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Twitter Explains Photo Ownership: “you own your tweets and photos will be part of your tweets.”

In the wake of Twitter’s announcement that they are building their own photo sharing service, questions about who will actually own the photos uploaded to Twitter.com (via photobucket) started flying. And the short answer? You will own them, just like you own everything you tweet out onto Twitter.

A lot of the concern over photo ownership was sparked, no doubt, by the recent debate over ownership at Twitpic, currently the most popular Twitter photo sharing service. Twitpic apparently had some pretty confusing language in its Terms of Service outlining who owned the content uploaded to their site, so they attempted to clarify by saying the the users owned the content. However, they snuck in a clause that stipulated that Twitpic itself had the right to do whatever they wanted with the photos, including selling them, even though the uploader owned the copyright.

Users cried out against this deceit, wondering what copyright even meant in Twitpic terms if they retained the licence to sell and distribute user-generated content they way they saw fit. Some influential Twitter users even started a boycott.

Apparently, Twitter has learned from Twitpic’s mistake.

Sean Garrett (@sg), part of the Twitter communications team, has been busy tweeting answers to dozens of Twitter users who questioned the copyright ownership of Twitter’s own upcoming photo sharing service. And he’s been very clear: users will own their own photos.

Specifically, Garrett tweeted that “you own your tweets and photos will be part of your tweets,” to a user concerned about ownership. And when that user followed up by musing that that statement isn’t necessarily true because Photobucket’s ToS retains the right to publish user-generated photos in whatever way they see fit, Garrett again clarified, “I work for Twitter and am telling you how we will apply rights for photos (that happen to be hosted by Photobucket).”

He also tweeted several dozen times the following statement to concerned Twitter users: “What’s yours is yours – you own your content on Twitter. Your photos will be part of that content.”

So there you have it. Pretty clear language from a Twitter employee that users will retain ownership of their own photos uploaded via the official Twitter photo sharing service. We’ll have to sit tight and wait until this service is released in order to get at its ToS, but based on Twitter’s insistence yesterday, it’s likely that you’ll completely own the rights to anything you upload.

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