The Latest Rights Grab – Photobucket

With the wide open range of the internet, sometimes social sharing sites prove to be a bit inept at crafting legal terms that correctly encompass the rights they need to provide you with a service.  We last discussed this when Google+ started up, here.  Well, today we discuss something that just popped up on my radar – the Photobucket photo sharing site.

In the earlier article, I mentioned linkedIn as being one of the sets of legal terms clearly designed to give them commercial usage of anything you submit, and those terms still are there today:

You own the information you provide LinkedIn under this Agreement, and may request its deletion at any time, unless you have shared information or content with others and they have not deleted it, or it was copied or stored by other users. Additionally, you grant LinkedIn a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sublicenseable, fully paid up and royalty-free right to us to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, process, analyze, use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, any information you provide, directly or indirectly to LinkedIn, including, but not limited to, any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques or data to the services, you submit to LinkedIn, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or to any third parties. Any information you submit to us is at your own risk of loss as noted in Sections 2 and 3 of this Agreement

Now, for the record, I don’t use Photobucket.  This blatent rights grab was pointed out by an iStockphoto user.  Apparently, somewhere back in the end of August their Terms of Use changed.  Previously, from what I can find on the web, the rights they wanted just sounded badly worded, but these new terms pretty obviously spell out that by uploading anything and marking it “public”, they can use your content for anything they want to, including anyway they can, to make money:

You retain all your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or while using Photobucket. This means that YOU own ALL the Content you post, but keep the following in mind:

    • If you make your Content public, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to copy, distribute, publicly perform (e.g., stream it), publicly display (e.g., post it elsewhere), reproduce and create derivative works from it (meaning things based on it), anywhere, whether in print or any kind of electronic version that exists now or later developed, for any purpose, including a commercial purpose.
    • You are also giving other Users the right to copy, distribute, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and create derivative works from it via the Site or third party websites or applications (for example, via services allowing Users to order prints of Content or t-shirts and similar items containing Content, and via social media websites).

So, to review, you own the rights to your content.  However, by uploading and making something public there, you are essentially assigning them a co-license.  They can sub-license your content (ie. sell it as stock content to others), they can print it on a shirt and sell it, with no money to you, they can make a book of it, etc.  Not only that, you are giving other users the right to do pretty much anything they want with it, including printing it on things themselves, and I believe, selling those things themselves, with no input from Photobucket.  This “eazy-peezy” wording is sort of unclear on that.  It’s a misguided attempt to make you feel comfortable with, or overlook the terms by being overly “friendly” in the wording with things like “We trust and respect the Users of Photobucket and its community” in terms.  Hey, if they “respected” you, they probably wouldn’t want to take away your ability to monetize your very own content.  The content you hold the rights to.

Because that is what they are doing.  If you decide one day to take your content and make a limited edition print series, guess how many sales you’re going to get once you realize that Photobucket has helped themselves to selling your content on their own prints?  They may not being doing it today, but including all that in their terms, and giving wide open usage rights to anyone in the world, pretty much shows they’ve thought about it, and nothing is on the table.

I certainly would not recommend using Photobucket based on this discovery, and of importance to iStockphoto Exclusive contributors, I believe this kind of wording would definitely violate your user contract with iStockphoto.  If you want further legal clarity, you may want to contact Carolyn Wright at with a question for her site.

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