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Warning – read Google’s Terms of Service before uploading photos



Google’s terms of service

We recently reported on Google’s rebranding of photo sharing site Picasa to Google Photos which has come with much fanfare. Photographers, hobbyists and laypeople alike are excited that Google+ offers unlimited storage for photos which is a tremendous draw for photographers and people with a high volume of pictures (like hundreds of photos per listing).

Who has rights to your photos?

With unlimited storage as a draw (or fish hook, if you will), in Section 11 of Google’s Terms of Service, you can feel safe when you upload images because “You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”

So why are we warning you to read the entire terms of service? Because the very next sentence after the feel good line above directly contradicts, “By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”

Further, the terms note that “You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.”

Also, “You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.”

Forfeiting photo rights?

Photographers seeking to sell their images or to retain rights are forced to forfeit those rights when uploading images into the Google system, as are Realtors who upload their images.

When a Realtor uploads a file with a family at the closing table (ragged and worn out from packing, but excited to get the keys), that tired makeupless mom may appear in a Google ad because the Realtor gave up rights to the image, or in any of Google’s “related” companies’ (is that any company they’ve invested in? There are hundreds, if not thousands) sites or ads.

We are not offering any legal advice, rather noting that with any technology, the terms of service should be carefully considered before use of said technology.

The American Genius (AG) is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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  1. mfm

    July 9, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    i don't see anywhere, regardless of terminology, where users who upload "Content" such as images are forfeiting their rights to their image. The user DOES retain ALL the Rights to their image.

    What the user IS agreeing to in Google+'s Terms of Service is retaining the rights of the image in order to agree to the Terms of Service which lets Google take an image that you uploaded from your cell phone, or maybe Rupert Murdoch did, and do with it what they will.

  2. BawldGuy

    July 9, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    Who was it who said not to trust Google to easily last year?

  3. Jason Stoddard

    July 10, 2011 at 12:31 am

    Thanks for the PSA. Now, how about a follow-up about your undying love for Net Neutrality. Geez. AG's flip-flop position on property rights and privacy Is like Aquinas' on again, off again Jesus Taxi Cab dialectic.

  4. Joe

    July 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Should also be noted that Google does not support their services. We have paid for Google Storage to store our photos and videos. After 9 months of seemingly uneventful and stellar service, most of our videos were converted to a single image .jpg screenshot file. The videos were family and real estate videos. There is no available support except through the Google forums, and thus, our videos are lost. Probably could be the subject of your next blog entry, as we know many real estate agents that use Google Storage to store the many photos and videos for their real estate business.

  5. Riyadh

    July 11, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Well, same goes for all other popular networks. At least I would put Google ahead of Facebook in this regard. Facebook's privacy policy and ToS is much worse.

    And one more thing,

    It's a social network, where society means the world. If you don't want to do networking, do not sign up here and keep your things private in an enclosed box.

  6. kb

    July 11, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    >We are not offering any legal advice, rather noting that with any technology, the terms of service should be carefully considered before use of said technology.

    That's _really_ good considering the incredibly selective an inaccurate reading of that contract necessary to reach your conclusion. Take a close examination of what's meant by "provision of syndicated services" and you'll see what I mean. It means that if they partner with someone like Weebly to provide a service for Google Apps, you can still access pictures you uploaded to Picasa in an integrated way, instead of having to re-upload them to Weebly. Surrendering copyright for professional photographers, this is not.

    Seriously, legal documents have specific meanings which may be different from casual, colloquial meanings. If you don't know what you're talking about, don't presume to comment on it. Then again, sensationalist headlines are great for driving traffic, huh?

  7. Lizze

    July 11, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Has anyone been able to find a response FROM Google on this whole disaster? I for one am with kb on this but that't just my opinion and we all know what those are like…lol.

  8. Jefrf D

    July 12, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Is this article deliberately misleading or just not properly researched?

    You left off the last sentence off the section of the Google Terms of Service you quoted. The last sentence is "This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services."
    The Picasa specific policy can be found here: It states that "Google does not claim any ownership in any of the content, including any text, data, information, images, photographs, music, sound, video, or other material, that you upload, transmit or store in your Picasa account. We will not use any of your content for any purpose except to provide you with the Service."

  9. Egypt Urnash

    July 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Every time a new image sharing site starts up, someone reads the TOS of a site that shares images for the first time in their life, and they freak out. People who haven't ever read similar TOSs also freak out and share links to it. A week later, the site makes a public post that basically boils down to "chill dude, this is lawyerese for 'when someone points a web browser at your stuff we will send it over the Internets to them".

    Go read the TOS for Flickr, Picasa, Deviantart, Facebook, Blogger,, Livejournal, whatever, and you will find much the same text.

  10. Devan Goldstein

    July 12, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    This issue is a non-starter.

    1. From the page you cite ( "This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services."

    2. From the Picasa Legal Notices page / Your Intellectual Property Rights section ( "Google does not claim any ownership in any of the content, including any text, data, information, images, photographs, music, sound, video, or other material, that you upload, transmit or store in your Picasa account. We will not use any of your content for any purpose except to provide you with the Service."

    1 and 2 combine to eliminate any problem here.

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Social Media

Facebook’s Résumé takes another shot at LinkedIn

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook took another swipe at LinkedIn by introducing a new Résumé feature.



resume On This Day load bob alice terrorism trends fine spam facebook advertising jobs earnings

Any job hunter is likely familiar with the little section somewhere during the application process where you’re asked to enter in social media information. Thankfully, Facebook is usually an optional field.

While I try to keep what the public can see of my social media profiles toned down enough as to not cause my grandmother to blush, I’m still not quite comfortable sharing my profile with prospective employers.

I’m sure many out there feel the same, and Facebook knows this.

Tinfoil hat theories aside, LinkedIn may be shaking in their boots as Facebook begins to advance their growth in the professional sector in their pursuit of social media domination.

Facebook has begun experimenting with a new Résumé/CV feature that works as an extension of your standard “Work and Education” section on a Facebook profile page, allowing users to share work experience in more detail with friends and family but most importantly: potential employers.

Luckily, the new Résumé/CV feature won’t be sharing personal photos or status updates, but will rather combine all the relevant information into a single, professional-looking package.

So far this feature appears to be rolled out to a small number of users, and it’s unclear when it will be officially launched, but this isn’t the first time Facebook has dipped their toes in the waters of the job sector, or took a jab at LinkedIn.

Several months ago, Jobs was launched, a feature that allows Business Pages to post job openings through the status composer, and keep track of them on their Page’s Jobs tab.

A Facebook spokesperson commented on the intent behind the new Résumé/CV feature, “At Facebook, we’re always building and testing new products and services.

We’re currently testing a work histories feature to continue to help people find and businesses hire for jobs on Facebook,” and so this is just the beginning of Facebook’s plan to become a one-stop-shop and create a more seamless way for people to find and get jobs.

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Social Media

Tag photos, connect with friends, order food?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook seems to be sprawling into every nook and cranny of life and now, they’re infiltrating food delivery.



food delivery facebook

Facebook is now bringing you food! Although, no one was really asking them to.

In the age of Instagram and Snapchat, Facebook is attempting to transform into more than just a social media platform. They have partnered up with food delivery services to help users order food directly from their site.

They hope to streamline the process by giving users a chance to research, get recommendations and order food without ever leaving the site.

Facebook has partnered with their existing delivery services including EatStreet,, DoorDash, ChowNow and Olo in addition to restaurants to fast track the process.

The scenario they imagine is that while scrolling through the newsfeed, users would feel an urge to eat and look to Facebook for their options.

After chatting up friends via Facebook Messenger to ask for the best place to go, users would visit the restaurant’s page directly, explore their menu and decide to order. When ordering, you will have the option to use one of the partnered delivery services either with an existing account or by creating a new one.

The benefit is you stay on one site the entire time. With the time you save, the food can get to you faster, which is a plus for everyone.

Assuming that people already live on Facebook 24/7, this seems like a great update. If you like getting recommendations from your favorite social media resources, it’s even better.

The problem is that in recent years their younger audiences have dropped off in favor of other sites. Regardless of what they think, not everyone is flocking to Facebook for their every need.

My guess is that this service will benefit those already using Facebook, but is less likely to draw new audiences in.

Adding more services may not be the key to success if Facebook can’t refine their other features. They have already been criticized for their ad reporting practices, though they seem to fix everything with a new algorithm.

Facebook has continued to stray away from their original intent, and food delivery won’t be their last update.

Facebook wants to be everything, but not everyone may want the same.

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Social Media

Hate Facebook’s mid-roll ads? So does everyone else

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Those pesky ads that pop up in the middle of that Facebook video, aka mid-roll, seem to be grinding everyone’s gears.




In an ongoing effort to monetize content, Facebook recently introduced “mid-roll” ads into videos by certain publishers, and it has now been testing that format for six months. If you aren’t a big fan of those ads interrupting your content consumption experience, you aren’t alone; publishers aren’t crazy about them either.

In a report on the program, five publishers working with Facebook’s new mid-roll ad program were sourced and all five publishers found that the program wasn’t generating the expected revenue.

One program partner made as little as $500 dollars with mid-roll ads while generating tens of millions of views on their content.

Two other partners wouldn’t specify exact revenue number, but they did acknowledge that the ad performance is below expectations. As far as cost goes, certain publishers mentioned CPMs between 15 cents and 75 cents.

That range is large because a lot of the data isn’t clear enough to evaluate their return on investment. According to the Digiday report, publishers receive data on total revenue, along with raw data on things like the number of videos that served an ad to viewers.

The lack of certain data points, along with the confusing structure of the data, makes it difficult to assess the number of monetized views and the revenue by video. For context, YouTube, as arguably the biggest player in video monetization, provides all these metrics.

Another issue is that licensing deals are cutting into margins. Facebook pays publishers, via a licensing fee, to produce and publish a certain number of videos each month. In exchange, Facebook keeps all money until it recoups the fee, after which revenue is split 55/45 between the publisher and Facebook.

While these challenges doesn’t change the fact that revenue is low, it does make it difficult to dissect costs in a meaningful way.

Why is revenue so low to begin with?

For starters, a newsfeed with enough content to feed an infinite scroll probably isn’t the best format for these kinds of ads. As a user, when I’m watching the videos and the ad interrupts the experience, I’ve always scrolled right on through to the next item on my feed. It’s a sentiment echoed by one of the publishers in the Digiday story.

Because of that, Facebook’s new Watch program, which creates a content exclusivity not found on the news feed, might produce better results in the future. Either way, Facebook will need to solve this revenue challenge for publishers, or they might pull out of the programs altogether.

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