Photobucket's ToS change puts a $400 wall around its garden

Online image hosting service Photobucket has been a favorite of Amazon, eBay and Etsy sellers (among others) for hosting pictures of their wares on display. Now, websites all over the internet are filled with placeholder images advertising an upgrade to Photobucket's Plus 500 plan ever since the company made an abrupt change in its terms of use. Some of the Photobucket's users are now accusing the company of blackmailing them for their own content.

For years, Photobucket allowed users of its free accounts to embed images in third-party websites. The free service level included 2 GB of image storage, and $100 per year bought a user 102 GB of space. The company announced in a June 26 blog post that it would be doing some changes, but the announcement didn't highlight the details present in the service's new Terms of Service page, namely this paragraph:

The free account does not allow any image linking or 3rd party image hosting. If a free account Member exceeds their Content Limit, their account will be immediately suspended and they will need to become a “Paying Member” (defined below) in order to continue accessing their account. You can upgrade to a Plus account at any time.

Former Free plan users are now required to pay $400 per year for a "Plus 500" account that includes 500 GB of space and is the only service tier that allows for embedding images links on outside websites. Users are now complaining that Photobucket will not allow any access to the stored images until the $400 fee is paid, and are throwing around words like "extortion," "blackmail," and "ransom" in comments about the sudden change in the company's terms. If you spot any speed meter-shaped holes in your daily web browsing, now you know what's up—or down, in this case.

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