That picture you took at The Vessel? Related owns it.

After public backlash, developer says it is "refining" the privacy policy language

Related Companies says it can use images taken of the Vessel however it wants. (Credit: Getty Images and Pixabay)
Related Companies says it can use images taken of the Vessel however it wants. (Credit: Getty Images and Pixabay)

UPDATED, March 19, 4:32 p.m.: As Hudson Yards officially opened Friday, thousands of New Yorkers streamed to the site to view and photograph the centerpiece item: The Vessel, a 150-foot tall honeycomb shaped series of staircases.

But over the weekend, people expressed outrage after learning that any photo or video featuring the The Vessel — which has also been dubbed “The Shawarma” — becomes the property of site developer Related Companies, which says it can use the images however it wants.

Related’s privacy policy stated that anyone who creates, uploads or sends any videos or photos “depicting or relating to the Vessel” will grant Related sole ownership of the content, including if a person is inadvertently captured in a photo or video.

After people took to Twitter to voice concern for the privacy policy, Related said it is now refining the language “to be more clear.”

“The intent of the policy is to allow Hudson Yards to amplify and re-share photos already shared on individual social channels through our website and social channels,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “This is a practice utilized at nearly all major attractions and we wanted to over communicate, be transparent and disclose to all users. We are refining the language to be more clear.”

The spokesperson did not provide updated details on the updated language.

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In response to the backlash, New York City council member Ben Kallos said Tuesday he planned to introduce legislation that would prevent Related and other companies in the city from issuing contracts that gives them wholesale ownership of content posted at tourist attractions.

But Related appears to be supported by federal copyright laws, and Kallos said he had not yet researched what New York City laws could support his proposed bill. He cited the speed of the “media cycle” as a reason why he had announced his planned legislation.

“Do I think this would hold up in court, I don’t know,” Kallos said in an interview. “We don’t know until this goes to court.”

Jeremy Sheff, the director of the Intellectual Property Law Center at St. John’s University, told Bloomberg that the privacy policy language is common, “but there are questions about which circumstances in which it’s enforceable.”

The outcry follows a report by The Real Deal that outlined Related’s data collection practices employed by technologies throughout the site. One feature is a number of kiosks spread throughout the site that are used for making restaurant bookings and getting directions, but also contain cameras and speakers.

The kiosks, which were co-developed by Google-linked firm Intersection, collect the data indefinitely, and could be used for a future, yet unknown cause — sounding an alarm for data privacy and surveillance watchdogs.