How many user agreements have you clicked through in your life without reading them? We're going to guess it's one for every single piece of software you've ever used, and every gadget, and Lord knows what else. You've probably signed off on thousands of pages of dense, unread legal jargon in your life. Well, guess what, you've all but signed away your soul.
We're not saying that the below companies intend to screw you over. All we're saying is that their legal teams have gone to great lengths to reserve the right to ... and to make sure you can't do a damned thing about it.
For example ...
If They Host Your Photo, They Also Own It
So you just had a great weekend with your friends, and you decide to upload the pictures to your Flickr, Twitpic, Instagram and other sites that allow instantaneous uploading and incessant Internet exhibitionism. Who wouldn't? That's what's so great about social networking. It's the perfect way to share your precious memories with only those friends and family members you deem close enou- holy shit, how did your face end up in a penis enlargement ad?
"I don't remember having tits, but thanks to Xanax that means next to nothing."
Because you didn't read the terms of service you agreed to when you joined those sites, that's how.
What You Agreed To:
At some point (most likely the second the idea of social networking popped into someone's head), it was noted that people's personal photos amounted to a virtually unlimited supply of content that could be exploited by advertisers. As a result, pretty much every social network has a clause written into their user agreements that allows them to use your pictures for commercial purposes.
"We know this is shocking, ma'am, but you did click 'Agree'."
Specifically, the stipulations you agreed to state that you're granting these companies "worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce or distribute" your private photos. But they do make it a point to clarify that you still own anything you upload. Of course, that doesn't mean you're going to see a dime when they use that picture of you on the beach last summer in one of those "Obey this one rule for a flat stomach!" ads (and not in the good way, Flabby). But still, you totally own that picture. Meaning they won't sue you if you use it elsewhere. See? What are you worried about?
"We'll even let you have a half share in the mineral rights to your bones."