If you are a photographer, illustrator, artist or just a hobbyist with iPhone, let me give you one piece of advice.
DO NOT UPLOAD YOUR PHOTOS TO SOCIAL MEDIA SITES.
Why? You may ask, isn’t it one of the reasons that we all use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc?
The short answer is that you lose control of your images and others can use your images how they see fit, and the secret is in the Terms of Service (ToS) that you never read when you signed up for your account.
I can you hear you now saying “but Twitter/Facebook/Flickr/anyothersocialmediasite say that I retain my rights to my images.” This again is true however you also give them and other 3rd parties the right to use your images in any way they see fit.
In Twitter’s ToS it states: “By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).”
And further, “You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.”
And in addition, “Such additional uses by Twitter, or other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter, may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services.”
So in layman terms it states that Twitter or anybody that pays Twitter, can use your images any way they want without having to consult you or pay you.
You want a real life example? How about Stefanie Gordon and her photo of the last mission of the space shuttle.
Stefanie boarded a plane in New York City to visit her parents in Palm Beach, the captain told the passengers that there was a chance they would witness the space shuttle Endeavour’s last launch during the flight.
Sure enough as the plane descended toward Palm Beach and the Endeavour’s launch became visible, Gordon pulled out her iPhone and snapped a few photos. Once the plane landed, she posted one of the photos on Twitter.
NASA retweeted her photo and in a few hours she was contacted by BBC, ABC, CNBC and others.
So great she became a Twitter star for all of 3 seconds, and everybody and their dog used her picture for free. If she had retained her exclusive rights she could have sold that image thousands of times.
Let’s take a look at Facebook’s ToS. “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared…” Sounds good so far and for the minority of people that start to read the ToS this is where they stop, however if they had kept reading they would see this.
“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.”
“When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information…”
So again if you post an image on your page or on your personal account you are giving Facebook permission to use that image anyway they see fit. Even if you delete the image they can still use it if someone shared your image.
On one of my pages, Prevea Art and Imports I follow a popular illustrator (he has killer artwork), and recently he has seen his images being used in Facebook ads. He posted a question as to why people kept stealing his work. The simple answer is they didn’t. It was a Facebook ad for a Facebook game, Facebook allowed the game developers to use the image, for a fee of course.
Google+ same thing “you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”
And Flickr (owned by Yahoo) “However, with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services, you grant Yahoo! the following worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license(s)… “Publicly accessible” areas of the Yahoo! Services are those areas of the Yahoo! network of properties that are intended by Yahoo! to be available to the general public. By way of example, publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services would include Yahoo! Message Boards and portions of Yahoo! Groups and Flickr that are open to both members and visitors.”
In fact the first photo in this post was download with a WordPress plugin called PhotoDropper, it uses Flickr as the source for their service, I doubt the photographers are paid anything.
So as a photographer or artist what can you do?
Link instead of upload
Yes it is that simple, upload your photos to your website and then link to the photo. Linking to your photo side steps the ToS and you retain all rights to your photos. If you don’t have a website, get one, it is the only way to participate on social media without giving up your exclusive rights to your work.
If you don’t think you have the aptitude or time to run your own site then think about using Smugmug. I know how much work a website takes. Smugmug makes creating a stunning photography website easy and affordable. You can even sell you photos on Smugmug.
So remember Link Don’t Upload.