DISTURBING change to Terms of Service puts you & client to legal risk

Today I was presented with a new Terms of Service, which says that Webflow now has the right to use your client’s assets, trademarks, media files for Webflow’s marketing and advertisements, and it’s also transferrable and sub-licensable.

This is beyond disturbing.

DEVELOPERS: YOU & YOUR CLIENTS MIGHT HAVE LEGAL ISSUES
A client’s work might have geographical, time or other Intellectual Property restrictions.

Just a quick example:
Your client’s content might require you to follow certain restriction, display certain licensing info. Since Webflow will not follow these restrictions (since they are not even aware what these requirements are), this puts you and the client to legal risks. And you, the developer will be the one responsible.

Webflow team:

  • What does it mean that you can sublicense my assets for marketing purposes?
  • Would you touch let’s say Coca-Cola’s assets the same way?

DEVELOPERS MUST REPORT THIS TO CLIENTS:

Developers, you will have to ask your clients if they are OK if Webflow can use / sublicense their content for their own advertisements, without the client’s control.

DEVELOPERS: HELP TO MAKE SOME NOISE ABOUT THIS.
This is huge. You & your clients can get into legal disputes. We need to make some noise together and tell Webflow that this is not OK.

WEBFLOW TEAM: HOW TO DO THIS PROPERLY:

  1. Let’s say you want to use a project in your ads or social media. Just approach the individual project owner and ask permission.

  2. Or, if you want to do this globally, in a more automated manner, then add a “OPT IN-OUT” button under each project. I don’t even mind if it is set to opt-in by default, as long as I can switch it off.

LEGAL ADVICE
I will seek legal advice, as I feel you cannot just “steal” my assets for your commercials that I uploaded in the past. I did not agree to this.

Here is the text from the Terms of Service:

" In our discretion, Webflow may choose to feature your User Content and/or your name, trade names, trademarks, service marks, copyrights, slogans, content, media, logos, and any other identifying symbols and indicia included on your User Content (collectively, “Marks ”). You hereby grant us, a non-exclusive, royalty free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide right and license to use any version of your published User Content or your Marks for the limited purpose of Webflow marketing and promotional activities (e.g., we may feature your User Content on our Templates page, your Marks on our customer lists or social media accounts, etc.)."

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@Istvan - I had already passed the new TOS info to some clients and was instructed to move the sites off Webflow which I have done. I suppose that many Enterprise clients would freak if they were aware of the change. I have always had an issue with the way assets are manged since you have zero control over where they can be loaded (versus other CDN’s). As a photographer I would never load my work onto Webflow’s architecture and that was before this change. Now it’s never ever.

I am not a lawyer so I won’t offer an opinion on the legal aspects of this but I am free to determine whether I agree and use WF for particular projects. I offer dedicated hostiing services for clients so I have plenty of options. Sad truth is most people siimlpy don’t even bother reading terms and conditions documents. So you get what you “cough” agree too.

Thanks for sharing.

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Moving the site away from webflow is not even enough, they can still use the assets. As an extra step, you need to write to them and withdraw the license. At least that how I understood the text.

Insanse.

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Valid point. That is another issue I have with the “assets” on Webflow. You have no direct control over the serving of them.

This is huge…

Thank you @Istvan for sharing!
I’m afraid many clients will pull back from Webflow because they don’t want to risk legal issues.

Webflow, you have to fix this!

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Agreed this is not okay … is there a feedback or customer support we can make them aware they will lose clients?

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Am I missing something here? This seems to be common in most T&S for platforms where content is uploaded and only allows that content to be used for “the limited purpose of Webflow marketing and promotional activities”. (emphasis mine)

I’m not saying I necessarily agree with the update, but it’s not uncommon from what I’ve seen and if you choose to use a platform then they may want to use your content to feature said platform. Using the term “disturbing” seems to be hyperbolic for the majority of folks using the service.

Obviously I’m not a lawyer so it’s possible I’m misunderstanding the implication of the charge. I’d be great if @callmevlad (or someone else in the Webflow team like @matthewpmunger) could chime in on the subject.

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That’s why I stopped using WF. I moved to other code free apps, some of them have a one time fee, much cheaper than webflow.

More so, just export your code and don’t upload anything to WebFlow. What a scam.

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Imagine using a rights-managed copyrighted work that limits the use and scope of use. Photos for example. The photographer grants the site owner permission to use the work on their website to promote their brand on that site. But not other distribution channels. Webflow comes along and changes the terms to the site owner granting itself rights to display and use works it does not have after the fact. If someone else wants to profit from my works, I have the right to charge for their use and control my work distribution.

So if you produce works that are licensed to clients, you should be very concerned since this is not what you signed up for. If you licensed works, for use on a Webflow site, you should also be concerned. You should probably contact a Lawyer because the legal hammer could fall on you.

I find this policy change very self-serving on Webflow’s part. If Webflow wants to use something implicitly, they should request permission. What they did was not a request. I am now incurring an unexpected legal expense to review it for impact on my business and licensing deals.

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Mikeyevin:
“Am I missing something here?”

I think yes.

Of course, you do have to give permission to services like Webflow to display your assets, but this change is something else. They gave themselves a license to use our assets for THEIR commercial marketing purposes.

Let’s look at my own company’s example:
My company is working on a high end art project which includes dozens of assets that require us to follow certain licensing terms. For instance, we need to display the name of certain artists of certain assets, together with a link to the licensing terms and their portfolio. That’s the only way the work is legal. Otherwise they can sue us. To fulfil this requirement, we are building a dedicated credit page, and on every webpage we’ll display a link to this credit list.

What if Webflow uses our project?
So if Webflow will decide to use our project for their commercial activities, what’s the chance that they follow these licensing requirements? None, simply because they don’t know what they have to do.

Webflow has NO commercial license from artists, actors etc. we worked with
One thing is to use artworks that we built alone, without hiring people or without licensing third party assets. But it’s another thing to use our art that include e.g. actors, or the work of hired freelance artists or licensed assets. Those artists did NOT give Webflow a license for commercial activities. For this reason, the new licensing situation will jeopardise entire projects.

Solution
But there is a solution, read my original post.
Just make an OPT IN-OUT button for every project. Or, ask permission from the project owners by contacting them.

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Yep. I have one that is identical to what you describe and was planning to rebuild it, and it is already on Webflow. This issue and endless limitations force me to deploy this project to a new platform. Yesterday I pulled in the dynamic content and assets into a new off-WF build where I have much more control over everything. I have already begun the process of building all the pages. This situation is not the only reason but is a straw that broke the proverbial camel back with me.

Imagine if Adobe added terms like this to anything built with Creative Suite or Amazon with any assets hosted on AWS. The firestorm would be immense.

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Thanks @webdev & @Istvan for the follow-up here. Again, I’m not saying that I agree with the language on this, but more speaking to the fact that this isn’t abnormal for platforms where someone may upload content.

I took the following verbiage from Instagram’s ToS in which it repeats Webflow’s ToS language nearly verbatim (emphasis mine):

" We do not claim ownership of your content, but you grant us a license to use it.
Nothing is changing about your rights in your content. We do not claim ownership of your content that you post on or through the Service and you are free to share your content with anyone else, wherever you want. However, we need certain legal permissions from you (known as a “license”) to provide the Service. When you share, post, or upload content that is covered by intellectual property rights (like photos or videos) on or in connection with our Service, you hereby grant to us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings)."

Similarly, SmugMug (a popular photographer platform) has language allowing them to use content uploaded to the platform (emphasis mine):

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, by uploading and/or posting any User Content to the Site or otherwise by using the Services, you request, and grant SmugMug a perpetual, nonexclusive and royalty-free right to use the User Content (and the user name that is submitted in connection with such User Content) as is reasonably necessary in order to do the following: (1) provide the Services, including to display the User Content on the Services, to facilitate (at the Content Owner’s direction) the license of Photos, (2) comply with your instructions pursuant to SmugMug’s Data Protection Addendum; (3) process the sale of Products through the Services; (4) comply with legal requirements, including disclosing User Content in response to legal process from governmental authorities; (5) disclose User Content without any compulsory legal process when SmugMug believes there is a threat to life or limb.”

That said, I think Istvan’s suggestion is great and I absolutely believe that clients should be able to opt-out of this. I can definitely see that certain types of clients would have issues with this so it’s to let them know about the change if they fall into the category.

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Hey everyone, I’m also not a lawyer. :wave:

Thanks for raising your concerns about the recent change to the terms of service. Our team has been reading the comments here and will be responding in the coming weeks with clarifications from the legal team regarding the changes and points brought up in this topic.

We appreciate your patience for now.

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That would be good. Those terms as they stand mean I would have to refuse a lot of projects. Most of the type of work I do really. Currently winning a pitch for a symphony orchestra including a sound and track element built on WF. I think they’d refuse me on this basis.

Agreed. I’m also an artist who licenses my work through a major image library. I’m in the process of building a new portfolio site for myself on Webflow, but this gives me major pause! These terms would put me in violation of my contract with my long-time image library! Not to mention I also find it abhorrent that my web host could decide to use my copyrighted work for their marketing! :scream:

I also know that the organizations I work with would be aghast to find their materials being used for their web host’s marketing purposes. That’s a conversation I’d never want to have with a client!

I used to love Webflow, but increasingly I feel like I’m investing a lot of money and time in a platform that is making me feel ever more and more uneasy for the future of my life as a maker of websites. It is a very bad feeling.

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I am a photographer and have been building my webflow site for about two years. While I am aware that using “free” services like Instagram can require some sort of sacrifice, the changes to the ToS of Webflow really bother me.

For me as an artist, this is a big no-go. I shouldn’t have to give such a licence to my hosting provider at all. After all, I pay for the hosting of my content. Granting additional commercial rights for free use of my work seems disrespectful to me, to say the least.

While I would probably be okay with the use of some of my work in a very specific (and agreed!) way, there could also be legal issues, as mentioned by others. For example, I’ve made special arrangements with sculptors to use photos of their work, or even had to acquire licenses myself that I couldn’t simply sublicense to Webflow or beyond - even if I wanted to.

Why is that? It would be nice if you could elaborate on that.

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Hi @webdev !

Is there any chance you could share some more info regarding this off-WF builds ? The way webflow is evolving is disturbing for OG users like us that have been there for years already… Why should Webflow be able to use assets (for free!) from their client’s website when we actually do already pay them (!) a monthly / yearly fee to have the privilege to use their services ? Sad, unless I am missing something.

@ChrisT - Because an asset that you load to the CDN you have no control over where it is displayed, when, or for how long. Nore do you have any insights on usage. The Webflow CDN is a black hole. Whereas if I use most common CDN’s I can define the referrer, control permissions, and can determine the lifespan of the asset, plus get analytics. Simple.

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Hi @anthonysalamin - answered with a DM.

Two other researchers and I have spent nearly 8 years on a project for a website that will be launched soon. We do not plan to make a profit from the site as we wanted to provide the information free of charge to hobbyists and collectors of antique radios.

I chose Webflow as the tool of choice since I have been out of the web development business for over 12 years. We have sources that have given us permission to use documents and photos with the understanding that we would give attribution credits on the site.

If they then find that these assets are not following our agreement, we would in all likelihood lose the use of those resources.

Please - Webflow - don’t make me waste all of the time and effort I have spent learning this tool by forcing me to start all over again with a different method!