We were asked recently about rights and usage of photo and video content posted up on social media and it prompted us to write this little guide to explain where you stand when it comes to ownership of your material and usage online.
We’ll admit, it can be a minefield of legal jargon and many T&Cs are usually hard to find and understand. We shouldn’t be scared to use it though as shared content can be a good thing and useful for raising your profile. But as my mum would say, you just think twice and protect yourself before you go flashing your personal bits around in public.
The killer words you have to watch out for are “transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license” which essentially means they have the right to license your content to others for free without your approval. Below is a list of polices from the most popular social media networks:
You basically own all of the content and information you post on Facebook but you need to check how it’s shared via your privacy and application settings. When it comes to sharing your content and information it’s a different matter and Facebook include the clause mentioned above when it comes to your using any of your content (or intellectual property). This “IP License”supposedly ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others. So even though you can export your content and information before you leave, it could remain backed up on the Facebook servers for an indefinite period of time, just in case you decide to return or if your content is still being used by other users – therefore making it virtually impossible to remove. Remember that any third-party apps also have their own T&Cs, so make sure you read the fine print before allowing access to your Facebook profile or Fan Page.
Twitter goes one step further with their T&Cs and this may surprise you, they actually have the right to sub-license or sell on your content to any media channel or third party they like – and make money from it. This means your potentially private ‘Kodak moment’ or home video using Twitpic (their photo sharing application) could possibly turn up on The Daily Mail the next day without having to pay you a penny for the privilege. Again, even if you terminate your license or delete your photos from Twitter and Twitpic, they still maintain the rights to use your creations for a “reasonable” amount of time afterwards. How long this could be, is unclear.
They do not claim any right to ownership over your images but they are allowed to use any public content for their own promotion across any media. They have the right to alter your content (e.g. using their funky filters when you take a photo), but if you set your account to ‘Private’ this essentially stops them from publishing your content outside Instagram.
ImageShack who own yFrog have reversed their policy in response to Twitpic, giving you more rights to your content and limiting the use to the ImageShack network only.
Google own Picasa and even though you retain the right over your content, they own the right to distribute your content through their Google Partners, which you can imagine is a massive network and consists of numerous sub companies.
If you use this blog you allow and agree to grant Tumblr a “non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, transferable right and license (with the right to sublicense)” Beginning to recognise that disclaimer now? So even though you own your website, if you have a Tumblr blog integrated as part of that site, you may not own all the content you feature within it.
This new social media platform came under criticism when it launched regarding their T&Cs, as they originally stated they owned the rights to any imagery in perpetuity (forever!). This has now changed and like Facebook and Twitter, you own your content and not Pinterest but any ‘repins’ may remain on their site even if you do decide to leave and delete your profile and content. The basis of this site is forwarding on content, however Pinterest state it is your responsibility to clearly copyright any content you do own or clearly refer to any existing copyright for any content you find and decide to pin online. Clear as mud? On the plus side, they have launched code that allows websites to stop people from pinning your content.
Yahoo! who own Flickr have the most definitive guide to rights and usage of all the social media networks. They categorically state any photos and/or images found on Yahoo! Images or Flickr are the property of the users that post them. They cannot grant permission to use third party content and request users be contact directly for usage rights. Just make sure you adjust your licence settings to limit use for Yahoo! properties only. We like Flickr and you probably do now too.
TIPS AND ADVICE
- • Think twice and if you have an issue with ANY photos or videos appearing on any news publication site, it’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid posting them all together.
- • Double check all your security and privacy settings and make sure you understand them and not open to any unauthorised use by the network or third parties.
- • Social media platforms are obliged to keep you up to date on any changes they make to their policies and T&Cs (of which they do frequently), so check if your usage and rights haven’t changed in the process.
- • If you decide to delete any online profiles, ensure you remove or export any content before you leave the network but be aware some will save your content for a period of time after you leave.
- • Talk to your lawyer or solicitor and get them to guide you through your rights to publicity (e.g. your right to be paid for the use of your name, likeness, voice for commercial gain) and where this maybe taken away from you online.
So what should you do if you want to share content but want to retain your rights and usage?
One way of getting round this is to use shortened URLs to direct users to platforms where you still retain your rights and usage like Flickr, your official website or a blog. Just make sure the type of blogs you own doesn’t have the rights to sublicense. WordPress and Blogger make you solely responsible for owning the rights to any content you decide to publish and can be integrated into your website design.
Bear in mind, when it comes to the statements about terms and conditions above this is our own interpretation of the information currently out there. We advise before you make any decision on what platforms to use that you check the relevant social media platform’s site for their latest T&Cs and policies.
Knowing this valuable information should help you feel confident about what you choose to post, rather than make you afraid to use any of them. Any concerns should always be checked with your management team which may or may not include a social media agency like us, but hopefully it does! Having this information at hand will allow you avoid any of the pitfalls and make the right decision it comes to how you communicate your online message.