Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Social websites and your photos

Social internet sites like MySpace, Facebook and a photographer's own favorite, Flickr are a must-use tool for the modern business plan. It doesn't matter what business you are in, networking is still networking. Social sites actually make networking easier and gives access to more contacts simply by the inherent structure of sites like Facebook. But what are the rules about intellectual property such as photographs and what can you do to protect yourself?

This is where you need to understand the rules and how they interact with your goals. You also need to understand the small print of the social site's privacy policies and terms of use.

If you are a casual shooter and could care less about what happens to your snapshot of Uncle Henry, then you don't need to worry about this. However, if you are looking to take your photography to a business level applying good habits and smart practices now will go a long way to protecting your work and investment.

It almost seems a catch 22; put your work on the internet it invites theft but gets work. Don't put it on the internet you are protected but you don't get work. Fear not there are tips and trick you can use to safeguard your intellectual property.

  1. Be Informed: Read the web sites privacy policy and their terms of use agreements. They legally have to state what and how they use the data stored on their servers. The majority of them include language that allows them to use the content you upload to their site for their own promotional use. This tends to be a blanket agreement that gives them the right to use all your content in any way, shape or form, including royalty-free, world-wide use. Sounds scary. These sites require you watch what you post. Responsibility is ultimately on you.
  2. Hold Back: Don't post your very best work or work that has been licensed to someone else. If you are a decent photographer even your 'okay' work will be better than what the general public considers good photography. If you feel you need to post samples of your work on a questionable site, make sure you're not releasing your very best.
  3. Watermark and Embed: Most professional photo editing programs have the means of embedding copyright and author information into the metadata of your images. You need to make it a habit to encode this info into each and every one of your images. However, the best defense is still having a visible watermark imprinted on all your posted images. Visible but not overpowering.
  4. Keep It Small: There is absolutely no reason you should post a full sized image on a social site. By keeping your postings to 72 dpi and a max size of 600 pixels will deter all but the amateur thief. Remember that at 600 pixels wide on a 150 dpi printer your image size will be 4". At 300 dpi it's only 2" so you see that it won't even be good enough for a decent 4x6 inch photograph.
I thought I'd post some excerpts from various social site terms of use and privacy policies. As you can see, they openly state that by posting on their sites you give them the authority to do whatever they want with your photos. Be aware.


From their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

2. Sharing Your Content and Information

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:
  1. 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.


From their Meetup Terms of Service Agreement

4. Your Information
  1. ...
  2. ...
  3. License. We do not claim ownership of Your Information. We will use Your Information only in accordance with our privacy policy. However, to enable us to use your Public Information and to ensure we do not violate any rights you may have in your Public Information, you grant Meetup a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable (through multiple tiers) right to exercise, commercialize and exploit the copyright, publicity, and database rights (but no other rights) you have in your Public Information, in any media now known or not currently known, with respect to your Public Information.
From their Meetup Privacy Policy Statement

2. Use of Information
  1. ...
  2. ...
  3. We may use for promotional, sales or any use that we consider appropriate your correspondence with us or photographs submitted for publication on our website, be it via email, postings on our website, or feedback via the member polls. Our use of such materials is consistent with the restrictions on disclosure of Personally Identifiable Information set forth in Section 3.

YAHOO! and Flickr

From their Terms of Use Agreement

Flickr is a photo sharing community which provides you with an easy way to post and share photos online, and add meaningful metadata and comments to photos. You do not need to be registered to search or view public photos on Flickr, however you must be a registered member of Flickr or Yahoo! to post.
Information Collection and Use Practices
  • You can choose to make your photos public for anyone to access, restrict access to a limited number of other Flickr users, or keep those photos private so only you can access them.
  • Advertisements shown to you may be related to textual information, such as metadata and notes, associated with the photo you are seeing, or the search term you entered.
Information Sharing and Disclosure Practices
  • You can specify whether or not you want your photos to be accessible to the public, accessible to a select few, or private (only you can access them with your Yahoo! ID and password).
From their Privacy Policy

Yahoo! does not claim ownership of Content you submit or make available for inclusion on the Yahoo! Services. 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), as applicable:
  1. ...
  2. With respect to photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services other than Yahoo! Groups, the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Yahoo! Services solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available. This license exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Yahoo! Services and will terminate at the time you remove or Yahoo! removes such Content from the Yahoo! Services.

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