The Guardian have launched a new ‘user content’ site in collaboration with EE called “Guardian Witness”, they are now urging users to post their content to the site at https://witness.guardian.co.uk. The site itself is nice and slick, as you’d expect if EE’s tech team has been involved.
But something else seemed strange to me: throughout the launch article they keep saying that you ‘still own the copyright’ of any content you post. I have read The Guardian’s Ts & Cs before, and that didn’t seem quite right to me, so I did a little more digging.
Here are some notes, plus the key ‘Instagramesque’ part of their terms & conditions:
“You still own the copyright”
As part of the terms and conditions for using the site, they say this:
“You or the owner of the content still own the copyright in the content sent to us”
They’ve also put together a fairly friendly set of frequently asked questions which explain: “You (or whoever created the content) own the copyright to the content which means that you control what others can do with it.”
In their article promoting the site, they also point out in the comments that “the copyright is, and remains with, the creator of content added to GuardianWitness…” and later on in the comments they again say “The creator of the submission always holds the copyright.”
But what do the Terms & Conditions actually say?
Reading the above quotes, you may expect that it means that you, when submitting content, still control exactly who has the ‘right to copy’ any content you post there. What they don’t say in the launch article itself is that, in one of the clauses in the terms and conditions, there is this 50 word snippet:
Going back again through a few of the key points there:
- Unconditional – there are zero conditions on how they can use your content.
- Irrevocable – once you’ve posted content, you cannot ever stop them from using it.
- Royalty-Free – they won’t pay you anything.
- Fully transferable – they can in turn pass the right to use your content on to whoever they choose.
- Perpetual – the right lasts forever.
- Worldwide – there are no geographical restrictions.
- Any format and on any platform – your content can be used for anything. They also “reserve the right to cut, crop, edit” your content elsewhere in the terms.
In other words, they may be promoting this by saying you still ‘own’ the copyright, and the FAQs may say they will endeavour to assist in various areas, but according to the terms & conditions The Guardian can do anything they like with your content once you have uploaded it.
They could sell your content, use it alongside ads (in fact the Guardian Witness site is in collaboration with an advertiser, so the content is by default being used as part of a third-party marketing campaign), they could allow anyone they choose to use your photos, videos, text, or any other ‘content’ you submit in any way they choose, and even if it is used commercially they never have to pay you.
How does this compare to Instagram?
This may all sound a vaguely similar to one of the complaints around the big Instagram Ts & Cs issue that blew up late last year. Oddly, one of the differences seems to be that The Guardian’s terms are slightly heavier than Instagram’s.
Here’s what The Guardian said about the Instagram issue in one of several articles about it:
“Instagram photos could be used in advertising, without reference to the owner, with all the payments going to Instagram. There is no opt-out from that use except to stop using the service and to delete your photos.”
The situation here is roughly similar, except that in The Guardian’s case you cannot opt out at all (even if you stop using the service). From the moment you post any content to Guardian Witness, you have granted them an “irrevocable, perpetual worldwide license”.
Keep that in mind when you read this advice, written by the excellent Jo Farmer in another Guardian article about user generated content following the Instagram fallout:
You can read the full terms here: https://witness.guardian.co.uk/terms.
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