Terms of Associated Press' Requests for Free Photos Criticized as 'Abusive Across the Board'

Terms of Associated Press' Requests for Free Photos Criticized as 'Abusive Across the Board'

It is unfortunately common practice nowadays for news organizations to source free content from photos and video posted on social media, but the AP's approach is coming under particular criticism for terms that have been deemed "abusive across the board."

Lawyer Mike Dunford recently shared a copy of the AP's social media release form and discussed its terms. The form has the same intentions as those of other news organizations, namely to use a social media user's content without compensation. It begins with the typical language granting AP rights to use the media across platforms in perpetuity, which itself is already problematic, as it allows the AP to use the image or video however it wants forever. However, it takes a darker turn, as the AP gets to use the content, but the user takes on legal responsibility for its usage:

...you are the copyright owner or the copyright owner's authorized agent and that you are fully entitled to grant these rights in favor of AP and that there is no agreement or other restriction preventing this grant of rights. You agree to indemnify and hold harmless the AP and its licensees from and against any claims, losses, liabilities, damages, costs and expenses arising from any breach or alleged breach of these representations and warranties.

While this may seem like a reasonable thing — basically asking users to not lie about their ownership of the content — what multiple lawyers have noted is that a copyright owner can still be sued over their content for many reasons, such as erroneous automated takedowns leading to legal action that require the rights owner to prove their ownership, often at significant legal cost. 

While it is already frustrating enough that news organization source photos and videos without compensation, laying the legal burden on the individuals whose content they take is entirely unacceptable.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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1 Comment

They are not alone in this game.

Check what Time out wants you to agree on if you allow them to reshare your photo on Instagram:


Basically you give them all the rights to do whatever they want with your image.