Who owns my photos if I upload to Street View? Google?

I had a question from a client today about who can use photos uploaded to Street View.

He was specifically worried about them being used by a competitor. The example he gave was them pointing out areas of his farm that could do with some improvements.

I believe this worry is misplaced, and he understood (“why publish photos in the first place if you’re concerned about this?”). But it got me thinking about how this content could be used by Google.

After I upload a 360 photo, can Google license it to others to use?

In this case I’m not sure the photos of the farm would have any value, but 360s of some places definitely could, for example, high quality images inside a national park. In these cases my client might want to sell the photos and would not want to have to compete with Google.

@aklantak you always own the photo (unless you sell it or assign these rights to someone else).

Without your permission they can’t be use.

However, when you upload to Street View you are granting Google some permissions to use your photos. These permissions are defined inside the license you grant to Google (read the Terms!) on upload: https://policies.google.com/terms?hl=en-US#toc-permission

Here is the most relevant part in answer to your question:

This license allows Google to:

  • host, reproduce, distribute, communicate, and use your content — for example, to save your content on our systems and make it accessible from anywhere you go
  • publish, publicly perform, or publicly display your content, if you’ve made it visible to others
  • modify your content, such as reformatting or translating it
  • sublicense these rights to:
    • other users to allow the services to work as designed, such as enabling you to share photos with people you choose
    • our contractors who’ve signed agreements with us that are consistent with these terms, only for the limited purposes described in the Purpose section below

Google do redistribute images both via SV web and mobile apps, but they also sell them to developers (using the Street View API) who can then use in their own apps.

In each case you need attribution, but it does mean they can use them anywhere.

I don’t know enough about the stock photo market for 360’s and how buyers use them, but I do see some conflict in uploading them to GSV and trying to sell them outside of Google for the reason you mention (“would not want to have to compete with Google.”).

This question inspired a post on the Trek View blog. Hopefully it adds some more colour to the answer @aklantak

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