The photo editing app from Lensa AI has been shown to have provisions in its terms and conditions that let it freely use your submitted images. Users should take note of this.
Both professional photographers and casual posters of their own images should always be careful about where they submit their work, and under what conditions.
In the case of digital platforms and apps, this applies especially due to the often dense legalese of their terms and conditions, which few read.
One notable recent example is Lensa AI’s photo editing app, whose own legal use terms let it share and otherwise use submitted images at its discretion without compensation for the photographers and users who created them.
Lensa AI first became extremely popular after its artificial intelligence selfie-generating program, called “Magic Avatars” went viral. Downloads of the app in the U.S. and other regions absolutely soared in the last week on the Apple App Store according to charts.
However, as certain Twitter users and others noticed, the app’s terms and conditions give it license to use anyone’s submitted content based on its own whims.
🚨WE HAVE TO READ TERMS AND CONDITIONS! This is what Lensa can and will do with your photos and videos you’ve sent them. Y’all basically paid them to have the right to use your likeness for whatever they want because of vanity. Lensa won’t be the only Ai company that will do this pic.twitter.com/cmFqwETrcO
— ✨Repent.Sigh.Cry (@yaladyah) December 5, 2022
The relevant sections of the app specifically state, “Lensa may allow you to upload, edit, store and share content, including photos and videos,”
Then in a key section regarding the above problem, they elaborate:
“We do not claim ownership over your User Content. However, in order to provide you with the services (e.g., to make our services accessible to you), we seek a legal permission from you to use your User content.”
Lensa also adds, “You give us such a permission by means of a Company License.” For those of you who are curious about what such a company license means, this breaks it down nicely for multiple platforms.
Essentially, though you keep the final copyright to your content, you let Lensa use it non-exclusively, without payment to you and throughout the world for its own transferable purposes.
Pretty broad no? It’s also worth noting that this particular piece of legal permission in terms and conditions isn’t at all unique to Lensa.
In fact, most major social platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and others reserve the same or similar rights for your submissions.
Moving back to the specific case of the newly popular Lensa, users who tick off the agreement with its terms and conditions are granting the app a long-term license that lets the app’s owners use submitted content for their purposes.
This means that Lensa is free to reproduce, modify and distribute, or even to produce derivative works form submitted images.
Lensa justifies this by claiming it to be “for the purposes of operating or improving” its current or future products and services.
It also means that you’re letting the app use your photos or videos to feed its AI for training and creation purposes that move the Magic Avatars aspect forward.
So should you be wary? Well, yes you should, though perhaps not much warier than you should be when submitting your content to any of the other social sharing apps and platforms that are so popular worldwide.
More specifically, you might have problems if you’re worried about your content winding up where you didn’t want it to.
As cybersecurity expert Jake Moore recently explained to the Daily Mail, “Similar to apps in the past that have requested lots of permissions and access to function, people need to be very aware of what they are allowing these apps to do and even own,”
He also adds that “By using Lensa you will be granting permission to own the generated photo which will be placed in a database along with potentially other identifiable information,” Lensa can also share these images with third parties that you don’t know about or agree with.
This last condition could of course mean privacy problems for you and your work.
On the other hand, if you’re submitting photos of your face or other personal details to a massively popular digital sharing platform, you should have long since been aware of this potential hazard.
Despite what Moore says, Lensa doesn’t claim ownership of your submitted visuals, but it can use them in other contexts freely.
What’s more, if it modifies aspects of your photos, it could hypothetically claim control of those, even if they’re based on something that you submitted.
Most of all, Lensa’s derivative use of user-submitted content is aimed at feeding its AI with fresh material for training purposes.
The company’s own ToS also claims that user submissions are converted to face data and later destroyed instead of retained. Whether you believe this or not, Lensa does actually offer a remedy that they claim to take seriously:
You as a user can email firstname.lastname@example.org and firmly request that Prisma Labs, which owns Lensa, deletes all your personal data.
It’s also worth noting that if you have uploaded images to Lensa, you’re also tacitly letting them use those visuals for advertising and third-party sharing. You can request that this particular permission be removed by sending another, different email to email@example.com.
Keep in mind that by default, prevention and requesting an erasure of your data also likely means no longer submitting any more personal content to Lensa, ie: essnetially deactivating your use of the app.
Prisma Lab’s cofounder and CEO Andrey Usoltsev has also affirmed to Wired, “The user’s photos are deleted from our servers as soon as the avatars are generated,” He also added that these servers are based in the U.S.
As a general rule, most apps are very cagey about removing their extensive rights to free use of user-generated content, largely because this very content is so integral to both their capacity to earn money and for creating their future “services”.