Friday, November 30, 2007

The Dangers of Photo Sharing Programs

Each and every day that we blog or post online, we know that a few or many hundreds, or for some bloggers, thousands, even millions, may be visiting our sites. And as AOL warns us, everything we post online can be seen...forever. It can also be stolen, altered, misused or even used against us.

We think we know about spies, trackers, cookies and robots. What we forget, sometimes, is that everything we put online is available, and alterable, by anyone with the right, the copyright, or the appropriate technology to do so. Unfortunately, this includes any photos or other images that we post, or even store online in photo hosting programs.

Photo hosting is one of those things that we all love. Whether you use Picasa (as I do) or AOL (as I do) or Webshots or Snapfish (as I have)...or a million other programs...most of those programs own the rights to your photos and have the right to use them without your permission.

That right was brought home to a 16 year old teenager in Australia recently who unexpectedly saw her photo up on a billboard for Virgin Mobile. She had never given her permission to have it used for advertising and had no idea of how it had gotten up there. It turned out that a friend of Alison Chang had posted the photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons license. Under that licensed agreement, Flickr owned the right to use any photos posted for any commercial purposes and had it picked up by Virgin Mobile.

Creative Commons licenses to some, or to all of your work. The rights granted vary, so if you ever design to assign one, know what you're agreeing to. It was meant to be a 'free' tool that would allow authors, scientists, artists, and educators to easily mark their creative work with assigned freedoms to change copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved." As such, it defines the spectrum of possibilities that lies in between a fully restricted copyright to the public domain of no copyright at all.

Creative Commons licensing allows us to share,to remix, and to reuse...legally. On the plus side, it allows the proliferation of images, poetry, works of art, books etc. to spread like wildfire across the Internet... giving desired publicity, and publication, to its creators. On the downside, it becomes open to misuse, alteration, or misinterpretation.

Reading about this, and thinking about my recent posts on Copyright laws on the Internet, made me think about the images that I store and/or publish. A quick check into contracts of Photo Hosting services and a backup computer listing service tells me this:

You retain the rights to all photos you post on Flickr. However, you grant Yahoo a license to use the photos posted in public areas. Yahoo does not pay royalties for any photos it uses and it can use your photos to promote Flickr. Yahoo may also modify or adapt any of your publicly posted photos.

AOL Pictures:
You own the photos you post and store, but like Flickr, AOL is granted the rights to use them if publicly posted. AOL and its associates also have the right to modify them and to use them in any medium it chooses. Unlike Flickr, AOL does not give you the option of applying a Creative Commons license. AOL does include a link, however, to remind visitors that they need your permission to repost your photos.

Kodak Gallery:
Kodak does not claim ownership of your photographs. However, you do give them the right to use and distribute your images. This is for the purpose of making prints etc. Photos are not available publicly.

Web Albums: You retain the copyright to images you post to Google's Picasa. However, Google is licensed to use your photos. Google claims a perpetual, irrevocable license. The license is also royalty free worldwide and they can also modify or alter your photos and can make them available to companies for syndicated purposes. Picasa does not offer Creative Commons licenses.

Remember: Just because your name is on the blog, the post, the photo album or the online store sales site, you don't 'own' it. Know your rights and remember that when it comes to the Internet, only the people are invisible, everything else is seen by someone.
Check out my post on blog copyright info:
What is a Copyright and Is Blog Material Copyrighted?

Linking to another's blog, or post, or idea, or technique is never a violation, it simply sharing a link to source. For additional information on the General Copyright laws, go to:

For additonal info on Quilting and copyrights, see:

Copyrights and Quilting
Dangers of Photo Sharing Programs

What is IP via US Patent and Trademark Office

“Who Owns What?” via Stanford University



Tools for Artists: | reverse image look up | The importance of watermarking 

LEGAL GUIDE FOR BLOGGERS: Intellectual Property