Connect with us

Social Media

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 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.

Continue Reading


  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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social Media

India’s government still pushing social media platforms to nix COVID posts

(EDITORIAL) Whomsoever controls the information controls the people, and India is proving that censorship is a dangerous path.



social media

Let’s take a walk through recent history, shall we? The timing is late April and the world is still attempting to control the spread of the COVID-19 Virus. Certain countries have succeeded in administering vaccines and keeping down the spread. Other’s have not. People are dying. Families are being stripped of their securities. What’s the saving grace for the majority of these people? Social media.

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have turned into the news distributors and social lifelines. Our generation has gotten used to things like cable news outlets being entirely one sided with their distributed factoids. It’s easier to trust people than a news monolith, even though they are typically just as biased.

Personally, I believe that we are more accepting of a person being biased because they are supposed to be, whereas companies that report news, we feel should be unbiased and when they aren’t, it’s less forgivable. However, I digress.

Social media has become the new source of news for the younger generations. We go out and take in information either from real life or from other sources and send it out into our own little virtual worlds. Every piece of this information should be taken with a grain of salt and double checked, of course. At least if the person actually wants to spread real news. They then interact and disperse news through instant communication online.

Which leads us to India, 2021.

From the standpoint of this generation, what’s been happening there is deplorable. The Government of India demanded that both Twitter and Facebook begin removing COVID-related posts. Their reasoning? These posts are “deemed posed potential to incite panic among the public.” They are restricting the freest form of communication that has ever existed in to the human race.

Now this could be something that’s innocuous, or a genuine care for the country’s people. I’m sure there are posts out there that may have incited panic. However, some of the previous actions taken by the Indian government tend to make me think otherwise. Pointedly, requests for the blocking of Twitter accounts which criticized the countries policies have gone out. They’ve even threatened jail time for employees and users in this case.

They keep claiming the country’s good but if they are only silencing dissenting voices, they’re actually just protecting their right to govern. Leading to a darker place in mind for any future actions. There are certain facts which stand however.

The Indian government has failed in a number of ways this year. The culmination of which is their unprecedented collapse of their nation’s health infrastructure. One of the only ways that some people are getting their health supplies is through social media as people communicate locations that have supplies available so they can save their lives.

The restrictions that the government is putting forth isn’t helping people. It has the potential to kill them.

Continue Reading

Social Media

How news outlets are positioning Trump’s lawsuit against Big Tech

(MEDIA NEWS) As Trump’s lawsuit against Big Tech hits the airwaves, media outlets act less predictably than some would think. And most are missing what we believe will be the ultimate outcome.



Former President Trump

In a bold move against “Big Tech,” former U.S. president Donald Trump is suing social media organizations that banned him earlier this year. The class action lawsuit, led by Trump himself, hopes to address the increasing impunity exhibited by these tech companies; there are multiple avenues of coverage that all predict different outcomes, the most likely of which is stronger regulation for tech companies.

Part of the larger issue is that the word “tech” is inherently misleading in the context of companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – all of which are named in Trump’s lawsuit. While others waffled on understanding the difference between tech and media, we have insisted that one can only be categorized as a “technology” company if its primary product is hardware or software; “media” companies involve the dissemination of content using a digital platform.

But companies that might otherwise qualify as solely media-based have been blurring the lines for years, leading to a dearth of understanding regarding their very categorization – and how to enforce the laws that accompany that denomination.

Classifying companies like Facebook and Twitter as tech companies, therefore, is problematic in that the regulation often applied to media companies cannot be applied to them, despite a clear need for regulatory consistency.

In any event, the lawsuit itself alleges that these companies formed a monolithic stance, one whose “status thus rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor,” subjecting the companies in question to legal scrutiny under the first amendment – a right that Trump’s attorneys argue was violated when the former president was banned from using these sites.

There are several trains of thought regarding this lawsuit, the majority of which follow the expected party lines; however, one consistent player is Section 230, which is legislation that prevents social media companies from being held accountable for the content that their users create, publish, or share.

Right-leaning news outlets are focusing on possible infringement of free speech and the increasing prominence social media companies play in dictating real-world outcomes, with Fox News quoting Mark Meckler (former interim Parler CEO) as saying the lawsuit could “break new ground.” Trump himself pointed to Twitter’s continued entertainment of violent foreign “dictators” in his absence, alleging support for the idea that conservatives are being censored on social media.

Trump is also quoted as referring to social media as “the de facto censorship arm of the U.S. government” in light of companies like Facebook and Twitter enforcing policies against misinformation, largely at the behest of left-leaning government officials.

This aligns with the “state actor theory” in which social media companies are held with the same regard as government agencies in recognition of the power they wield.

A social media company’s status as a private entity, Trump argues, does not protect it from liability in an ecosystem in which these companies have as much influence as they do, arguing instead for the abolishing of Section 230.

Conservative news outlets are predominantly optimistic about the lawsuit’s success, with sources such as Meckler pointing out that this constitutes “a developing area of the law” that could result in a crackdown on Section 230 – something that would change the way social media companies operate for the foreseeable future.

Left-leaning news outlets are more focused on the flaws in the lawsuit, however, with The Daily Beast asserting that “constitutional law experts almost laughed at the legal arguments presented in the suits.”

“The argument here that Facebook should be considered a state actor is not at all persuasive,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

Jaffer also points out inconsistencies in the lawsuit’s motivations: “It’s also difficult to square the arguments in the lawsuit with President Trump’s actions in office. The complaint argues that legislators coerced Facebook into censoring speech, but no government actor engaged in this kind of coercion more brazenly than Trump himself.”

These outlets similarly reference Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter cooperating with the CDC to prevent the spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19 – something that Trump’s legal team has cited as evidence that social media companies were colluding with Democrats.

Left-leaning sources acknowledge that the lawsuit could be damaging should it succeed in repealing or altering the parameters around Section 230, but they primarily view this lawsuit as more of a fundraising attempt than a legitimate gripe with the law.

“They know that they’re going to lose and this is a fundraising, publicity stunt that maybe lets them take a section 230 case up the appellate ladder,” says Ari Cohn, a lawyer with TechFreedom.

Cohn also asserted that the argument about Facebook as a state actor is old news, and other sources explained that the lawsuit is most likely a distraction from other stories more than anything else.

There are some fringe takes regarding this lawsuit as well, with Daily Wire calling the lawsuit a “publicity stunt” that is “dead on arrival” due to misinterpretations of Section 230 and the inaccurate logic that led up to the portrayal of Facebook as a “state actor”.

Similarly, centrist news org, The Hill, emphasizes that “the case is frivolous, and… will almost certainly be dismissed in court because private companies are not subject to comply with the First Amendment, which upends the basis of the complaint’s argument.”

Whether or not this lawsuit finds traction, the most reasonable outcome to expect is a closer look at how social media companies are classified, what their role is in public dealings, and which laws pertain to them while they occupy the liminal space between technology and media dissemination.

“Tech” companies have operated without proper regulation for far too long, and while the context here is divisive, the idea of holding these companies accountable to consistent legal expectations should not be.

Continue Reading

Social Media

Instagram for Kids: Do kids really need social media that young?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram for Kids is a terrible idea that we’ll have to contend in the not-so-distant future as social media becomes more prevalent in our lives.



Young girl playing phone, exploring Instagram for Kids

As a Facebook company, Instagram is used to pushing the envelope, and not always in a good way. One of their most recent initiatives, dubbed “Instagram for Kids”, offers pre-teens the opportunity to use a parent-controlled Instagram version—but global criticism is already mounting.

Instagram has a 13-and-up policy that restricts pre-teen kids from signing up for the app (in theory), but Instagram for Kids would allow younger users to share and interact with photos without the pressure of ads and inappropriate content (again, in theory). The goal behind a social media app for 12-and-unders is curious, given that acceptable teen social media use already starts at, arguably, a younger age than is responsible.

According to Instagram, though, their motivation for the app is simply to reduce access to harmful aspects of the web without instilling FOMO in younger children: “Kids are already online, and want to connect with their family and friends, have fun, and learn. We want to help them do that in a safe and age-appropriate way, and find practical solutions to the ongoing industry problem of kids lying about their age to access apps.”

Instagram also promises to “consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform [the app experience].”

That’s all fine in—and I cannot stress this enough—theory, but several members of the original internal discussion about this version of Instagram acknowledged that existing Instagram users who are under the age of 13 probably won’t switch over to the new platform, making Instagram for Kids obsolete for any illicit users. That leaves only one conclusion: That Instagram for Kids is for a substantially younger audience.

It’s difficult to find a morally upright justification for creating a social media app for, say, 8-year-olds. Parent control or not, the potential for data collection, early technology addiction, and breaches of privacy is very real. Add to that the fact that the children who are likely targeted by this app can’t exactly give informed consent for their information to be shared (not that 13-year-olds can, either, but that’s a different thing), and it starts to look pretty shady.

Instagram is already tangentially responsible for things like false marketing, eating disorders, and mental health decline in otherwise healthy adults. Adding pre-teens to that list is not only irresponsible—it’s morally bankrupt. Please keep your kids off of apps like this.

Continue Reading

Our Great Partners

American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!