Computer on the Beach by Kai P.
Facebook has non-exclusive rights to all content you publish on the website. The social network is able to use your images in any way they wish, for however long they please – and there’s not much to be done about it.
It may not seem like such a biggie at the moment. If you’re a beginning photographer, you might wonder the chances that Facebook would use your images publically anyway.
But everyone starts somewhere; Sam Worthington was living in his car when he was cast in Avatar. So in ten years time, when your photographs are critically acclaimed and the Guggenheim is knocking at your door, Facebook will still have the rights to use any image you ever published on the site. They will be able to create billion-dollar advertising campaigns using your photographs – and you won’t see a dime:
“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.” (Facebook Terms and Conditions)
So what is really going on when you publish your photography to Facebook?
Zuckerberg has rights to your photography
When you post content on Facebook, you are publishing it. You are giving Facebook the rights to use it however they like:
- “Transferable” and “sub-licensable”: Facebook can give third-parties rights to your content.
- “Royalty-free”: Facebook has the right to use your copyrighted work without paying you license fees or royalties – no matter how much they make from its use.
- “Worldwide”: Facebook can use your photography anywhere, any time.
In their Terms and Conditions definitions, Facebook states:
“By “use” we mean use, copy, publicly perform or display, distribute, modify, translate, and create derivative works of.” (Facebook Terms and Conditions)
You still own the content
Facebook does not have exclusive rights to your content. It is still under your own copyright (which is created as soon as you release the trigger on your camera). You can produce, modify, display and distribute your content anytime, anywhere in the world. Essentially, you still own your photograph. You just won’t make any money from it if Facebook decides to use or sublicense it.
Deleting the content will terminate the license…sometimes
When you delete your image, the license granted to Facebook terminates. However, if your photography has been shared, and is not deleted, the license will still exist. And even if you delete the image, or de-activate your account/page, all content will exist in Facebook’s historical files:
“When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).” (Facebook Terms and Conditions)
Facebook can modify and sublicense your content
Facebook can grant a licence of your work to a third-party, and they can do so without obtaining your approval. They are also able to modify your work when they use it – think digital manipulation or marketing design for an advertisement.
Remember, Facebook’s definition of “use” includes “create derivative works of.”
Some third-party applications have rights too
Some third-party Facebook applications can use, store and transfer your content and information, and content your friends have shared with you.
“When you use an application, the application may ask for your permission to access your content and information as well as content and information that others have shared with you. We require applications to respect your privacy, and your agreement with that application will control how the application can use, store, and transfer that content and information.” (Facebook Terms and Conditions)
In summary, always check the fine print of an application on Facebook before you use it.
At the end of the day, Facebook enables photographers to share their work with one billion users – for free. It’s a fantastic platform for networking, promotion and client-generation, and it’s growing every day. Despite the concerns with their terms and conditions, Facebook is a great website for photographers to spread the word about their work. So if you’re going to stick with Facebook, despite their free, worldwide, sub-licensable rights to your photography, you may want to consider:
- Not publishing your images on your Facebook page, or only publishing a few. Consider uploading low-resolution images.
- Watermarking your images. Australian graphic designer Elle Jones says a large, low opacity watermark embedded across your image is the best solution to the problem. Corner-placed watermarks often look great, but can be easily cropped or edited out of the photo.
- Always reading the fine print. If you are concerned about the use of your images by Facebook applications, this is a must.
Alternatively, you can steer clear of Facebook and publish your images on a private portfolio.
To read Facebook’s terms and condistions in full, follow this link.
- Instagram now owns your photos, and can sell them.December 19, 2012
- TIME Magazine’s Incredible Instagram Coverage of Hurricane SandyNovember 5, 2012
- Physical Instagram Camera in 2013August 30, 2012
- Photographers take back Instagram with ‘Instafocus’July 10, 2012
- Is Instagram spending its billion dollars on a camera?May 3, 2012