Who Really Owns Your Photos On Social Sites?

Like most people, you probably don’t think twice about it.

You head over to the newest social site, sign up for an account, check the “terms of service” box without really reading it, and begin posting. Content, photo videos – it all goes up without much thought as to the true impact.

But what rights do you have to your content, photos and videos after you put them on a social site? What rights do you have to it after the fact? And more importantly, what rights do they have?

Almost every photo-sharing site has some type of license agreement to your content. While the agreements change from site to site, what you are agreeing to can change significantly. Here’s an overview of 12 major photo-sharing sites:

But even after you sign up with an account and start using it, things can change. For instance, on June 1st, Twitter announced the company was partnering with Photobucket to make sharing photos easier. Which means if you have a Twitter account and post photographs using the new API, you’ll also be subscribing to Photobucket’s terms of services by default.

Therein lies the problem.

It’s fun to use social sites, and most of us don’t think twice about signing up for an account. In fact, in many cases the benefits far outweigh the detriments.  Who wouldn’t want the possibility of reaching out to millions of people that spend hours on a site every single month?

Yet problems do exist, and will continue to grow as we spend even more time online. Whether you are trying to avoid your high school senior using a photo posted on Facebook for other uses, or you are trying to gain compensation to a photo you tweeted on a monumental event, its important to think before you post.

3 Rules Of Advice For Photographers

Think Before You Post
I often tell people to think before they write up a quick post and place it into their newsfeed. Would you want your mom reading it? Your grandmother? Just a few seconds of contemplation can save you years of embarrassment – as Senator Weiner can now tell you.

The same applies to your photos. You may love the image you just captured. But before you tweet it and share it, what are the implications? What are your goals for the photograph? In some cases, putting the image on hold for a few hours or even days can save you in the future.

Where Will Your Compensation Come From?
Instead of thinking about it on the fly, sit down and come up with your own policies on posting photographs.

If you hope to be compensated for your work now or in the future, make sure you are fully covered before you post. Include it in a package price for your clients. Take the necessary steps to copyright it. Or use a watermark to protect the integrity of the image.

If you’re using it as promotion, post it to showcase what you do. Always make sure the image leads back to you, and you keep up to date on your profile. Also realize that as much protection as you use, there is always the possibility of your photos being reused without your permission and without your credit. It’s a new fact of the social atmosphere.

What Is Your Ultimate Goal?
What is your ultimate goal for posting a photograph? Are you using it to capture a new audience to your work? Are you using it to try and gain sales? Are you using it for marketing and exposure?

Know your goals ahead of time. It’s possible to use social successfully in a variety of ways. But your first task is to know how it will benefit you. Only then can you take the necessary steps to make sure you are protected.

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