More business talk

All photographers, as I pointed out recently, should know about copyright. As reader Warren said recently in a comment on this blog:

“When a photographer shoots pictures for themselves, they own the copyright and they are the Author.[ ] If the photographer then uploads these pictures to someone else’s web site, the photographer may fall victim to the terms of use of that site and they may lose some rights. Read the terms of use!”

Very true. And potentially scary. Read what Facebook says:

“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.”

Ouch. Transferable? Sub-licensable? And to boot, Royalty-free? And “…on or in connection with Facebook” (my emphasis)? Geez. This post better not have a picture in it, or Facebook can use it or even resell it.

Thank God Facebook itself only allows (so far) uploads up to 720 pixels wide. Otherwise they could take my work and use it in an international ad campaign for Coca-Cola, say, for free. And this of course is why I embed my name, small but visible, in each picture I upload in Facebook.

Other sites can be as Draconian – or more so. Apple? No idea, since I have never actually read the 41-page “agreement” that you have to read and “agree to” before you can do anything (like upgrade iTunes). I am sure no-one has (lawyers excepted: they like that kind of thing).

BBC news, and other news outlets, use “user content” nowadays. That is content they do not pay for. Users are happy to work for free, and that means reporters no longer get paid, Fine, you may say – except the level and trustworthiness of the work goes way down.

So be careful with copyright. Make sure you have an explicit written agreement when shooting for someone: an agreement that gives you copyright (or that pays you very well, if you a “shooter for money” and do not end up with copyright). Photography is fun, but the equipment is not free. The time spent learning is not free, and time cannot be reclaimed. Your photos are valuable – copyright protects that value.

Working for free never works for a valuable skill that is hard to learn and expensive to use, and unless you are careful, without good agreements that is exactly what you will end up doing. My advice today: be careful where you upload photos.


3 thoughts on “More business talk

  1. The words to worry about are Transferable and Sub-licenseable. The good news is that taking down the photo removes the license. I have never put any photos on Facebook so I am not sure how the sharing part works, but I assume you have control over what is shared. Selling your photo to anyone for use would be risky since you might rescind their license the next day.

    If you put a picture on someone else’s web server, I assume you want them to store it and display it. As an engineer, you understand displaying your photo means sending a copy of the file to the machine running the internet browser, and that that file is stored in cache on the viewer’s machine, possibly for a very long time.

    I am not a lawyer. If you are truly concerned, you should consult a lawyer who is familiar with copyright law. The text in any of the service agreements I have read, belonging to the internet service providers and social photography sites ,are all fairly similar and designed to protect them from being sued for doing what you are asking them to do.

    It can be painful and you have to decide for yourself if it is worth reading the fine print as frequently you have no ability to change it. Did you know, one of the cruise lines requires you to give them a photo release allowing them to use your image anywhere in the universe, forever, as a condition of taking the cruise? But, if you want to take a picture and use it commercially, you have to get specific permission!

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