Social Media – Users Beware

November 6, 2013 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in News & Events by

The devil could be in the details. We are well served by reading and understanding the terms and conditions.

The devil could be in the details. We are well served by reading and understanding the terms and conditions.

According to a September, 2013 report from IPSOS, a global independent market research firm, 43% of all internet users shared pictures on social media in the past month. When one considers there is an estimated 2.7 billion internet users, this amounts to one heck of a lot of pictures being posted online.

Jeff Bullas is a blogger, author and strategist that works with companies and executives to optimize their online presence. In his entry titled “12 Awesome Social Media Facts and Statistics for 2013,” he reports that “Facebook still dominates at 70% of account ownership, but Google+ is not far behind…”  and “Facebook has nearly 50% of all the world’s internet users as active users.”

Whereas Facebook and Google+ might be the leading social media providers insofar as picture sharing is concerned, it is also worth noting that Pinterest, and Tumblr are the fastest growing platforms. Flickr is still relevant despite getting long in the tooth, and, there are many other picture sharing portals in addition.

With so many images being uploaded to the internet on a daily basis, the nagging question remains: How many of these users of social media are aware of what they may be giving away?

A search of the service providers (social media portals) licensing agreements all basically say the same thing. A general consensus might offer a license such as, and in part:

You acknowledge that: By uploading your photographic, graphic works, or other Intellectual Property to (Portal XYZ) you retain full rights to those works that you had prior to uploading. By posting Content to the Site you hereby grant to (Portal XYZ) a non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content in connection with the Services. The license granted to (Portal XYZ) includes the right to use your Content fully or partially for promotional reasons and to distribute and redistribute your Content to other parties, web-sites, applications, and other entities, provided such Content is attributed to you in accordance with the credits, if any and as appropriate, as submitted to (Portal XYZ) by you.

And what does all this mean?  Who owns the pictures once you upload them?

It depends. Generally speaking, and unless you made the pictures as part of your job, or there is a contract to the contrary, the copyright in a photograph is owned by the creator. Only the creator can authorize a use of that picture, and that is typically done by way of a license.

Think of your license to drive a car on our highways. The province or state that issues your license, typically your place of residence, forever owns the license. You pay an annual fee to utilize that driver’s license – you don’t own it.

When you read the posting agreement again on the website portal, think of the driver’s license. These portals require, by law, your authority, by way of a license, to “host” and show your picture on their website.

In deciding which portal to use to share your pictures, you should first read and understand the license you will be providing. With some service providers you will be giving them the right to sell your picture for monetary value (as in our example license above … re-license) and you will never receive a cent. What’s worse, with some social media outlets, you could also be assuming any and all liability (including lawsuits) that may be brought against the service provider despite you never knowing how, when, why or by whom the picture was ultimately used.

Don’t be completely frightened away by social media as they can be great resources for sharing pictures with family and friends. But at the same time, you should also be astutely aware what rights in that photo you are relinquishing.

You would be strongly encouraged not to post that once-in-a-lifetime holiday picture of the Loch Ness Monster that could potentially net you millions of dollars in real value. By posting it on a social media site, you could watch those dollar signs evaporate quicker than water in a hot frying pan … while the host portal laughs all the way to the bank.