Copyright of Images on Social Media


My main reason for considering using Social Media platforms is, as a gallery to share my images with family & friends when I am travelling. As an extension of this sharing, I would also like to display my images to those interested, in my photography, in the general public. What concerns me is the theft of those images. Anecdotally, I had heard that just the act of opening an account & displaying images on such sights as Facebook, Flickr & Instagram voids the copyrights of the photographer & the host has the right to use & sell-on the images without payment or acknowledgement to the author. Reality is that people viewing the sites have the ability to download the images & repost them as their own, rework them into a different form or use them in commercial situations such as online editorial, advertising etc., again without payment or acknowledgement of the author.

Today I spent time researching whether this was true or false….. It is true. The site hosts have legal jargon written into their terms & conditions that do give them full rights to your images without payment or acknowledgement. Here is an extract from the Instagram terms & hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels…” Facebook has similar wording.

Maybe having this type of wording is legally required to ensure total protection for their business, to host our images in the format that they do, in this litigious world in which we now live. Even so, it instills no confidence to a photographer who is going to entrust their hard won images to their care.

Copyright, has always been immediate when an image is taken……I take an image & that image belongs to me, no-one else can use that image unless I give permission, usually in writing. In the past, on several occasions I have pursued & won situations where I was not paid for the use of my images. There were ways & there were means. With the coming of the internet people have this attitude that images on the internet are legally free for the taking & for their use. This is not the case, the photographer still owns copyright…….Well they did until a new law was past in the UK about 2012 called the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act. The law voids all copyright for any image on the internet which is classed as an “orphan image”, basically any image that does not have photographer’s copyright embedded or displayed on the image or the image is registered with the correct entities. Nearly all images posted on the web are “orphaned” as stripping metadata is common by the hosting companies as a condition of submission & registering images, with the very few authorized registration bodies in the world, is expensive & has to be completed for every image, for which protection is required.

In this new world, the other issue is once you put up your images onto the web how do you find out whether they have been stolen & used elsewhere & then, how to you pursue the person who stole it.

So after a day of doom, gloom & negativity, I did find one positive website which did give some very good advice on how to manage your images on the web to minimize the chances of them being stolen & how to track images that have been stolen.

It was an interesting exercise which, in the end, confirmed a lot of what I had believed before I started but did give me a way forward so that I can safely put images onto some kind of platform to display them to the public.

Below are links to some of the blogs I read.

The issue of copyright or lack there-of, of images on Social media

UK Laws allowing use of images over ruling copyright for all orphan images – Enterprise & regulatory reform act.

Instagram Private setting & butt covering

Facebook Twitter Instagram usage conditions

Some positive information on Copyright on Social Media


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