Hipstamatic: Deleting Your Photos from Family Albums?

...and what the Creative Commons license you are forced to select actually means.

by Harry on July 21, 2011

I have already said something about the way the developers of Hipstamatic handled their new Terms Of Services — and in the end their users — in a previous post, “Hipstamatic: Why Companies Can’t Be Your Friend”. For those that do not have time to read, the answer to the question is that these people are there just for the money. There is nothing wrong with it, but their promise of being your friends (almost hippie friends, judging from their Facebook posts) is contradicted by the way they write their Terms of Service. In brief, those using Hipstamatic public services accept to give away ownership of their photos to Hipstamatic, which can also resell them to third parties if they want to. And no, this is not a necessity: Flickr and Google+ both have licenses that do not allow them to resell your stuff to others. The reason why a lot of young companies opt for Terms of Service that are so empowering for them is that they give them less reason to fear legal issues with their user base, and they give them property over enormous amounts of assets: owning millions of photos can boost the value of your company enormously, especially if image search engines will get smarter as many expect over the next years.

The way the new “Family” Album feature in Hipstamatic was released, in my eyes, just confirms Hipstamatic’s way of doing business. Since the release of the feature, a lot of users have asked us how to delete photos in public albums. These users even tried asking Hipstamatic’s customer service, and the poor guy answering them said he can just collect the feedback and give no answers for the time being. Currently, there is no delete feature in Hipstamatic to allow deletion of photos in public albums (edit: the option was finally added, but the rest of this article still applies 100%). You can delete a photo locally, but you cannot remove it from the album “on the air”. And even if Hipstamatic decided to give you this feature, remember that your photos will forever remain in the public domain. So, if somebody downloaded a copy of it, or grabbed a screenshot of it, they are free to use it however they want.

When you share a photo using Hipstmatic’s Family Albums, you have a choice between two different Creative Commons licenses for your photo. Well, a few points must be made clear for you:

  1. Once you have released something with a Creative Commons license, the license cannot be revoked, ever. Flickr allows you to change the license on your photos after you have released them as Creative Commons (but Flickr offers you also licenses where you always remain the only owner of your photos), but theoretically that is not legally acceptable. From the official website of the Creative Commons organization (you can find the FAQ here):

    What if I change my mind?

    Creative Commons licenses are non-revocable. This means that you cannot stop someone, who has obtained your work under a Creative Commons license, from using the work according to that license. You can stop distributing your work under a Creative Commons license at any time you wish; but this will not withdraw any copies of your work that already exist under a Creative Commons license from circulation, be they verbatim copies, copies included in collective works and/or adaptations of your work. So you need to think carefully when choosing a Creative Commons license to make sure that you are happy for people to be using your work consistent with the terms of the license, even if you later stop distributing your work.

  2. CC licenses come in different flavors. Hipstamatic, being your best hipster buddies, also select by default for you the most permissive Creative Commons license of the two they make available, the Standard License. This allows anybody to use your photos for whatever they want, including derivative works and commercial use as long as they give credits to the original author. According to the Creative Commons website, “This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.”. The other license in Hipstamatic, the one NOT selected by default, is Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, the most restrictive CC license, only “allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially”. So, if you want to make sure people do not make money off your photos or use them for their beautiful derivative works, you must manually select this second option in Hipstamatic when uploading your photo. But remember: in both cases the license cannot be legally revoked, ever.
  3. Regardless of the CC license you select, the company behind Hipstamatic always keeps the rights on your photos, as outlined in their Terms of Service. Which basically gives Hipstamatic the permission to exploit your photos in any way or format, forever, and resell them to third parties.

In the end, remember that even if Hipstamatic implements the delete functionality for their “Family” Albums (kinda misleading name, as one of our readers pointed out) your photos will still keep the Creative Commons license you have selected.


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