After a few false starts over the years, I’ve finally committed to self-hosting any pictures I share on the socnets. This doesn’t mean that there will be no photos of mine out in the interwebverse–some need to be out there for marketing purposes–but most won’t be. Why? One simple phrase: “Terms of Service” (ToS). In terms of copyright and permissions, I simply balk at what I have to give to the majority of photo sharing services.
Now, I understand that some rights have to be licensed out simply so that services can legally share any sort of IP. The server needs to be able to store, transmit, possibly modify (e.g. resize, edit profanity, etc.), and copy. Browsers and other apps need to acquire the right to store (at least temporarily) a copy of the material in order for it to be viewed at all. This is a sort of “implicit physical necessity” license that has to be granted in order for the ‘net to work at all. I don’t have qualms about this.
The language I start to bristle at includes words and phrases such as: “irrevocable”, “in perpetuity”, “right to share with third parties and partners”, and other such nonsense. These are red flags to me that the company wants a permanent license to sell my work without compensating me for it. You see this in a lot of ToS agreements.
There is one other phrase that often gives me pause when a company seems, at first blush, to be benevolent: “[we may] modify or amend this Agreement without notice at any time”. What sort of non-contract contract is this? THEY can modify the agreement to their own benefit without subsequent consent? While I do understand that sometimes language needs to be clarified, this is just onerous. You are agreeing, in advance, to let these jackals change the rules in any way they want.
I’m not naming names, but if you look at the terms of any photo-sharing site you use or are considering using, you see the above examples–or something recognizably close–at pretty much all of them at this point.
And so, I’ve decided to deal with the small hassle of self-hosting my own, private photo gallery from where I can link my photos onto the socnets. It lacks a little of the built-in convenience of the bigger, more connected, services, but I also don’t have to worry that some ethically-bankrupt “suit” will change the terms so that I have to pay them for the privilege of their selling my photos for their own profit. Don’t believe me? Well…how much do you trust banks and credit card issuers? The photo peeps are stealing from their playbook.