If you're a big user of the microblogging service Twitter like we are here, you know that Twitter has been making some changes. There is more streamlining, information's available all in one view, it's easier to send updates or replies to posts mid-stream without losing your place, and things like photos and videos will show up in the feed, instead of users needing to go to a separate place on the web (such as to the YouTube or TwitPic website) to view links.

Twitter is even moving toward hosting a lot of that content themselves, instead of relying on links to third party products to share the Justin Bieber videos and cat photos you all know and love. The problem? Check out Twitter's Terms of Use.

It's OK, we're librarians, we know no one actually reads words any more. Here're the juicy parts:

By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

OH WAIT. THEY GET TO USE MY STUFF FOR FREE? What if I don't want photographs of Aunt Edna's 80th birthday party used commercially? I mean, I was wearing a very ugly hat that day, and I had stains on my shirt.

But wait, there's more! 
You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use. 


THEY CAN SELL IT TO THIRD PARTIES, LIKE THE AP, AND I GET NO REMUNERATION, BUT TWITTER DOES? So, like, if I just so happen to be at a major event,  snap some pictures as it unfolds, and Tweet them from my phone for my friends to see, they could end up being sold to CNN or the Associated Press, and SOMEONE makes money off of my good luck (or hard work) and it's not me? This is really going to mess up my job as a freelance artist/photographer!
(Don't worry, this is a stock image from Microsoft Office)

Yup. It's all there in the good ol' fine print. How often do we NOT read the Terms of Service when we sign up for websites? How often do we not read the License Agreement when we install new software? This is another example of how we should take the time to read the words.

Also, it's another lesson in being aware of where we post things, what our rights are, after we've posted them, who can see them and who can use them again, after we've put them on the Internet.

Thanks to PhotoFocus for bringing up the topic. You can read their extended article on the problem HERE.

Have questions about copyright? Feel free to contact our Copyright Team here at the library at (913) 758-3018.

25 comments :

Beata said...

Wow! Thanks for the heads up. I never read the fine print. Looks like I should start doing that!

CARL Staff said...

To be honest, we all seldom do! We'll all have to remember to be better at it.

Beata said...

Constant Vigilance!

David said...

I'm not a lawyer, but this sounds like the same kind of language that's appeared in other company's TOS, such as Facebook and some blogging services.

IIRC, in those other situations, folks more knowledgeable about law typically explain that this language is put in place to protect the company in case a user decides to sue it for distributing content at a later date.

Think about it: right now you post a picture to your public Twitter account, and two months later Twitter starts displaying ads on its site next to your tweets. Some people in the past have apparently tried suing companies when they do that, because the company is now technically making money while displaying the content that you openly posted to its site.

As I understand it, they're not gearing up to collect all our photos, sell them to Getty Images, and make off with the cash. But in order to display them on their site (and any third party Websites and media organizations that plug into Twitter and collect tweets for display), they need a license to do so. That's what this language is there for.

In short: we still own our content. This language just gives Twitter (and third parties) the license to display it.

Anonymous said...

No different than the other billion sites that use/sell/consume/barter/digest and everything else to your data.

An aspiring artist will always put a watermark on their images.

Oh wait, you wrote this with IE on a Windows machine? All of that content belongs to MS now. Oh wait, you use blogger? All of that content is indexed and used by Google, too. Nothing is sacred anymore.

EJ Hilbert said...

As much as they can do what they want with your photos whats worse is if others choose to use them you need a DCMA request and proof of copyright ownership to have twitter remove them. This is particularly scary when recently the pictures of a friends children were used as the default image on an unrelated profile. Despite the fact that the image was of minors and the parents had never given permission for the image to be used Twitter will not remove the image until a DCMA requests showing proof of copyright ownership is provided.

Dena said...

Carl, thanks so much for doing such a good job of breaking this down. I write a small business blog and a huge part of our community are graphic designers, photographers and other people who should definitely be aware of "the fine print". I'm writing a post about this as we speak (backlinking and quoting this awesome post) but I just wanted to say THANK YOU for bringing this to our attention...

Michael said...

Reposting this from the ReadWriteWeb article comments, as it's applicable here, too.

This article, and all of the other articles that this stemmed from, contains a fundamental misunderstanding about the definition of "Content" in the context of Twitter. Twitter's "Content" is the 140 characters and any metadata stored and served by Twitter. Anything that requires a URL to access (i.e. a link shared on Twitter) is not considered "Content" in the context of Twitter's ToS (from http://twitter.com/tos "any information, text, graphics, or other materials uploaded, downloaded or appearing on the Services (collectively referred to as 'Content')").

This may become an issue if Twitter were to—say for example—buy TwitPic or create their own Photo Sharing tool. And yes, there is potential legal concern with the way that their Media Pane system works in the #newtwitter UI design, as it does state "appearing on" but for their license to apply to the content of their Media Pane, it would require that the license from the service allowing their content to be displayed to be sub-licensed. Prior to the Media Pane in #newtwitter, I would have said this is a complete non-issue. Now, it's just something to "watch" and, if you're really worried about it, don't use services that work in the Media Pane.

tl;dr: This article is vastly misleading. "Content" is the text in a tweet and anything you upload directly to a Twitter website, not to a third-party service or your own servers.

Ghosty said...

"By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).
OH WAIT. THEY GET TO USE MY STUFF FOR FREE? "

Yes, they get to "use" it for free, how did you THINK Twitter worked? Your photos and text are going to get sent to every cell phone and PC across the Internet that follows your feed. It's COPIED. It has to be used, copied, reproduced, processed, adapted, modified, published, transmitted, displayed and distributed for that to happen. And, they do not charge you for it. It's done for FREE.

So yes, you give Twitter the license to do all those things to it, because THAT'S HOW THE INTERNET WORKS. EVERYTHING GETS SENT A COPY. Sorry if you thought everyone was getting the ORIGINAL of Aunt Edna's birthday party, but they don't.

"You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.

THEY CAN SELL IT TO THIRD PARTIES, LIKE THE AP, AND I GET NO REMUNERATION, BUT TWITTER DOES?"

NO. That's NOT what that says. It says that you agree that the license - which we already discussed above - includes the rights for "syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication" of what you posted to "other media and services." This would be places like Facebook, Plurk, Flickr, and so on that Twitter doesn't control. There's nothing in that paragraph about selling your stuff.

Just because it's transmitted everywhere doesn't mean they own it, or have the right to sell it. You still own the copyright on published material. It means they have the right to send copies of it everywhere, BECAUSE YOU POSTED IT ON TWITTER AND THAT'S WHAT TWITTER DOES.

... so, you're a librarian, huh? I'm a red-haired Mongolian jet pilot. Look at up too, while you're at it.

kosso said...

This is very common wording in terms and conditions for sites which essentially supply 'user generated content'.

In some cases, it's actually a legal obligation to have that kind of wording, though the usage of the 'content' is usually only for promotion of the service itself.

Flickr ha a great set of T&Cs and also support Creative Commons, so people can easily decide what the rights are on the photos users share though that service.

Twitter can't monetise your Flickr photos - at all. They can't 'sell' the videos you link to on YouTube.

If they had their own hosting service for media content, they *might* be able to do more - if the user's agreed to terms.

Currently, Twitter *can* do what they want with our tweets and possibly avatars and backgrounds, since they actually host those.

Ghosty Kips said...

"By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).
OH WAIT. THEY GET TO USE MY STUFF FOR FREE? "

Yes, they get to "use" it for free, how did you THINK Twitter worked? Your photos and text are going to get sent to every cell phone and PC across the Internet that follows your feed. It's COPIED. It has to be used, copied, reproduced, processed, adapted, modified, published, transmitted, displayed and distributed for that to happen. And, they do not charge you for it. It's done for FREE.

You give Twitter the license to do all those things to it, because THAT'S HOW THE INTERNET WORKS. EVERYTHING GETS SENT A COPY. Sorry if you thought everyone was getting the ORIGINAL of Aunt Edna's birthday party, but they aren't.

"You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.

THEY CAN SELL IT TO THIRD PARTIES, LIKE THE AP, AND I GET NO REMUNERATION, BUT TWITTER DOES?"

NO. That's NOT what that says. It says that you agree that the license - which we already discussed above - includes the rights for "syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication" of what you posted to "other media and services." This would be places like Facebook, Plurk, Flickr, and so on that Twitter doesn't control. There's nothing in that paragraph about selling your stuff.

Just because it's transmitted over the Internet via Twitter doesn't mean they own it, or have the right to sell it. You still own the copyright on published material. It means they have the right to send copies of it over the Internet to other networks besides Twitter, BECAUSE YOU POSTED IT ON TWITTER AND THAT'S WHAT TWITTER DOES.

... so, you're a librarian, huh? I'm a red-haired Mongolian jet pilot. Look at up too, while you're at it.

retro said...

I absolutely agree with Michael. I am a photojournalist and regularly tweet links to my images. I am not posting the images; just a link to them. Sure, Twitter owns the copyright for the text I tweeted, but unless they create some sort of image upload tool like Flickr or Picasa, they have absolutely no rights over my photographs.

BökChöd said...

Well then, no more twitter for me. Facebook was bad enough. Social Networking sites have gotten out of hand.. as if they haven't made enough money already as it is.

Misery said...

@ EJ Hilbert... A DMCA just has to include a statement of copyright, not proof. In the US all images are considered copyrighted at the moment of creation. (If you register them you can get extra damages in court and reimbursement of legal fees.)

Your friend just needs to file a complaint including all the info Twitter requests (basically, a statement that they believe the content is infringing and links to both the copy and the original)

I use Photobucket's DMCA example as a template for all the sites I have to file one with. photobucket dot com slash copyright

My daughter has had multiple profile photos removed from accounts who used her images. :)

a South Carolina geek said...

I'm not too surprised. Twitter has yet to make money and is looking for ways to do it for potential shareholders. If they could ever get on top of searching all the posts properly they could present collections of trending stuff for a fee.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that you left off the first sentence in your post, which reads: "You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us..."

That first sentence is an important part of the document, it quite clearly states that I am the owner of all my uploaded photos, and Twitter cannot "sell" them to anyone, they are simply explaining that they retain the right to display them in the public Twitter feed. I find your article to be unnecessarily inflammatory.

Merinnan said...

Michael, I believe you missed this part of the post:

Twitter is even moving toward hosting a lot of that content themselves, instead of relying on links to third party products...

If users choose to use Twitter's hosting for pics, etc, then es, those pics will be part of Twitter's Content. Only users who keep using TwitPic et al will continue with only their 140 character tweets being Twitter Content.

| Balu | said...

The problem is you're not trying to understand legalise, and associate the tech terms for the same. Now lets look at the part of the ToS you have quoted.

use, copy(copy from photo sites to display them within twitter, pic may be copied to cache), reproduce(retweet), process, modify and adapt (reduce 2mb pic to may be 20kb before displaying it), publish (just in case someone decides to print a twitterfeed from a browser?), transmit (send across the internetz), display (duh!) and distribute such Content (retweet!)


"You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use"
You know, people use Twitter API and I think that's what they are talking about here. So please stop freaking out, really!
If there's a newsworthy pic you have taken, the agencies will contact you and not twitter. Do they really think Twitter would employ somebody to handle silly requests from media like this? Really?

Anonymous said...

Is this news?

Most sites you provide the content for in exchange for not paying for using them do this.

Don't post up info/media that is too personal.

Not using these sites at all is probably the best option.

Anonymous said...

Are you so naive to think that no other site does this.
Read the TOS for facebook or any other "social network" or photohosting service. I can guarantee you will find something similar. (except flicker where you can pick the license yourself)

Only solution is to stop posting random crap on random crappy internet services.

Dave N said...

As others have said, terms of this sort are quite common. For me though, the most disingenuous part of the article is the quoting of the first paragraph. From the article:

"By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed)."

From the Twitter TOS:

"You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed)."

Seems a lot less dramatic with the original extra sentence on the front doesn't it?

Nice selective cutting and pasting guys.

SnowAviation said...

You're blogging about Twitter.

That's funny.

Scott said...

Quite an old story. Came up earlier this year with Daniel Morel case. AFP tooks his photos off twitpic and printed them arguing Morel provided a nonexclusive licence to use his photographs when he posted them to the site.

However, as alluded to by other commenters, the TOCs also say:

"You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services." And they further clarify the above rights by adding " This license is you authorizing us to make your Tweets available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same. But what’s yours is yours – you own your content."

And as also said these are stock standard terms on just about every site you can post content to: Yahoo : "you grant Yahoo! the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sub-licensable right and licence to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed."

That said , the terms are still not great.

It is also worth noting Billy Bragg's presure on MySpace a few years ago which ended with them changing their similar terms from saying : - "grant to MySpace.com a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, worldwide license… to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute such Content on and through the Services." to ... "MySpace.com does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, or any other materials (collectively, 'Content') that you post to the MySpace Services. After posting your Content to the MySpace Services, you continue to retain all ownership rights in such Content, and you continue to have the right to use your Content in any way you choose."

CARL Staff said...

Wow, that's the most comments to a blog post we've ever received! We'd love to comment to everyone individually, but the blog is just one of many things we have going on at the library, so we'll try to address some of the really great comments everyone has made below:

Here, one of our concerns is not that Twitter may quote us, or redistribute links without our permission, you're all right--they don't have rights to images hosted on third party services. The concern is more regarding how Twitter is moving towards hosting more content on-site, as opposed to just using referral links to third parties like yFrog and Twitpic.

Also, there have been other instances (will have to drudge up links later today or tomorrow) where people HAVE posted content to sites, their images HAVE been reused without permission by Big Name news sources, and they have NOT received compensation that they would have been given if the news outlet had interacted with the blogger directly.

Sure they may be protecting themselves with legalese, but it seems like the rights towards content (IF/WHEN Twitter begins hosting images on their servers) are swinging in Twitter's favor, as opposed to the individual user.

Facebook has a long and sordid history with leaning away from protecting information (lets face it, every time they make a change, they tend to set the default of the new or 'enhanced' feature to less private than it was before), as do other sites, we didn't mean to make it sound like Twitter was some huge culprit in some grand plot against microbloggers :)

It's entirely possible that we've misinterpreted the TOS (which we DID read prior to registering for the account--but as we've said, some of these TOS really only become concerns if Twitter begins hosting images and videos, as seems to be the plan). We're not lawyers here, so misinterpretation of legalese is always a possibility :) We're just librarians with an interest in things like fair use and rights protection for creators and users alike. We think it's an important discussion to have, even if we don't have all the answers. Also, we believe that sometimes having the conversation itself is more important than having the right answer, which everyone has seemed to support with the wide and varied comments we've gotten here.

Thanks to everyone who has brought up points we hadn't discussed, and for keeping the conversation about TOS going!

Jonathan Martell said...

Very interesting...

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