Photo sharing is all the rage nowadays: we share party snaps with family and friends on Facebook, post news-worthy pictures on Twitter, and reveal our most fashionable and likeable images on Instagram. And if you are a keen blogger, business or photographer, sharing great images online is the perfect way to promote your product and extend your customer base. However, whilst our photo sharing has increased, most of us don’t take any steps to copyright or protect the images that we post online. We can’t imagine why anyone would want to even download our images, much less use them. And let’s be honest, none of us ever really had to think about it when all we had was a roll of film and an embarrassing family photo album. Yet even our amateur photos are of monetary value nowadays.
Here are 5 reasons why you should be protecting and copyrighting your photos:
- Any images publicly posted online could be used in advertisements. Many webpage builders, graphic designers and bloggers are guilty of wrongly using other people’s images on their websites because it’s cheaper and easier than paying for pictures. Recently a 20 year old student, Grace Marr, found that her Facebook profile pictures were stolen and used to advertise “hot horny singles in your local area” on a porn site without her consent.1 Her image wasn’t a stunning professional portrait – it was a grainy webcam picture.
- It is easy to sell public images online. If you don’t copyright or protect your images, it makes it even easier for someone to sell your pictures without any compensation or credit to you. One photographer discovered that his images were being used to create mousepads sold on Etsy – both a downgrade for the artist’s work and an insult to his bank account.2
- You cannot rely on social media sites to protect your rights. In 2011 an aeroplane passenger, Stefanie Gordon, took a picture of the space shuttle Endeavour’s launch. Whilst some smaller news organizations rightly paid and credited her for using the image, others such as ABC and CBS did not.3 And in July earlier this year, celebrity actor, Ashton Kutcher, was accused of downloading a photographer’s image of a monkey holding an iPhone, and added his own watermark before uploading it to his Twitter account.4 We cannot expect the copyright and privacy policies of the sites that we post our images on to protect us, we need to protect our images before we post and share online.
- Social media sites themselves use the images that you post on their sites for advertisements. It’s not just external websites and organisations that can use our online images for advertisements. Websites such as Facebook use their users’ public images in their own advertisements and for third party advertisements on their networks. If you have public photos on Instagram and Facebook, you may well find that your face is being used to advertise products and organisations that you don’t even like, much less morally agree with.5
- Protecting your images helps reduce any legal hassle. If you do find that your images are being wrongly used and you are forced to take legal action, making it clear that the images have always been yours will go a long way in helping your case. The easiest way to copyright your images is to watermark and/or embed a digital signature into your images.