Legal Personal Technology

Twitpic, Twitter and Photo Ownership Rights

In the battle over photo-sharing sites, the verbal skirmish centers on the concept of ownership.

Over at PBS MediaShift, read my (timely given Twitter’s roll-out this week) essay, Who Really Owns Your Photos in Social Media? This post has a bit more musing and context.

Twitter recently added @amazon, @AolVideo, @gowalla, @foursquare, @Meetup and @plancast to the “details pane” — which means that links to these sites display media directly on the page. (If you are logged in and not following that Twitter account, you have to click a “display” icon.) This means that site visitors don’t have to leave to see what the tweeted link is all about. Good for Twitter (“sticky”) and good for visitors (easy-peasy nibbles of content).

When Twitter launched the #NewTwitter web design last year, this “social web” integration was central to the user experience. It’s also central to the user experience on Twitter for iPad. Prior to Friday’s announcement, Twitter supported third-party media content from, DailyBooth, Dipdive, Flickr, iTunes, Instagram, Slideshare, Rdio, Ustream, YouTube and TwitPic. (More?)

However, this functionality privileges some content over others, like these two screenshots demonstrate:

twitter and moby does not provide a preview of images shared with the MobyPicture service.

twitter and flickr does provide a preview of images shared on Flickr.

MobyPicture is a small(ish) photo-sharing site in Amsterdam. Like Flickr, it has a TOS that clearly favors photographers:

All rights of uploaded content by our users remain the property of our users and those rights can in no means be sold or used in a commercial way by Mobypicture or affiliated third party partners without consent from the user.

And, like Flickr, Moby says it is developing Creative Commons licensing functionality for its photographers.


Repeating my conclusion over on MediaShift: if prohibiting any commercial use of your photographs is important to you, but you want them to be easily viewed on (and Twitter for the iPad), then you should be using Flickr as your image-sharing site.

If commercial use — credit requested but not required — is OK, then use and any extension of Twitter’s photo-sharing service beyond the website. (I imagine that integration with Twitter for the iPhone and the iPad is in the works.)

I can’t recommend using PhotoBucket “naked” (that is, without the protection of Twitter’s TOS). Period.

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By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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