Twitter-linked photo sharing service Twitpic stirred up a storm when it altered the terms and conditions of use to grant itself a commercial licence to images uploaded by its users - and the site has now signed a deal to sell those images.
Twitpic is a third-party photo sharing service designed to make it easy to upload photos for dissemination on the microblogging service Twitter. The terms and conditions of use have always made it clear that those uploading images retain full rights to the images:
"All content uploaded to Twitpic is copyright the respective owners. The owners retain full rights to distribute their own work without prior consent from Twitpic. It is not acceptable to copy or save another user's content from Twitpic and upload to other sites for redistribution and dissemination."
It's this fact that has allowed Twitpic to become one of the most popular Twitter-linked photo sharing sites around, with support for the site added to a host of Twitter applications to make life even easier.
A recent change to the company's terms and conditions has caused consternation among its users, however - and, it transpires, with good reason. Updated yesterday, the new wording adds a rather specific clause:
"You retain all ownership rights to Content uploaded to Twitpic. However, by submitting Content to Twitpic, you hereby grant Twitpic a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and Twitpic'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."
The sudden addition of a right to do what it wishes with uploaded images has caused users to call for a boycott of the service, but a follow-up announcement today has left them speechless.
Celeb-spotting outfit WENN, the World Entertainment News Network, has announced a partnership with Twitpic - giving it exclusive rights to sell images of celebrities posted to the service to third parties, with Twitpic receiving a cut of the proceeds.
The people who won't be receiving a cut of the proceeds are, of course, the owners of the images - whether they are individual users who happened to spot a celeb on a night out, or the celebrities themselves, many of whom use Twitpic to post images of themselves for personal or publicity purposes.
Twitpic has, so far, not responded to our request for comment, while WENN gave us a stock statement from chief executive Lloyd Beiny, who claimed to be "pleased" that his company has won the rights to take images from Twitpic. "There has been much unauthorised use of Twitpic images which we shall be addressing without delay," he explained.
"The belief by some that any photo posted on Twitter is available at no cost is completely wrong," he added - and while Beiny is happy for people to pay him for the images found on Twitpic, the fact that the owners of the images go uncredited and unrewarded appears to have gone unnoticed.
With WENN having signed a similar deal with Twitpic-alike Plixi earlier this year, it's becoming harder for users to safely share their photos on Twitter - and increasingly important to check the fine print of sites before uploading anything at all.