Twittering away your photo rights

Many of the readers of this blog access it through Facebook – no fuss, no muss.  There are two user groups on Facebook that I also enjoy: Large Format Photography, and Strictly Black and White.  You post your images there and people give you the I Like thumbs up or even comment on your work.  Again it’s no fuss, no muss.  Well maybe not so much.  I started worrying about who owns the rights to what I post on Facebook.  So I checked out the Facebook Terms of Service.

These clearly state the following: “For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it….We always appreciate your feedback or other suggestions about Facebook, but you understand that we may use them without any obligation to compensate you for them (just as you have no obligation to offer them).”

What all this means is that while you retain ownership of your photos, in fact of anything you post on Facebook (Pretty much the same applies on Twitter.), they can use it however they want and can transfer those rights to anyone else.  Psst, this means they can sell your images. If you post a cute picture of your baby, don’t be surprised to find it in an ad campaign somewhere.

But, you say, I can always delete it.  Good luck with that!

An important bottom line here is that you are granting a nonexclusive license.  You can still sell or allow a nonexclusive license to someone else.  That’s all fine and dandy, except that you might want to sell an exclusive license to someone (an exclusive license is one where you grant, hopefully for a huge fee, the rights to your picture and you promise not to sell or grant it to someone else). Not being able to do that diminishes the value of your property.

All of this may or may not seem threatening to you.  People are starting to recognize that privacy is an illusion.  It is however, important to understand your rights.  It’s all part of the democratization of the internet and social media that I keep talking about.

One solution that many people use is to only upload lower resolution images (lower than your best) and to write a big honking watermark on them that bears and proclaims your name or copyright.  It doesn’t change your rights, but it does make you feel better,

For more on this subject see this website by

This entry was posted in Technical Aspects of Photography.