Pressgram Terms of Service

NOTE: This is the second of two posts looking at problems I see with Pressgram. The first, looking at security concerns, can be read here.

First, a bit of history.  No, it is too long, let me sum up:

Pressgram was first spawned as a Kickstarter as a reaction to the Instagram Licensing debacle where there was an addition to their Terms of Service which implied that Instagram had the right to resell your photographs without payment or notification.

The Pressgram Kickstarter made some awesome claims:

You see, I want to build an independent publishing platform that isn’t beholden to strange and changing Privacy Policies, Terms of Service, or Licensing agreements […]

I suppose another way you could say it is… it’s your filtered photos published directly to your WordPress-powered blog, when you want, where you want, how you want.

You see, you now get more creative control over your content than ever before. You won’t have to “license” your photos from the app or the company – they are yours forever and you’ll never see them anywhere else except your own profile and blog.

This is a boon for the artist, the creative, the independent content creator who doesn’t need to worry about digital agreements or where they may end up seeing their own handiwork.

It’s yours, for goodness sake. No worries here.

You see, we believe that true creative control is not just about act and process of creating but also publication, especially in today’s digital economy.

Gee, that’s pretty slick.  It’s all about letting me keep the rights to my own content!

Well, no.

If you read their Terms of Service, you’ll see this section, reproduced in full:

User Content Submitted Or Made Available For Inclusion On The Service

TL;DR: Your photos are YOURS, now and forever! We do not hold ANY rights or intellectual property related to your content except for those that allow us to provide the Pressgram app and service to you. Also, your photos will preserve whatever copyright they had before uploading to this site and we will seek to protect that copyright and will not sell your photos without your permission!

By posting any User Content on the Service, you expressly grant, and you represent and warrant that you have all rights necessary to grant, to Pressgram a royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, list information regarding, edit, translate, distribute, syndicate, publicly perform, publicly display, and make derivative works of all such User Content and your name, voice, and/or likeness as contained in your User Content, in whole or in part, and in any form, media or technology, whether now known or hereafter developed, for use in connection with the Service and Pressgram’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels. You also hereby grant each User of the Service a non-exclusive license to access your User Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such User Content as permitted through the functionality of the Service and under this Agreement.

Well, if you read it fully, the TL;DR: section at the top certainly seems to be misleading.  An easy summary that makes you want to gloss over the fine print that — remember — by the Kickstarter, Pressgram wasn’t meant to be “beholden to strange and changing Privacy Policies, Terms of Service, or Licensing agreements.”

By the summary, Pressgram doesn’t hold any rights except those needed to provide the service and app.  Which would be awesome.  But it’s not what the terms actually say.

You are granting Pressgram the royalty-free rights to do the following:

  • Reproduce your images
  • Publish your images
  • Modify your images
  • Edit your images
  • Syndicate your images (which means to publish or broadcast in newspapers or TV)
  • Publicly display your images
  • Make derivative works of your images
  • Use your name, voice, and likeness as well, in any of the aforementioned ways

… and they can sublicense and sell/transfer those rights any way they like!

Then, it goes on so that you’re giving every other user of the service a license to use, reproduce, distribute, display your images as well.

Now, this is all very odd considering this is giving Pressgram the very same rights that it was created to protest Instagram trying to claim!

In fact, let’s take a look at the Instagram Terms and Conditions as they were when the whole ruckus came about (not their current terms, the more objectionable ones that they eventually backed down from).  You can view them here.

Instagram 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 Instagram Services. By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Instagram Services, you hereby grant to Instagram 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 not shared publicly (“private”) will not be distributed outside the Instagram Services.

As a reminder, these are the original Instagram Terms of Service, the ones that got the internet in a huge fuss, and Pressgram rode the wave of frustration with to over $50,000 of funding.

Now, that reads nearly identically to the Terms of Service that Pressgram has listed above!  You’re giving them a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free license to do … well … pretty much anything they want with it.

Pressgram had some pretty noble ideals.  However, by claiming transferable and sublicensable rights to publish and create derivative works of your images, it’s showing that all the attractive talk about how “you get to control any and all commercialization of your content and work, how it always should have been” really is just gilding the lily, as it’s utterly negated in the small print in the terms of service, which Pressgram started out by saying  that it was entirely opposed to.

If Pressgram were built as just an app, instead of a Social Network (and we totally need another social network clogging up the internet), it wouldn’t have these Terms and Conditions, as you would be using it to modify your own images.  No service to store your images and share them on your behalf.  No server to distribute your images for you.  You’d send your own images directly to your own site, no messy, needless intermediate service to get in the way.  Which is much simpler.

But instead, what was built as Pressgram is functionally indistinguishable from Instagram, except that it publishes to your WordPress blog, and stores your WordPress credentials on their server.  It still claims the same rights to your images that Instagram did when it was initially conceived, and far more rights than Instagram claims in their current Terms of Service.

However, there is hope.  It sounds like John Saddington is taking these concerns to heart and looking into them over this weekend.  Here’s hoping the fine print clarifies itself to match Pressgram’s initial noble ideals, or the Pressgram app opens up and makes the service, and therefore its Terms of Service, opt-out.

UPDATE: Pressgram has updated their Terms of Service, making clear that it’s taking fewer rights to your content, and that those rights are only to be used for displaying your content, and it is no longer claiming the rights to sublicense or transfer those rights.  Hurrah!  It’s now in line with Instagram’s current Terms of Service.

Unfortunately, now it added this little blurb:

You agree not to reproduce, duplicate, copy, sell, resell or exploit any portion of the Content, use of the Content, or access to the Content without the express written permission by Pressgram.

I’m assuming that’s a typo, meant to read “without the express written permission of the original author and owner” — will update when that gets clarified.

19 thoughts on “Pressgram Terms of Service

  1. Reblogged this on Sarah Pressler and commented:
    I love innovation. I love new applications and thinking outside of the box. But I don’t like feeling hoodwinked. I’m a little concerned about the Pressgram photosharing app, for several reasons – but namely – specifically – because of their TOS. I’m not bailing on the Instagram ship yet and I’m not pledging to the Pressgram Bandwagon either. I read the TOS a few days before Pressgram launched and was confused. Read why:

  2. I agree with George on everything expect this: “(and we totally need another social network clogging up the internet)”.

    I agree with the overall statement that we are overloaded with social networks. However if you assume that “the world doesn’t need another ________” then how does the next big thing happen? I heard people complaining about Twitter went it started as another “social thing” but apparently the variety of WordPress developers I know are on it and use it frequently enough.

    If John was trying to start a social network or something here, I don’t think that’s an issue. I would be more focused on the way it was done or presented – which i do indeed have some concerns about.

  3. I’ve made some major updates after talking with my legal counsel and I think you’ll be pleasantly met with the new terms, especially since they are leveraging much of Automattic’s WordPress.com TOS (sharealike license).

    This has been great exercise, so thank you for it.

    • Yes, happy to see a significant improvement … I’ll update the article(s) to note that — but as I asked on Twitter, the new one says that I would need written permission from Pressgram to reproduce any of “the Content” — you meant written permission of the original author and owner, right? Otherwise it would imply that the owner needed your permission to reproduce their own work.

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