Houzz…To Upload or Not to Upload?

Likemany professionals in the design and interiors industry, I’ve been watching Houzz for a while.  I recently decided to post some of my images and get involved in the “community”.  I rarely “click through” or gloss over the terms and conditions section of any arrangement, but in this case I did, and inadvertently agreed to their “contract.”

Fortunately, I was tipped off to go back and re-read them (when the site editorial called me to use the images) and I was shocked by the rights one (myself!) gives away when they upload images to this website. 

While it’s not unusual (although certainly distressing to those in the industry) for social media sites to have a grim term or two in their Terms of Use in regards to posting images on their websites, Houzz has taken it a giant leap further and has implemented some seriously egregious terms and conditions.  If you have a profile with them, you've already agreed to these terms:  they can use images from your profile in any way they see fit, even selling them to 3rd parties, without your consent, or without remuneration back to you—the designer, photographer, architect or agency that commissioned the images/work.  (Not to mention, if you’re an interior designer, it likely compromises the licensing arrangement you've made with any photographers you've hired to shoot your projects.)

In fact, Houzz can grant rights to publish your projects anywhere and everywhere, without your permission.  Houzz Terms of Use:

“As part of your use of the Website, you may participate in certain ideabooks, message boards, member communications and/or other public forums. Your participation is voluntary; however, by choosing to create ideabooks, post photos or comments, send any messages, submit any ideas or feedback, or otherwise participate in any Houzz forum, you acknowledge and agree that any postings, messages, text, photos, audio/visual works, information, suggestions, feedback, reviews or content provided by you (collectively, “Content”) may be viewed by the general public and will not be treated as private, proprietary or confidential, and you authorize us and our affiliates, licensees and sublicensees, without compensation to you or others, to copy, adapt, create derivative works of, reproduce, incorporate, distribute, publicly display or otherwise use or exploit such Content throughout the world in any format or media (whether now known or hereafter created) for the duration of any copyright or other rights in such Content, and such permission shall be perpetual and may not be revoked for any reason. Further, to the extent permitted under applicable law, you waive and release and covenant not to assert any moral rights that you may have in any Content posted or provided by you.”

Additionally, Houzz has written into their Terms of Use:

“We reserve the right, at any time, with or without cause to change the terms and conditions of this Agreement.”

These Terms of Use has left everyone in the industry at a loss, except for the kind folks at Houzz.  It's one thing to use images within an editorial capacity on their own site (with links back to your professional profile for some extra exposure/promotion); quite another to give/sell your images to a magazine, for example, doing a story on "fireplaces" without mention to you, your photographer or your vendors.

After learning of this revelation, I was in touch with some of my local colleagues (very prolific on the site with gorgeous interiors work) and they, too, accidentally agreed to these terms.  What’s worse, is when they alerted their clients (the actual designers themselves), not too many cared that the images (and their work samples) could be resold without their permission.

Why has the cost of doing business, and staying active in a select community. have to be at the expense of our own copyrighted material?

While Houzz may have done a great job at building community for people looking to improve their quality of life at home through design, they've alienated those very people who help make our dwellings a better place to live.  I would be delighted to still participate on the site, and be active in a central space to share ideas, and broaden my network, but I just can’t do it when it looks like this.  As a small business owner, I have the obligation to make sure my content is protected and secure.

To read more on this subject, visit: http://www.aphotoeditor.com/2013/10/02/houzz-has-your-image-rights-how-long-before-theyre-selling-them/