Intellectual Property Terms of Free Photo Sharing Websites

Intellectual Photo Property License Sharing Comparison

Comparing IP-License Terms of Social Photo Sharing Websites

Intellectual Photo Property Sharing

As photographers, we like to show and promote our work throughout the digital world. Nowadays we won’t come around using social media/photo sharing websites to do so. We have the choice between many web-services/companies and more often prefer free ones. By uploading our content we permit to display and share our works under a set of very specific Terms of Service. The TOS specify in legal terms what the company is allowed to do with our content, our Intellectual Property.

I wanted to know in detail to what I would give permission to when I upload one of my photos to such a free service. Also, I wanted to know what would happen if I decide to remove my content or account.

License Terms Explained

All TOS are written using specific terms. I added a brief description to make them more clear.

  • License – “A license is a grant of permission to exercise your rights under copyright.” – source
  • Licensor – Person or entity who is granting usage rights to another person or entity
  • Licensee – Person or entity to whom the license is granted
  • Non-Exclusive – “The licensor can grant the same or similar rights to multiple licensees.”  – source
  • Royalty-Free – “The right to use copyright material or intellectual property without the need to pay fees for each use,…” – source
  • Perpetual – never-ending
  • Irrevocable – “Cannot be terminated…except as set forth in the termination provisions” – source
  • Transferable – “The licensee may freely assign or convey (the license) to any other party.” – source
    • “If they transfer the license they no longer have the license themselves, they have essentially given up their rights to use the work and passed those rights to someone else.” – source
  • Sub-Licensable – “(The licensee) can give another (party) permission to use your content, without needing additional permission from you.” – source
    • “(The licensee) can sell a sub-license to another party. And they don’t have to pay you for it because remember, we agreed above that this license is “royalty-free.” – source
  • Worldwide – “Applies everywhere, even outside of the country in which you are located” – source

IP-License Comparison Table

Photo Sharing WebsiteExclusive or Non-Exclusive?Paid?Perpetual?Irrevocable?Transferable?Sub-Licensable?Where applicable?Content & License fully removable?
500pxnon-exclusivefully paid--transferablesub-licensableworldwidemaybe
DevianArtnon-exclusiveroyalty-free------
EyeEmnon-exclusiveroyalty-free---sub-licensableworldwidemaybe
Facebooknon-exclusiveroyalty-free--transferablesub-licensableworldwidemaybe
Flickr & SmugMugnon-exclusiveroyalty-free perpetual----yes
Google------worldwide maybe
Imgurnon-exclusiveroyalty-free perpetualirrevocable sub-licensableworldwide maybe
Instagramnon-exclusiveroyalty-free--transferablesub-licensableworldwidemaybe
Ipernitynon-exclusiveroyalty-free-----yes
PhotoBucketnon-exclusiveroyalty-free-irrevocable ---no
Pintrestnon-exclusiveroyalty-free--transferable-worldwidemaybe
PostImagenon-exclusiveroyalty-freeperpetualirrevocable -sub-licensableworldwidemaybe
TinyPicnon-exclusiveroyalty-free----worldwidemaybe
Tumblrnon-exclusiveroyalty-free--transferablesub-licensableworldwidemaybe
Twitternon-exclusiveroyalty-free---sub-licensable--
WeHeartItnon-exclusiveroyalty-free--transferablesub-licensableworldwideno

Takeaway – Better safe than sorry?

My takeaway after dissecting 16 different license agreements and reading about the Licensing Terms details. To stay in total control over your IP content and inhibit third-parties to gain usage rights without our prior consent:

  • Avoid posting to services which include “Transferable” and “Sub-Licensable”.
  • Avoid posting to services which include “may remain” and “unless your content has been shared” in their Termination Terms.

Photo Sharing Tips – Can’t do without you

In reality, most of us won’t stop sharing our work throughout social media services. Here are tips what to do in order to minimize potential sub-licensing pitfalls:

  • Don’ t post your very best work
  • Post only low-resolution photos (e.x. 800-1024 pixel width)
  • Add recognizable watermarks to your work

Site-specific tips

  • Instagram: Make your account private

IP Licensing and Termination Excerpts

  • 500px

    • You grant…
      • By posting Visual Content to the Site you grant to 500px a non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Visual Content in connection with the Services. The license granted to 500px includes the right to use Visual Content fully or partially for promotional reasons and to distribute and redistribute Visual Content to other parties, websites, authorized agents, applications, and other entities, provided such Visual Content is attributed in accordance with the credits (i.e. username or collection name, profile picture, photo title, descriptions, tags, and other accompanying information)
    • Termination
      • This license will exist for the period during which the Visual Content is posted on the Site and will automatically terminate upon the removal of the Visual Content from the Site, subject to the terms of any license granted by 500px through the Marketplace;
  • DevianArt

    • You grant…
      • DeviantArt does not claim ownership rights in Your Content. For the sole purpose of enabling us to make your Content available through the Service, you grant to DeviantArt a non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, distribute, re-format, store, prepare derivative works based on, and publicly display and perform Your Content.
    • Termination
      • not specified
  • EyeEm

    • You grant…
      • When you upload content to EyeEm, you grant us the right to use this content worldwide, non-exclusively and free-of-charge for the EyeEm Community. This means we can integrate your content into our website and mobile app, making it searchable and visible to the public. This includes the right to save your content, to technically reproduce it, to add information (hashtags, keywords, captions etc.), to make it publicly available, to publicly perform, to edit (e.g. modify the resolution), and/or to combine it with other content. This grant of rights is non-exclusive, so you are free to grant the same rights to third parties. This means you can share and sell your photos on EyeEm and other photo-selling platforms at the same time. We showcase photos by members of the EyeEm Community on social media and the EyeEm Blog. Therefore, you also grant us and other visitors to the EyeEm platform the right to use your content on other social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and Instagram), within the EyeEm Community (e.g. EyeEm Team account) and on the EyeEm Blog, be it to present, share, like, and/or comment on your content. In such cases, we will always credit your work with your name and/or username.
    • Termination
      • To terminate your grant of rights for a photo for the future simply delete the photo at any time. Photos that have already been shared on social networks will not be automatically deleted from such networks and may therefore still be used.
  • Facebook

    • You grant…
      • “For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License).
    • Termination
      • This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it. 
      • When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).”
  • Flickr.com & SmugMug

    • You grant…
      • You retain all intellectual property rights in and to any User Content you post, upload or otherwise make available through the Services, including the copyright in and to your Media. SmugMug does not claim any ownership, right, title or interest in and to your User Content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, by uploading and/or posting any User Content to the Site or otherwise by using the Services, you grant SmugMug a perpetual, nonexclusive and royalty-free right to use the User Content (and the user name that is submitted in connection with such User Content) as is reasonably necessary in order to enable SmugMug to provide the Services, including to display the User Content on the Services, to facilitate (at the Content Owner’s direction) the license of Photos, or to process the sale of Products through the Services.”
    • Termination
      • Please note that when User Content or other files are deleted (or your account is canceled), those files will be deleted as soon as reasonable pursuant to SmugMug’s data destruction policies and cannot be recovered by SmugMug or any third party vendor following deletion
  • Google (Photos)

    • You grant…
      • When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.
    • Termination
      • This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps).
      • Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service
  • Imgur.com

    • You grant…
      • With regard to any file or content you upload to the public portions of our site, you grant Imgur a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable worldwide license (with sublicense and assignment rights) to use, to display online and in any present or future media, to create derivative works of, to allow downloads of, and/or distribute any such file or content.
    • Termination
      • the license you grant to Imgur pursuant to the preceding sentence will automatically terminate, but will not be revoked with respect to any file or content Imgur has already copied and sublicensed or designated for sublicense. Also, of course, anything you post to a public portion of our site may be used by the public pursuant to the following paragraph even after you delete it.
  • Instagram

    • You grant…
      • We do not claim ownership of your content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, when you share, post, or upload content that is covered by intellectual property rights (like photos or videos) on or in connection with our Service, you hereby grant to us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings).
    • Termination
      • The content you delete may persist for a limited period of time in backup copies and will still be visible where others have shared it.
  • Ipernity

    • You grant…
      • 5.9 By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Service, you grant ipernity a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such Content through the Service, including through RSS or any other content feeds offered by the Service.
    • Termination
      • ipernity will discontinue this licensed use within a commercially reasonable period after such Content is removed from the Service.
  • PhotoBucket

    • You grant…
      • “When you make your Content public, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, non-revocable, right and license to copy, sell, convey, distribute, stream, post, publicly display (e.g. post it elsewhere), reproduce and create derivative works from it (meaning things based on it), whether in print or any kind of electronic version that exists now or is later developed, for any purpose, including a commercial purpose with the right to sublicense such rights to others.
        By making your content public, you are also giving other Members on Photobucket the right to copy, distribute, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and create derivative works from it via the Site, third party websites or applications (for example, via services allowing Members to order prints of Content or t-shirts and similar items containing Content, and via social media websites), provided such use is not for a commercial purpose…
    • Termination
      • If you stop using the Photobucket Services, your Content may remain on the Site unless you actively remove your Content, and the rights you granted to us and other Users remain.
  • Pinterest

    • You grant…
      • You grant Pinterest and our users a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, store, display, reproduce, save, modify, create derivative works, perform, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest solely for the purposes of operating, developing, providing, and using Pinterest.
    • Termination
      • Following termination or deactivation of your account, or if you remove any User Content from Pinterest, we may keep your User Content for a reasonable period of time for backup, archival, or audit purposes. Pinterest and its users may retain and continue to use, store, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify, create derivative works, perform, and distribute any of your User Content that other users have stored or shared on Pinterest.
  • PostImage

    • You grant…
      • With regard to any file or content you upload to the public portions of our site, you grant PostImage a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable worldwide license (with sublicense and assignment rights) to use, to display online and in any present or future media, to create derivative works of, to allow downloads of, and/or distribute any such file or content, including embedded (hotlinked) into third-party websites otherwise not affiliated with PostImage.
    • Termination
      • To the extent that you delete any such file or content from the public portions of our site, the license you grant to PostImage pursuant to the preceding sentence will automatically terminate, but will not be revoked with respect to any file or content PostImage has already copied and sublicensed or designated for sublicense.
  • TinyPic

    • You grant…
      • TinyPic does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials (collectively, “Content”) that you post on or through the TinyPic Services. By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the TinyPic Services, you hereby grant to TinyPic and other users a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels.
    • Termination
      • Deleted content may be stored by TinyPic in order to comply with certain legal obligations and is not retrievable without a valid court order.
      • Even after Membership, and/or your use of the TinyPic Services is terminated, this Agreement will remain in effect in its entirety.
  • Tumblr

    • You grant…
      • When you provide Subscriber Content to Tumblr through the Services, you grant Tumblr a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable right and license to use, host, store, cache, reproduce, publish, display (publicly or otherwise), perform (publicly or otherwise), distribute, transmit, modify, adapt (including, without limitation, in order to conform it to the requirements of any networks, devices, services, or media through which the Services are available), and create derivative works of, such Subscriber Content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purposes of allowing Tumblr to operate the Services in accordance with their functionality, improve and promote the Services, and develop new Services. The reference in this license to “creat[ing] derivative works” is not intended to give Tumblr a right to make substantive editorial changes or derivations, but does, for example, enable reblogging, which allows Tumblr Subscribers to redistribute Subscriber Content from one Tumblr blog to another in a manner that allows them to add their own text or other Content before or after your Subscriber Content.
    • Termination
      • On termination of your Account, or upon your deletion of particular pieces of Subscriber Content from the Services, Tumblr shall make reasonable efforts to make such Subscriber Content inaccessible and cease use of it and, if required by the applicable Privacy Policy, delete your Account data and / or Subscriber Content unless permitted or required to keep this data in accordance with law; however, you acknowledge and agree that: (a) deleted Subscriber Content may persist in caches or backups for a reasonable period of time and (b) copies of or references to the Subscriber Content may not be entirely removed (due to the nature of reblogging, for example).
  • Twitter

    • You grant…
      • 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). This license authorizes us to make your Content available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same. You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals for the syndication, broadcast, distribution, promotion or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use. Such additional uses by Twitter, or other companies, organizations or individuals, may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services.
    • Termination
      • You may end your legal agreement with Twitter at any time by deactivating your accounts and discontinuing your use of the Services.
  • WeHeartIt

    • You grant…
      • So that We Heart It can operate, maintain, market and improve our Website, our mobile applications and our Services and our users can use and enjoy the same, when you Post Content through our Services (including any Content you have Hearted), you give We Heart It, its affiliates and its third-party providers and partners a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable right and license to use, host, store, cache, reproduce, publish, display (publicly or otherwise), perform (publicly or otherwise), distribute, transmit, modify, adapt (including, without limitation, in order to conform it to the requirements of any networks, devices, services, or media through which the Services are available), copy and create derivative works of such Content (either alone or as part of a collective work).
    • Termination
      • in order to maintain the integrity of the Services, you agree that the rights that you have granted under the User Content License will continue to survive in perpetuity even if you stop using the Services or your account is otherwise terminated.
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