Twitter Teams with Photobucket for Direct Photo Sharing

Twitter has announced that it will soon be rolling out an “official” method of sharing photos on Twitter.  However, Twitter will apparently not be hosting the images – rather the images will be hosted and served by Photobucket.

With all of the recent hoopla surrounding photo sharing services and Twitter, you have to wonder what will this mean for changes in the terms of service?  And, will Twitter’s terms fully explain the rights to your photos, or will you have to read Photobucket’s terms as well?

Relevant Portions of Twitter Terms of Service

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).

Relevant Portions of Photobucket Terms of Service

By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Photobucket Services, you hereby grant to Photobucket 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, except Content marked “private” will not be distributed outside the Photobucket Services. [My emphasis added.]

Given the recent mess with TwitPic, it sure would be nice if Twitter would clear up the photo rights and licensing issues before it rolls the service out in full.  A disclaimer that prohibits license extensions of images to third-parties would ease a lot of photographers’ concerns.

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  1. says

    While I don’t speak for Twitter, perhaps I can try clarify the situation somewhat.

    The Photobucket TOS is not very relevant in this context. The user’s relationship is with Twitter, not with Photobucket.

    The next line after the quoted section in the Twitter TOS explains the intent of the section — it would be somewhat clearer to include this line: “This license is you authorizing us to make your Tweets available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same.” Also, content rules, specifically third-party use, is covered in the Developers Rules Of The Road, especially Sec. 4, Part 3.

    I hope this clarifies this complex situation in some small way.

    • says

      Thanks for the comment John. I’m curious to know Photobucket’s view of hosted photos from Twitter users. There is obviously some kind of rights grant as a licensee of content between Twitter and Photobucket – or else Photobucket would have no right to display images uploaded through the Twitter service. What does this license say?

      It may be that this agreement (b/w Twitter and Photobucket) is not within the public view because it is covered as content within the Twitter TOS. It appears that these images hosted by Photobucket are, in fact, Content as defined under the Twitter TOS. It would still be nice to see more specifics on image rights and uses now that Twitter is in the direct-upload business via the relationship with Photobucket.

      And while the “next line” that you cited does clarify the license grant in the preceding paragraph, it does not limit the language of the granted license for user Content. Additionally, the following three paragraphs further “clarify” the expanse of this license. The purpose of the above quote was to compare the specific license grants between Photobucket and Twitter in speculation what how this might affect photographers’ photo rights on Twitter going forward (since this had not been made clear back in June – and is still a bit murky). Moreover, the “Tip” you quoted defines the intent, but not the full scope of how far this license goes.

      As far as the Dev. Rules go, I don’t see these as applicable to the Photobucket situation, as it’s a special animal – deeper in bed with Twitter than other Developers. Am I right?

      Additionally, the Developers Rules don’t really clear up any of the questions regarding commercial use – especially in the TwitPic situation. The section you referenced just says that Devs have to get permission before using user Content for commercial purposes. TwitPic’s TOS vaguely do garner that permission; however, it has been handled in a rather closed and underhanded way. TwitPic has basically said that “we only do it for certain accounts and most people need not worry about it.” However, their TOS is still broad enough to cover every user, but users should “trust them” not to use their images commercially.

      As written, the Dev Rules endorse TwitPic’s shady behavior. Regardless of whether TwitPic is in the legal clearing under Twitter’s TOS, it’s still not very friendly to those who use Twitter to share images. This example has lost some of its relevancy now that images can be uploaded directly through Twitter; however, the underlying issue of third-party rights grabs remains very much alive.