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Hudson Yards

Social Media Rights Grab at The Vessel Represents a New Low

The Vessel, a cocoon-shaped scaffolding of interlocking stairways in the Hudson Yards complex building complex in Manhattan, created controversy not only in its design, but also in its terms of use. As reported by The Gothamist shortly after The Vessel opened, the terms and conditions for the site (posted on Hudson Yards website) stated that Hudson Yards had the right to use and license any photographs, text, video, or sound recordings “depicting or related to” The Vessel. In addition, if you appeared in a photograph (or video or sound recording, etc.) taken at The Vessel, they retained the right to use your name, image, voice, etc. for any commercial purpose. The terms also forbade visitors from using their images for any commercial purpose without written permission from Hudson Yards. And, as with all egregious rights grabs, the terms granted these rights to Hudson Yards “in perpetuity.”

The Gothamist quoted Mickey Oesterriecher of NPPA as saying that these sorts of overreaching rights grabs are increasingly common. Since the terms and conditions aren’t posted at The Vessel site, photographers and other artists on site won’t know that they’ve licensed their work to Hudson Yards unless they’ve visited the Hudson Yards website and read the terms and conditions in advance.

The resulting outcry led Hudson Yards to revise their policy. The revised terms state outright that the creator retains ownership of the photographs, videos, etc. depicting or related to The Vessel, but that Hudson Yards had the right to “re-post, share, publish, promote and distribute the Vessel Media via such social media channels and via websites associated with the Vessel or Hudson Yards” in perpetuity. Visitors are also not permitted to commercially exploit or distribute their videos or photographs without permission, except as “expressly permitted.” (Note that the terms and conditions do not list illustration, paintings, or other non-photographic or -video works of visual art.)

In a follow-up article, the company representing The Vessel told The Gothamist that The Vessel’s terms and conditions are modeled after those used at similar locations. They cited five other destinations such as Six Flags and CN Tower as examples. The Gothamist reports that of the five cited locations, only one – Disney World – includes a social media rights grab similar to The Vessel’s.

Photograph © Epicgenius, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.