Beware releasing your photo ownership via Terms of Service on the photo sharing sites

Just upload your photos and all of your friends can see and enjoy too. They can comment, and tell others about your fine photos. Maybe even rate, rank or purchase copies. Usually, the ability to share your photos online doesn’t require you to pay anything. Well, not any out of pocket cash, but you may be paying more in the form of ownership.

Every site that allows you to upload your photos to has a TOS that the site owners require you to agree to prior to letting you start posting. A quick glance, if you even take time to glance over the text, will show there is verbiage about you not sharing someone else’s photos as your own. What might get lost in the fine print is who owns your pictures after you upload to the site. A few friends of mine really dig into the text before they upload. I was surprised to learn about the bits they found regarding my photos being able to be used in ads without my knowledge. As well, one service that can sell copies of my photos… sharing the profit with me but not the photo credit.

Looking around for help with things in Terms of Service agreements that I should be concerned with, I found the site: “Terms of Service, Didn’t Read“. The site offers an A through E letter rating for sites across a wide range of things you should be concerned about. The site covers more than just photo sharing sites, anything with a TOS that the site has taken the time to review and rank… a lot of social and blog services are in the mix too.

An example of one site I was previously using got an overall ‘D’ rating (note the negative and positives) :

  •  Ownership
  •  The terms can change at any time
  • + The terms are easy to read
  •  Open only to individual photographers and graphic artists
  • × —– Store: your account can be terminated at any time
  •  Waiver of legal actions
  • × —- Store: Authorship
  • + Pseudonyms are allowed
  •  You are responsible for any claim and agree to indemnify them