Protect Your Photos From Rights Grabbing

10269317_10152399728853397_554368261949275458_oOver the weekend, the team at VOTogs posted an article revealing a government organization potentially taking advantage of photographers via rather sneaky means. The Vivid Sydney arts and cultural event, headed by Destination NSW, naturally has a Facebook page (screen-captured with the lead image) where people can find all the necessary information about the event. This is all pretty casual, but what got the VOTOGs (and us) is that hidden away on the About page was a set of terms in addition to Facebook’s Terms in which it was stated that members of the public posting photographs on the Facebook page in effect gave Destination NSW the license to use said photographs in any way they saw fit, free of charge, for as long as they wished.

Well, I don’t think the non aware facebooker goes through each and every TOS of each and every page on facebook where they upload photos – that would take a month every year.

The article raised the complaint, questioned both the legality and ethical nature of these terms, and drew a fast response from Destination NSW, who changed their additional terms somewhat. The changed terms are still arguably not ideal, seeing as the only difference is they will now credit the photographer and the clause is still hidden at the bottom of the About section of their Facebook page, but they are an improvement.

yes, you could see this. If you clicked about, read more, and read all the way through.

Yes, you could technically see the clause. If you clicked about, read more, and read all the way through.

This is just another story in a long line of companies, corporations and organizations attempting to take advantage of photographers of all levels. It is imperative that people take care where they post their photographs. Some things you should do before you post your image online are:

  • Always carefully read any terms and conditions before you submit a photograph to either a competition or a website. If you are submitting to somewhere like a Facebook page, make sure you check the “About” page to see if there is anything hidden away.
  • If you have the option (such as on a website like Flickr), choose the license you feel comfortable with, whether it is “All Rights Reserved” or if you wish to provide a Creative Commons license so that others can use your image.
  • Ensure that you have copyright information in your Exif data. Here is a little handy guide on how to do this.
  • Keep in mind that when you upload an image to Facebook, all metadata (such as the aforementioned Exif data) is stripped during Facebook’s compression process.
  • Consider watermarking your images.

This behavior is commonly known as a “rights grab” – companies and organizations are seemingly always trying to obtain licenses to use images submitted to them, often in good faith. Often times in competitions and on websites there are terms that allow them to use any submitted image in any way they see fit, forever, without fee or compensation or credit. Sadly, the onus is on us, the photographers, to ensure that we are not taken advantage of and it is up to us to protect our intellectual property.

A friend of mine has a general rule that any image he wants to sell, now or in the future, will never wind up on social media or posted to external websites. Do we all need to take such measures? How protective of your work are you?

  • derek byrne

    That’s a tough one, doesn’t the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority have lame rules about tripods in the first place(think permits)?

    • Peter Bower

      That I would have to look further into, but, to my knowledge, this is only for commercial work with a crew of more than a certain number of people. But don’t quote me on that. I don’t believe such a rule would automatically cause the photographer to lose all rights to their work, would it? Not without the SHFA getting every said photographer to sign forms accordingly?

  • Wil Fry

    What about sites like Pinterest, where almost the *only* activity is copying other peoples’ images? They provide a “pin it” bookmarklet that can be used on almost any website with images, which creates a new metadata-free image, hosted on their servers. So, even if you only post to your site, it can be copied and reposted with just a click.

    • Peter Bower

      I have long loathed Pinterest for this very reason.