Photos on Twitter are a reality and will soon be more closely tied to the service. Right now, many photographers use services like TwitPics to do that. The photo above from an iPhone 4 is representative of many of these photos. And for most of us, that’s not a problem. But what about the pros?

There’s something every professional or aspiring professional photographer should know – unless Twitter changes its current Terms of Service (TOS) every photo you share on Twitter can be sub-licensed by Twitter, or worse. From the Twitter TOS…

“By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).”

Gulp…

“You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.”

Double Gulp…

Ask a real lawyer (not some guy named Larry who plays one on your local camera club forum) what this means. I did. My lawyer says it means that Twitter can do pretty much anything it wants with my photos (other than claim actual Copyright to them) and there’s nothing I can do about that. Is that an issue for you personally? Maybe not. It’s unlikely it will impact you if you aren’t trying to sell your photos. But if you are, read on.

As a professional photographer, I can’t sell “exclusive” rights to any image I decide to publish on Twitter. The reason is that once it is published on Twitter, there is no exclusivity left. That could be expensive. As professionals, we need to decide whether the exposure we get via Twitter is worth that trade off. For some of us the answer is yes – for others the answer is no. The purpose of this post is to get you to understand that you will have to make some hard choices. I am hoping they are informed choices, no matter what you decide.

By the way, many of the third party services like TwitPic have equally concerning terms of service. Don’t think that by using these services you’re avoiding the potential issues I’m describing over at Twitter.

In closing, let me say that I don’t think Twitter is evil. Just the opposite. I think they are doing what their lawyers told them they have to do to stay safe. I have no problem with that. They don’t assume any Copyright over your images. THAT would be evil. I appreciate the fact that they didn’t take that step. Twitter just asks you to license your content in a way that could (if you are a pro or want to go pro) be financially harmful to you later on. That’s important to know and is in no way a “values” judgment against Twitter.

When all is said and done, the power of Twitter and other social networking sites to share images is too great to ignore. I may never share an image directly on Twitter. I have used TwitPic to send iPhone pictures (a few times) and I do post a few images on Flickr. I’ve stopped using Facebook at all. All of these social networks require you to diligently read through the TOS. Yes it will hurt your brain, but no – it won’t make you go blind. In the end, there is no free lunch. Decide if the service they provide is worth the potential risk.

I hope you find this information helpful when making your decision.

___

This post sponsored by Rogue Flash Benders – distributed by Expo Imaging

Join the conversation! 33 Comments

  1. [...] Scott Bourne made some interesting points on the blog Photofocus. He pointed out something many of us overlook in today’s world of social media marketing and sharing – that posting a photo via Twitter (which will apparently soon be possible) or Twitpic, or even on sites like Facebook means you have basically given up control of your content.  He shares some points from Twitter’s Terms of Service (TOS): “By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).” [...]

  2. [...] Twitter, owns your content? Photofocus brings us the interesting legal conundrum of Twitter pissing on your content and claiming… [...]

  3. [...] — Robert Wicks @ 5:37 pm Over at the online photography magazine, Photofocus, Scott Bourne warns photographers of the terms of service they may unwittingly agree to by posting a picture on Twitter. From the [...]

  4. [...] at the online photography magazine, Photofocus, Scott Bourne warns photographers of the terms of service they may unwittingly agree to by posting a picture on Twitter. From the [...]

  5. [...] Bourne, over at Photofocus, points out another highly invasive Terms of Service that photographers need to be aware of, this time from [...]

  6. [...] Photos On Twitter – What You Should Know Photos on Twitter are a reality and will soon be more closely tied to the service. Right now, many photographers use [...] [...]

  7. [...] If the sections containing TOS quotes instead of the reactions to them had been cherry picked, a much different picture appears: “By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services [...]

  8. [...] and photographers may want to re-read that fine print in the Terms of Service. Photo nerds at PhotoFocus did, and after consulting with their lawyers, they were alarmed to discover that every photo you [...]

  9. [...] and photographers may want to re-read that fine print in the Terms of Service. Photo nerds at PhotoFocus did, and after consulting with their lawyers, they were alarmed to discover that every photo you [...]

  10. [...] que ReadWriteWeb explique (inspiré d’un billet sur PhotoFocus.com) est qu’un photographe professionnel doit se méfier de Twitter. S’il décide de vendre [...]

  11. [...] zijn geschreven, en dat maakt de teksten niet begrijpelijker. Maar wat de fotografen ontdekten, daar schrokken ze wel een beetje van: Twitter heeft alle rechten over elke getweete foto, onafhankelijk van welke dienst [...]

  12. [...] Neither did I. Until I read this post. [...]

  13. [...] Los fotógrafos quizá quieran releer la letra pequeña en las condiciones de servicio. En PhotoFocus lo hicieron y, después de consultar con sus abogados, se sorprendieron al descubrir que cada [...]

  14. [...] colaboradores de PhotoFocus se tomaron la molestia de leer las letras pequeñas de los Términos de Servicio (TOS) de Twitter y [...]

  15. [...] Facebook har fått mye pepper for sine regler ved flere anledninger, blant annet gjennom en gruppe startet av norske Anne-Kathrine Petterøe. Mikrobloggetjenesten Twitter har stort sett fått være i fred, men det kan endre seg kjapt. Tidligere denne uken kom jeg over et innlegg på bloggen Photofocus, som har satt seg nærmere inn i reglene for blant annet bilder som blir publisert gjenno…. [...]

  16. [...] que la gente de PhotoFocus, se puso a leer e investigar un poco el TOS de Twitter, y que descubrimiento hicieron. Resulta que [...]

  17. [...] Los fotógrafos quizá quieran releer la letra pequeña en las condiciones de servicio. En PhotoFocus lo hicieron y, después de consultar con sus abogados, se sorprendieron al descubrir que cada [...]

  18. [...] de uso, podría pasarnos algo como lo que nos comentan en ReadWriteWeb. Resulta que la gente de PhotoFocus, se puso a leer e investigar un poco el TOS de Twitter, y que descubrimiento hicieron. Resulta que [...]

  19. [...] best even de kleine lettertjes van de Terms of Service aandachtig herlezen. Photo nerds van PhotoFocus deden het en ontdekten, na consult met hun advokaten, dat Twitter elke foto die je op Twitter deelt [...]

  20. [...] la web Photofocus dirigida a fotógrafos han hecho un descubrimiento que provocará unas cuantas quejas. Junto a [...]

  21. [...] in oproer: een groep professionele fotografen las de algemene voorwaarden van Twitter door en schrok van hun ontdekking: Twitter heeft alle rechten over elke getweete foto, onafhankelijk van welke dienst (twitpic, [...]

  22. [...] latest topic of hot debate on the blogosphere after Scott Bourne’s post on PhotoFocus called ‘Photos On Twitter – What You Should Know’ which was posted last week. In the article Bourne claims that photographers should be wary of [...]

  23. [...] La popular red de microblogging Twitter podrá hacer uso de tus fotografías y no podrás cobrar regalías por ello. Este problema que afecta principalmente a los fotógrafos profesionales, fue descubierto por PhotoFocus. [...]

  24. [...] to the guys over at Photo Focus for pointing this one out. Apparently with the current Terms of Service from Twitter, they have the [...]

  25. [...] fotógrafos quizá quieran releer la letra pequeña en las condiciones de servicio. En PhotoFocus lo hicieron y, después de consultar con sus abogados, se sorprendieron al descubrir que cada [...]

  26. [...] groep professionele fotografen las de algemene voorwaarden van Twitter door en schrok van hun ontdekking: Twitter heeft alle rechten over elke getweete foto, onafhankelijk van welke dienst je er voor [...]

  27. [...] Los fotógrafos quizá quieran releer la letra pequeña en las condiciones de servicio. En PhotoFocus lo hicieron y, después de consultar con sus abogados, se sorprendieron al descubrir que cada [...]

  28. [...] Hi photogs…Nick here from http://www.FunPhotographyWorkshop.com.Did you know that by uploading your picture to Twitter, you give them unlimited free use? Scott Bourne at PhotoFocus opens our eyes and says “make an informed decision”:http://photofocus.com/2010/10/12/photos-on-twitter-what-you-should-know/ [...]

  29. [...] ser que la gente de PhotoFocus se puso a leer e investigar el TOS (Term Of Service – Condiciones de Servicio) de Twitter y [...]

  30. [...] Photos On Twitter – What You Should Know An Update To My Post on Twitter’s Terms of Service Twitter, Lawyers and Your Photos [...]

  31. [...] and photographers may want to re-read that fine print in the Terms of Service. Photo nerds at PhotoFocus did, and after consulting with their lawyers, they were alarmed to discover that every photo you [...]

  32. [...] that withdrew support of Wikileaks. Last October, when ace photography blogger Scott Bourne posted on Twitter’s digital copyrights, angry photographers flash mobbed his site, causing Bourne to close comments. In 2007 Greenpeace [...]

  33. [...] may want to re-read that fine print in the Terms of Service. PhotoFocus nerds consulted with their lawyers, they were alarmed to discover that every photo you share on [...]

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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