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Uploading photos to Imgur appears to assign them rights to do whatever they wish with them.

It would appear that, taken on face value, uploading an image to Imgur gives them total non-exclusive rights to use it in any way whatsoever as they see fit, irrevocably, for ever, and for free.

This of concern to Stack Exchange members, particularly on sites like Photo-SE, where uploaded images are often members' creative work, not merely illustrations of a technical problem.

Images displayed on "Stack Exchange" sites are stored on Imgur. I looked at Imgur with a view to using it for other purposes. To me their conditions of use seem to state that by using their service you are assigning them free perpetual non exclusive rights to use your images in any way they wish, including full commercial use directly or as derivates.

Their text:

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 file or other content you upload to our servers.

i.e., by uploading the file you sign your rights away.

They do NOT qualify this by saying anything like "in accordance with the use of this site as an image sharing service" etc. The rights granted are clearly stated as being unrestricted.

What they ACTUALLY do at present will be of interest BUT even if benign it is no safeguard. An agreement such as this allows them to build an immense free image base which would be financially attractive to some later buyer.


Update: somebody asked Imgur, and they replied:

Although we don't sell the images or grant usage for them at all, it is in the terms that we have the right to do so. If you delete your image, we no longer have the right, so it is perpetual for the duration of its time on our website.

I hope that helps.
Best, Sarah Schaaf
Director of Communications, Imgur

Does Stack Exchange mean for this to apply to uploaded images? How does this interact with the CC-BY-SA content license, which seems in conflict with these terms? Can someone please officially clarify?

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migrated from meta.photo.stackexchange.com Jun 26 '12 at 13:07

This question came from our discussion, support, and feature requests site for professional, enthusiast and amateur photographers.

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I suspect the answer is, "they need those rights in order to provide the service, i.e. to resize and display the pictures you upload." However, since the photos we post here become CC BY-SA 3.0 anyway, I'm not too worried about giving them those rights (the only things potentially being lost under those terms are the attribution and copyleft provisions). So I didn't downvote, but I don't disagree with downvoters. –  drewbenn Jun 11 '12 at 20:14
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@drewbenn - No, I have seen other sites which ask for certain rights wityh clear limitations on how they are used. Whereas, this makes an open-slather no holds barrred full throttle carte blanche ... :-) statement that you are signing away your first borne. –  Russell McMahon Jun 11 '12 at 20:44
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You seem to have a issue with downvotes...you need to relax...they happen, its the nature of the site. Yes, they even happen annonymously and thats fine. –  rfusca Jun 11 '12 at 21:16
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Possible duplicate: meta.photo.stackexchange.com/q/295/21 –  Rowland Shaw Jun 12 '12 at 7:43
    
@RowlandShaw - Thanks for the reference. That discussion is indeed relevant but the two questions are substantially different. Imgur is mentioned in that post but largely glossed over. They are more focused on the Stack Exchange CC licence issues. They mention a commercial contract between Imgur and SE but quote the free account terms. You'd certainly hope that the paid account terms were different. –  Russell McMahon Jun 12 '12 at 16:04
    
On the answer from imgur — do we have the ability to remove images once uploaded via the Stack Exchange interface? Generally, SE does not work that way. –  mattdm Jun 13 '12 at 21:21
    
Pretty much anything on Stack Exchange seems to fall under fair use; incidental usage for educational purposes. I've yet to see a stack exchange image that significantly replaces the original works' worth –  Ben Brocka Jun 26 '12 at 13:27
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This needs clarification from SEI. Whose terms apply? –  Pëkka Jun 27 '12 at 13:01
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IMHO, if they want the absolute crap I've added they're welcome to it. –  ben is uǝq backwards Jun 27 '12 at 21:59
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@mattdm A salient point. Since images are managed by Stack Exchange and not deletable by us, Stack Exchange users must give Imgur an practically irrevocable license, while regular Imgur users have the ability to revoke it (at least if they use an account or save the management link). Heh... I trust that the Imgur folks are well-intentioned, but you never know what might happen to a company in five years. Stack Exchange chose Creative Commons to protect and reassure against this possibility. It's a shame that the same reasoning hasn't been applied here. –  Jeremy Banks Jul 5 '12 at 1:54

4 Answers 4

This kind of thing is quite standard for content hosting providers. It probably came straight from their lawyers, and is not part of a hidden scheme to exploit user-supplied content.

Here is a quote from the 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).

Such additional uses by Twitter, or other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter, 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.

Here is a quote from the Photobucket terms of service:

If you make your Content public, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to copy, distribute, publicly perform (e.g., stream it), publicly display (e.g., post it elsewhere), reproduce and create derivative works from it (meaning things based on it), anywhere, whether in print or any kind of electronic version that exists now or later developed, for any purpose, including a commercial purpose.

These things are necessary to cover them from being liable to breaking copyright. How far they take it depends on how much they feel they need to cover themselves. Lawyers being lawyers will typically err on the side of caution and ensure that every possible case is covered explicitly.

However there are other sites (typically ones that don't want to cause public outcry) that do a good job of explaining the situation, see the Dropbox terms:

By using our Services you provide us with information, files, and folders that you submit to Dropbox (together, “your stuff”). You retain full ownership to your stuff. We don’t claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property except for the limited rights that are needed to run the Services, as explained below.

We may need your permission to do things you ask us to do with your stuff, for example, hosting your files, or sharing them at your direction. This includes product features visible to you, for example, image thumbnails or document previews.

And the ImageShack terms have also had a bit of effort put into them, and simply say:

The content that you distribute through the ImageShack Network is owned by you, and you give ImageShack permission to display and distribute said content exclusively on the ImageShack Network.

ImageShack will not sell or distribute your content to third parties or affiliates without your permission.

So my conclusion is that I don't think the imgur terms are anything to be greatly concerned about, depending on how much you want to cover yourself from their potential "misuse" of the photos you upload there. If you're not happy with it, use a different site.

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OK. I understand your comments as saying in summary that "Twitter & Photobucket (and imgur) DO acquire all rights and can sell your work etc to their profit in perpetuity BUT they are nice guys and surely won't actually take advantage of the rights they have acquired." –  Russell McMahon Jun 11 '12 at 23:40
    
@RussellMcMahon I don't claim to be the judge of whether they are "nice guys". They're running a business - this text is to cover their backs, and very likely not to exploit your photographs. But the text is clear that they could, and thus it's your choice whether to accept it. –  MattJ Jun 12 '12 at 13:03
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@RussellMcMahon Upsetting customers by commercially exploiting their submitted content without making it clear that would happen is clearly not a good thing for any business, so I consider it an unlikely move. –  MattJ Jun 12 '12 at 13:09
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Why not? 10-100 vocal users leave, while you make profit that cover their leave with a big margin and millions will simply ignore the fact it happened. –  Oleg V. Volkov Jun 27 '12 at 15:49
    
Facebook is a great example. People complain about privacy and use of one's content, yet the same people (minus 1000 or so users) continue to use the service. Most people probably don't even know! –  lc. Oct 12 '12 at 5:43

When I upload an image via the little button on the Stack Exchange form, there's no indication that I'm doing anything but uploading my image to Stack Exchange. Therefore I expect that it is included in the normal content agreement here — namely, that it becomes Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (CC BY SA).

It doesn't matter if SE has some backend deal with a service provider. If I upload to somewhere which uses Amazon S3 to back their storage, I'm not also personally agreeing to Amazon's rules. That's completely irrelevant to me.

If Imgur is doing things that CC-BY-SA doesn't allow, that's something Stack Exchange and Imgur need to work out.

It would also help if the license were made more clear when uploading an image — see Can we get the image upload form to include some license text?. Given that the bottom of every page clearly says "user contributions licensed under cc-wiki with attribution required", I don't this is strictly necessary but I think it'd reduce potential confusion.

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You're only subject to our terms, content license, etc. NOT Imgur's. See my answer. –  Jaydles Oct 15 '12 at 20:27

Since I think I count as the "powers-that-be":

Imgur's "normal" terms of service do not apply to pictures you upload through Stack Exchange.

As far as rights go, your deal is with us, and is subject to our terms of service, privacy policy, and cc-wiki content license.

That means that the images you upload are covered under our "attribution required" license just like anything else you contribute.

We have a contract with Imgur LLC that explicitly states:

Imgur will make no claim of copyright to any images stored by SE on the Image Server (other than Imgur's own copyrighted images and other works, if any).

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Thank you very much. Could you consider making this clear on the upload image form? (See this request at Photo-SE meta.) –  mattdm Oct 15 '12 at 20:56
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@mattdm,my initial reaction is that it's a small box, and we'd just be saying that the terms of service, content license, etc. still apply like they always do. That said, clarity is better where possible. No promises, but is something like "Images licensed under cc-wiki with attribution required" at the bottom of the box roughly what you had in mind? –  Jaydles Oct 15 '12 at 21:26
    
Yeah, that'd do. My suggestion was a lot bigger, but I see the value in brevity. :) –  mattdm Oct 15 '12 at 21:50

This is Sarah at Imgur. We're determined to be absolutely fair (and responsive) to our users, so I asked our lawyer about the license terms you are quoting. First, he wants to reiterate what Michael Pryor said--Imgur and Stack Exchange have an agreement whereby Imgur does NOT maintain the ability to sublicense content uploaded to SE. But the discussion raised another good point: the license terms don’t make it clear that they apply only to images uploaded to the PUBLIC portions of our site and not to private images, so we will change that immediately thanks to your comments.

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+1, awesome to see companies improving their disclosures based on user feedback! –  Jaydles Oct 16 '12 at 15:16

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