Unless you’ve been living in a cave (or you’ve actually been outside taking photographs instead of sitting on your rump at the computer desk), you’ve probably heard about the recent deal that TwitPic made with WENN.
This deal crosses a line.
Basically, WENN became the “exclusive photo agency partner” of TwitPic, and the agreement allows WENN to sell your images that are posted on TwitPic without your permission, and without paying you.
Essentially, they’re hoping to cash in on pics that celebrities shoot and post with their iPhones, so the reality is that it probably won’t affect you. Nonetheless, the deal stinks for a number of reasons. By posting your images on TwitPic, you’re effectively granting the site an “exclusive royalty-free license to market your images without compensation.” This confirms all the fears that photographers have had about posting their photos on sharing sites, and since the news broke, people (myself included) have been pulling their photos off TwitPic and swearing never to use the service again.
Many, but not all, social media sites have terms that grant them some form of distribution rights to your images after you post them. Some sites are quite liberal with the rights they try to grab, while others, like 500px, a great photo sharing site that I wrote about last week, are much more reasonable when it comes to how they treat the images on their site. You should always be sure and read over a site’s terms and conditions before posting, because as soon as you upload, you’re automatically agreeing, whether you’ve read them or not.
Of course, nothing says that you have to post your images on any social media site, but with the immense popularity of sites like Facebook and Twitter, you may very well decide that the benefit of the exposure outweighs any possible licensing issues.
In my mind, however, the bigger concern is not that Facebook might use your image, but that someone else may grab it from the site and use it without your permission. Or, that they may want to use it with your permission, but they have no idea how to find you, or even that it’s yours. That’s why you should always include your ©Name-website watermark on any image that you post to any social media site, website or forum. That way, if the photo gets right-clicked, downloaded, shared or separated from that site in any way, your name and contact info are still on there. Here’s an app that lets you add your watermark to images right on your iPhone.
I know that someone can always go in with the Content Aware Fill tool and remove it, but hey, locking your car won’t prevent it from being jacked either. If someone really wants to steal your stuff, they’ll find a way to do it. That’s just the risk we all take for living in a free society.
So remember kids, read those terms before posting on social media sites, always include your copyright on any photo that you post online and always look both ways before crossing the street.
Senior contributor Dan Bailey is a professional adventure, outdoor and travel photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.
Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter.