Why I can’t try Picasa Web Albums

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.

16 thoughts on “Why I can’t try Picasa Web Albums

  1. BILL MacGregor

    Google gets away with ALL of their So-Called “FREE” programs ONLY Because 1 out of a Million People Read the Complete T.O.S. For Each google program.

    Google Makes More Money Collecting Personal INFO than in Sales Of Advertising!!

    Picasa was a great program before Google bought it and ADDED THEIR SPYWARE!!!

    Only Fools Use any of Googles Freeware that CAN Cost You Your PERSONAL FREEDOM,

  2. piter

    Todos deberian compartir sus fotos en Picasa. si quieres utilizarlas comercialmente entonces sube solo fotos de baja calidad y tamaño pequeño de muestra. si no muestras el producto como vas a comercializarlas

  3. Stuart D

    This grant only applies to content you post intended to be available to the general public. If you post your stuff “Unlisted” you aren’t giving anything away.

    This isn’t some big conspiracy theory.

  4. Rose

    I realize this is an old post but you bring up a very good point about a model release being issued.

    According to the Blogger Faq section “When you upload an image through Blogger, it gets stored on Picasa Web Albums.”

    I bet many are not aware when uploading photos to Blogger they just handed over rights.

  5. Pingback: Facebook’s crazy terms of use - Greg Reinacker’s Weblog - Musings on just about everything.

  6. Pingback: One Shot Design » Blog Archive » Picasa and your copyrights

  7. Snehasis

    Hmm….This is why Flickr with 100MB free storage wins over Google Picasa.

    P.S. If photo storing is the main agenda then use Picasa with “unlisted” option(1 GB Free).
    Else use Flickr for Sharing.

  8. JackDeth

    Yeah, but in Flickr’s do’s and don’t it clearly states that their service cannot be used for commercial purposes either. So if you’re a photographer wanting to post your photos there for people to see so it promotes you or for you customers to see to proof their photos, that is commercial use is it not? Is there any photo site out there that you can use for “commercial use”?!?! This is aggravating.

  9. biotech

    wow…and their TOC has not changed 3 yrs after the fact.

    @Stuart D
    This is shame I really like Picasa app but certainly would not want my family member to end up on someone’s promo card without my approval. Even if I choose to share the photo publicly that does not need to imply that anyone can use this photo to their liking.
    eg. blog entry about my family camping.

    No it is not. You can display your art on the sidewalk no issues…but if you start selling things on this ‘sidewalk’ then you can not. You can use Flicker as storage and then use its API to pull photos into your own website/portfolio. So as long as you do not offer ‘commercial service’ on the Flicker site by posting contact info or clever captions such as ‘1800 wedding photos’ etc. you should be ok…I would imagine?!

    A lot of photographers like http://www.smugmug.com/ although it is not the best looking child in the bunch.

  10. rom

    I know it’s been a while since you’ve posted yout reply, but perhaps you can assist again.

    I’m trying to get a clear understanding of the usage of Picasa as a storage of images for a particular website. In other words, can a website store images on Picasa – under Unlisted album – and then use the Picasa API to manipulate these images?
    Does it consider to be a ‘commercial service’ of Picasa?
    The site does intends to charge users for the usage on the actual site’s functionalities – and NOT on Picasa services or storage space – Do you see any issue with that scenario?

  11. KH

    Hi, Was thinking about starting a Picassa web albums account and was going through their Terms of Service and spotted exactly what you pointed out almost five years ago…anything I post Google gets an irrevocable, perpetual worldwide license to distribute, modify my work.

    Am travelling for many months and since all my photos are on a single memory card I want to upload my images and store them online. Is Flickr a better option? Anyone know their stance with regard to my copyrighted pics?

    Thanks for this post,


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