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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.

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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

WeChat ban blocked by California judge, but for how long?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) WeChat is protected by First Amendment concerns for now, but it’s unclear how long the app will remain as pressure mounts.



WeChat app icon on an iPhone screen

WeChat barely avoided a US ban after a Californian judge stepped in to temporarily block President Trump’s executive order. Judge Laurel Beeler cited the effects of the ban on US-based WeChat users and how it threatened the First Amendment rights of those users.

“The plaintiffs’ evidence reflects that WeChat is effectively the only means of communication for many in the community, not only because China bans other apps, but also because Chinese speakers with limited English proficiency have no options other than WeChat,” Beeler wrote.

WeChat is a Chinese instant messaging and social media/mobile transaction app with over 1 billion active monthly users. The WeChat Alliance, a group of users who filed the lawsuit in August, pointed out that the ban unfairly targets Chinese-Americans as it’s the primary app used by the demographic to communicate with loved ones, engage in political discussions, and receive news.

The app, along with TikTok, has come under fire as a means for China to collect data on its users. U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has stated, “At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”

This example is yet another symptom of our ever-globalizing society where we are learning to navigate between connectivity and privacy. The plaintiffs also pointed out alternatives to an outright ban. One example cited was in Australia, where WeChat is now banned from government officials’ phones but not others.

Beeler has said that the range in alternatives to preserving national security affected her decision to strike down the ban. She also explained that in regards to dealing with national security, there is “scant little evidence that (the Commerce Department’s) effective ban of WeChat for all US users addresses those concerns.”

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Social Media

Instagram makes IGTV videos more accessible with automatic closed captions

(SOCIAL MEDIA) This new feature for Instagram opens avenues for viewers who don’t or can’t use audio on IGTV videos, creating more accessibility for all.



Instagram live being recorded will now feature auto captions.

In an effort to expand accessibility efforts, IGTV videos on Instagram will now include an auto captions option. While its parent company, Facebook, has included auto captions on uploaded videos since 2017, this new-for-Instagram feature is expected to widen audience viewership and increase potential viewing by those who prefer watching sans-audio.

In a statement by Facebook, the company states: “While there is no shortage of information, not everyone can access it. It needs to be available to the hundreds of millions of people in the world who are deaf or hard of hearing. According to the World Health Organization, over 5% of the world’s population – or 466 million people – have disabling hearing loss, and that is projected to increase to over 900 million by 2050.”

Current events have made the need for auto captions even more critical for inclusion. “The rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a spike in both the supply and demand of public health information. Several local and state governments, that were accustomed to holding live press conferences but didn’t have the resources, staff or technology to record, stream, and caption their live events, turned to Facebook Live. Several governments also discovered that video captioning was not just a nice-to-have, but imperative, especially in the absence of available sign language interpreters,” states the company.

Currently, Facebook provides auto captions for videos in 16 languages and has announced that Instagram’s IGTV will have access to the same features. The caption accuracy is determined by the video’s audio quality, although AI technology is constantly improving in both precision and speed.

Additionally, branded content ads are likely to see an increase in consumer interaction. Recently published data by Facebook shows ads visually designed for watching with the sound off have 48% more relevance to viewers and a 42% higher purchase intent. As auto captions normalize across social media, users can expect ad content to utilize this feature to the fullest.

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Social Media

New tool organizes your Reddit feed (and makes it actually usable)

(Social Media) Reddit’s UI hasn’t always been super intuitive. ‘Deck for Reddit’ organizes your feed into themed columns, making it way more user-friendly.



Deck for Reddit on display on laptop on desk.

Love it or hate it, the mass collection of forums on Reddit have some form of content for everyone. The simple UX design places content straight down the middle of the screen and the infinite scrolling feature allows you to view a limitless amount of content from cute puppy images to cringe-worthy videos. However, its simplicity isn’t very practical, and is something that I think should be voted down.

Yes, Reddit has come a long way from its previous text-heavy form, but there is still a lot to improve on. Charles Yang, a frustrated Reddit user, has created a web app that could change all that: Deck for Reddit, a desktop optimized, alternative way to browse your favorite forums.

“I built it to show as much content as possible at a glance, while respecting your screen real-estate,” writes Yang.

Currently, the web app is in open beta. With a very similar experience to Tweetdeck, this Reddit tool seems to hold some promise.

On the far left side of the website, there is a list of icons with all the subreddits you’ve subscribed to. Clicking on an icon will take you directly to that subreddit column. This is very convenient for users with a bunch of subscriptions. Additionally, by making several subreddits visible on the screen all at once, Yang succeeds in his goal of taking advantage of the vast empty white space that Reddit failed to use.

From this display, you can click on a post, and it instantly expands to show all the comments. Hit the back button, and the post collapses. Now, you are back to seeing all the posts related to that subreddit. And at the top of each subreddit, you can easily sort the content by what’s new, popular, and trendy. Engagement has never felt easier.

Along with everything else, this extension also adds another great feature in setting customizations. The theme can be switched from light to dark mode. Fonts, text size, and even the shape of the subreddit icons can all be adjusted. Preferences can be changed to hide viewed submissions and reduce animation motion. And if you’re slacking off at work or want to chill, you can set it to hide NSFW content.

Overall, Deck for Reddit makes the user experience smooth sailing, and it truly makes Reddit the “front page of the internet.”

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