Almost a year ago, I reviewed a few photo hosting sites. After that, but quite a while ago, I got an invitation to try out Picasa Web Albums, and I just now got around to clicking on the link to try it out. But I didn’t get far…here is an excerpt from their Terms of Service (emphasis mine):
Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Picasa Web Albums. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through Picasa Web Albums and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Picasa Web Albums, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such Content through Picasa Web Albums, including RSS or other content feeds offered through Picasa Web Albums, and other Google services. In addition, by submitting, posting or displaying Content which is intended to be available to the general public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such Content for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting Google services. Google will discontinue this licensed use within a commercially reasonable period after such Content is removed from Picasa Web Albums. Google reserves the right to refuse to accept, post, display or transmit any Content in its sole discretion.
Hmm…this is a problem for me.
I have some images of people with whom I have a model release, and some of those releases cover self-promotional use only. So I can (and do) put these images on my web sites (available to the general public) for the purpose of promoting myself and my photography, but I can’t allow someone else to use it to promote themselves or their service. I own the copyright to these images – but I don’t have the usage rights required to do what Google is talking about. If one of those images wound up on a billboard in Times Square, promoting some Google service, I’d be potentially liable for a lot of usage fees.
As another (possibly more common) example, I have some images from the San Diego Wild Animal Park. On the back of my entry ticket, it said none of my photos taken there could be used for commercial purposes without express written permission from the park – which of course I don’t have. So I again don’t have the usage rights to grant Google the license they are looking for for these images – promoting Google services is clearly commercial use.
One more example – do you have a photo that happens to have a recognizable face in it? You know, like a passer-by? You will, in general, need a model release from that person before you can use that image for (non-editorial) commercial purposes. Or before you can grant Google the license to use it in this manner.
Images of the Eiffel Tower, that are taken at night when the lights are on, apparently require permission from someone before they can be sold. I can’t remember where I read that…but if you search on, say, istockphoto, you’ll notice there are no Eiffel Tower pics for sale with the lights on at night. Again – you can take the pictures, and you can put them on your web site, but no commercial use. So you can’t upload those either, because you can’t grant the license necessary.
IMHO, there is a difference between a service that lets me share and distribute my content to others (like many other photo sharing sites), and a service that helps themselves to a pretty much unlimited license to my content (eek). I did a search before posting, and was surprised to only notice one other blog that had mentioned this…
In Google’s defense, this probably isn’t the spirit of the agreement…but when I read the words, this is my interpretation – so I’m going to have to pass on trying out the service for now.