If You Ask A Stranger To Take Your Photo, You May Have Violated Your Digital Camera Contract

from the lovely dept

The Against Monopoly blog is discussing the creeping of end user license agreements (EULAs) out of the digital world into the physical world — often through embedded software. In this case, they note that when you buy a digital camera, you may own the hardware, but the EULA on the embedded software has massive restrictions on how you can use the camera, even suggesting that: “If you let anyone outside your immediate family use the camera–if you lend it to a friend for the weekend or even ask a stranger to take a picture of you and your wife–Canon could technically sue you for breach of contract.” We’re reaching an age where you will actually own less and less of what you buy, and instead will be held to various license agreements and terms of service even after the purchase.

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Comments on “If You Ask A Stranger To Take Your Photo, You May Have Violated Your Digital Camera Contract”

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Robert says:


Well when the first European Americans came to fight for America because they could be free of the European restrictions opposed on them, at least they had room to fight a war for their rights. Now there’s no room to make the same kind of move.

Somehow I find it interesting that such unnecessary restrictions aren’t being blamed for all the murder-suicides, yet games are. From a personal perspective I have fun playing games, no matter how realistic they are, and the frustration from the worst of those games is nothing compared to the rage that boils when someone tells me what I can’t do with my own things. Not to the point of murder-suicide, but I definitely want to hit someone every time I hear about something like this.

Flamsmark (user link) says:

Re: Re: sue me

I expect that the judge would laugh them out of court.

In the UK, an EULA would be considered an ‘Onerous Covenant’. That is to say: when you buy the camera, you enter into a contract of sale, wherein you exchange money, goods, or what have you, for the product. Once you have finished that contract, and you have taken possession of the camera, and the seller has got your money, the contract is completed. You have some rights about the device performing as described, but that’s not important here. Here’s the clincher: the party who has sold you the camera cannot impose any further contracts on you for the use of the camera. The EULA in this case is *exactly* equivolent to them selling you the camera then saying ‘aah, but you’re not allowed to use the installed lens as advertised until you give us more money.’ The EULA ‘contract’ is unenforcable on these grounds.

*Furthermore* a contract can only occur when two parties each give something to the other. When both parties have acted under the contract, ‘consideration has passed’, and, until consideration has passed, the contract is not yet valid. Since the EULA ‘contract’ requires things of you without giving anything back in return, consideration can *never* pass, the contract cannot become valid, and the terms remain forever unenforcable.

These are among the many reasons why – in the UK at least – you don’t need to read EULAs: they aren’t worth the paper they’re written on… well, you know what I mean.

Mike says:

Re: sue me

Yeah, i’ll line up for that. WTF are they going to sue me for? What, precisely, is the law they say I am breaking? What about all the times I have already had some random person passing by take a pic of me?? F**k them if they think anyone is going to abide by this commie BS. Tell me I can’t have someone take my picture, f**king ludicrous.

Andrew Pollack (profile) says:

In context where it could mean something....

Imagine if say, the Zapruder film (movie taken during the Kennedy assassination) had been taken on a video camera with an EULA like this, by someone other than the owner of the camera — maybe a neighbor had borrowed it.

Could you see the manufacturer of the camera, or maybe the software owner who licenses the byte code to the camera manufacturer claiming ownership of the video as a result of this kind of violation?

Could we see a case in the near future where some highly valuable photo taken at the spur of the moment actually turns out to be not owned by the person who took it?

agent888 says:

marketing potential killed

I remember reading about a camera phone that the company marketed by sending fake couples to tourist destinations and had them ask people to take their pictures.

Doing this sort of thing with the EULA would kill word of mouth advertising. Not that anyone really thinks about the EULA when they want their picture taken.

I sat in with a band last friday night. I handed my camera to someone, and it passed through many different hands in the bar, with many interesting pictures taken. It was a cheap-o digital camera, but that sorta thing is cool….i got it back. Guess i violated the EULA tho~

TickedOffConsumer says:

Hmm – I bought mine used and didn’t include a EULA.
So do I sue cannon for allowing this to happen… Whos with me for a class action suite???

the specific law broken?? wouldnt it be copyright infringement (now a criminal offense, what used to be a civil offense before big business changed that law) – as the ELUA is the agreement for use of their IP.

Bob says:

No one reads them

Because no one reads the EULA’s that is why the companies are getting away with this. If there was a big warning label on the box that said “Sharing of camera will result in lawsuit” I’m sure everyone would not buy that camera, but since it is hidden away in tiny lettered EULA double speak the camera (or insert your favorite hated company here) company has that right, if they ever choose to exercise it, to use it against you. I think jerky EULA restrictions should be bold faced / large font / in red on a box so that consumers know how much they are being taken. That way consumers could choose the right company to buy from, thus eliminating these frivolous and silly EULA’s. No doubt, a EULA to protect the copying of software and reselling it or any other FAIR agreement makes sense, someone spent a lot of time creating the software and should be rewarded for his/her efforts, but if I buy something it should be totally owned by me, in essance my personal property, so that I may use it as I will.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’d like to see Cannon, Fuji or any of the other camera companies actually fallow through with this. It’s bullshit and I’d like to see them prove that I violated anything if it is there. They do any searching for this proof they are violating my privacy and in turn can be sued. I’d like to see stories that make sense get on techdirt. This one is just plain stupid. Are stories getting that far n few between that this crap has to be posted?! Christ my 6 year old can come up with something better then this garbage

Steve says:

To Mike: The law you'd be breaking...

The law you’d be breaking is “Breach of contract”. Although I agree it’s questionable in the case of the cameras, since I’ve never seen a “By opening this box” type EULA, in the case of most EULAs, it’s not that doing something by itself is criminal, but by agreeing to a EULA, you’re engaging in a contract that can lead to a civil suit…

In the small scale, it probably “doesn’t matter” to any of us individually at home, because there’s not much to gain by suing one home body, but as these Eulas get more and more out of control, COMPANIES have to protect themselves, which takes lawyers and time, and increases consumer costs, inhibits innovation, etc.. It most definitely IS a problem.

Neal says:

As tony says

Every day, week, month and year that passes these greedy corporations draft more rediculous terms into these “contracts” and EULAs. They haven’t faced any significant legal challenge and personally I agree with Tony the Tiger (TM)… They’re Grrreat! If these agreements are challenged when they are marginally restrictive then there’s a good chance some moronic court will rule they’re valid and enforcable. The more rediculous they get the better, because when some corporation finally tries to enforce one and takes it to court they’re much more likely to be laughed at by the judge and such “contracts” ruled unenforcable across the board.

Jack says:

Where's the EULA

Before we panic, it’s worth noting that possibly no one, including the esteemed editors at TechDirt, has read the original article, because it’s only available online by subscription. We are also lacking a link to the text of the offending EULA. (Is there even such a link in the original article?)

I think it would make for a far more enlightened discussion if we could all view the EULA.

wolff000 says:


It won’t and can’t hold up in court you bought the device you own it. I have signed contracts while on hiking and kayaking expeditions that say the company isn’t resposible if I hurt myself. That contract is null and void in court because you can’t sign your rights away including the right to sue. A friend of mine broke his arm on a similiar trip after signing the exact contract I had signed and he won the law suit. He only wanted medical bills paid and luckily he got it. These stupid contracts mean nothing especially if you buy your gear second hand. I hardly buy anything new I’m to cheap. The stuff hardly comes with manuals much less EULA paperwork.

acousticiris says:

What if you don't use the software?

I’ve had three different Canon cameras over the years and I have *never* installed the software that came with them. I know there are some nice features, like being able to trigger a camera shot directly from the software interface, but I have had no use for them.

In Windows and every Linux distribution I run, the camera “just works” when plugged in. And I’ll take the “just works” over the garbage they include as a “bonus” on the CD. Admittedly, I rarely read the EULA unless I’m evaluating an application for my company. I had no idea about the restrictions on Canon’s bundled stuff…not because I blindly clicked-thru, but because I never opened the CD sleeve (or the manual for that matter!).

Geren (user link) says:

The EULA is not for the camera...

It’s for the imaging software packaged with the camera — not the “firmware” in the camera.


Any real camera company (Canon, Nikon, etc.,) wouldn’t be that stupid. They’d be killing their own pro business — magazines and newspapers could no longer buy gear for use by their employee pools, if this were truly the case.

Let’s think a little bit before we start spreading around garbage like this.

mary hill (user link) says:

can't see it holding up in court

I have the EOS digital Rebel XT. I love it
but this GREATLY upsets me ..
which also makes me wonder .. what about the colleges that have 10 or 20 of these cameras for there students?

I don’t think it would ever hold up by any judge just like the RIAA rulings in england and austrailia are being called bogus by those respective countries.

hopefully more people will wake uop and blow a wistle when they see really bad ideas in bisness.

It’s lawyers like that that give the legal dept and in the long run ther companies a bad name.

Anonymous Coward says:


EULA is only valid in court if it is determined to be reasonable.. I don’t know the legal phrase..but these EULAs that take affect as soon as you open the package have to past a test in court. — They can’t make crazy statements like “we own your kidneys” — it has to be ‘reasonable’

Violating the contract by having a stranger snap a pic would not be found ‘reasonable’ by a judge or jury.

I agree, these EULAs need to be stopped. You buy it..you own it, period..

Putting limits would likely just give the EULAs MORE strength because they would define/know what is binding and what is not.

At least the way it is now.. with so much confusion about what’s in the EULAs — consumers probably have more strength then they know.

derek gardiner says:

liscense agreement

Well, I must say I used to respect Cannon but they themselves have forever lost a potential customer. And currently I am in the market for a new digital camera. can someone recomend a camera that won’t ask me to agree to their terms, cause it’s my pics my way and Cannon better hit the highway cause if I did own one of their cameras I would be smashing it tonight but thankfully I never wasted my money on such an un-american company company I do belive in freedom of speach and folks if we allow this, there will be more company’s that will think “what a great idea this is we can violate our customers god given rights not to mention the constitution”. Don’t forget germany 1941 Hitler got his nation to turn in their weapons willingly, would they have if they knew what was in store for them? c’mon people wake up

Scarper says:

RTFA! It's **not** payware.

It is amazing what people take for granted. For instance, the article quoted by TechDirt says the article requires a subscription. Wrong! It just requires free registration or a visit to bugmenot.com.

The article never quotes the text that supposedly says you can’t loan your camera out–but it is probably a clause that says that only you may use the “software”. Generally a good article.


Shadowman says:

hack your camera?

Suppose you find a way to install another OS (or firmware) onto the camera? This is done with many other consumer electronics (mp3 players, wireless networking equipment, portable gaming devices). I suppose in this case, I’d be able to do whatever I wanted with it, without violating any EULA from the camera manufacturer.

Unfortunately, this would probably void a warranty instead.

OrthoPod says:

You can be sued for being a nice guy!

I went to the site of the tool company discussed in the article to see what was so special about their tools that they are afraid of “tool piracy”. The tools come with a license that is there to ” verifying your honesty that only you will use the tool and you will not be passing it around to others to use for free. It is exactly the same as the “shrink wrap” agreement that comes with almost all computer software.”

Of course the analogy is completely incorrect, as the software restraints on copying are to prevent concurrent multiple uses – something that would be pretty hard to do with a tool.

So if I loan my tools to a neighbor, I guess I am a criminal to these guys….

misanthropic humanist says:

EULAS carry no legal meaning

Remember, no EULA has ever been tested in court. Neither has the GPL come to think of it, but that’s another story.

The reason no EULA has ever been tested is that no company wants that happen, they usually settle before it goes that far.

The entire rationale for an “End user licencing agreement” is that you are deemed to have agreed to it by incidental action before you have the opportunity to read it or examine the product. This has no legal basis in any European country. As such it is not a contract, and any court in the world would probably arrive at that same reasonable conclusion.

You can safely ignore anything written in a EULA

gary says:

No contract should be implied just by use

I think it’s getting to a point where these kind of laws should be rewritten to only legally allowed personally negotiated or signed contracts to exist, not this contractual “take it or leave it” monopoly of technology.

What happens when everyone starts contracting their life by implied interactions with society?

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