Facebook Representative Claims They Own Your Photos

May 13, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

Facebook Representative Claims They Own Your Photos

May 13, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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If you use Facebook, you’re not going to be happy reading this post. If you also upload your work to the social media, you’re REALLY not going to like this.

Corey Ann Balazowich of Photo Stealers reports that the worrying message that goes round every once in a while claiming that Facebook’s new Terms of Use strip photographers of any rights regarding uploaded content might not be a hoax after all.

An email she recently received from a Facebook representative states that the company owns any and all content once it is uploaded to their website, and that basically anybody can use it as they wish. They may even take credit for your copyrighted photos.

The email was sent to Corey during her latest correspondence with Facebook regarding her Photo Stealers page, but we’ll get back to the reason for that in a bit.

After checking the matter for the past two weeks, a Facebook Sales Representative responded to Corey with a very unsettling email.

Email_1

This is the part you want to pay attention to:

“I understand that you are trying to protect other photographers and consumers by calling out others who are posting photos copyrighted by others, however, once something is posted or uploaded onto Facebook it becomes Facebook’s property. So if the original photographer uploaded the photo first onto Facebook and then others have taken it from there and uploaded it to their pages or profiles, this is legal and within policy, there’s nothing I can do about it unfortunately even if they are taking credit for the photos”.

In order to clarify that she correctly understood the email, Corey responded asking if any photo she uploads to Facebook “is now Facebook’s property and anyone can steal it and so long as they are using Facebook they can do whatever they want with my copyrighted works?”

The rep sent in her reply a link to the website’s policies and highlighted a couple of sentences, below:

Email_2

The highlighted sentences state the following:

  1. You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared
  1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos, 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.
  1. When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you.

The second email basically states that you own the rights to your photos but you give Facebook permission to do whatever they like with them. It also says that others may use your photos and to associate them with you.

This is somewhat relaxing as it contradicts some of what was said in the previous email, but is still enough to keep some photographers up at night.

The third sentence is very vague and my guess is that it was written that way on purpose. It’s a clause that reduces the company’s responsibility and workload, that will probably be changed once it is challenged (or threatened to be) in court.

So while the terms might not be as terrible as initially stated, the fact that an official representative thinks those are the rules is a major problem. To make things even worse, the rep said that she had consulted her supervisor and Facebook’s help center, which means they are all under the impression that Facebook actually owns your photos – and they enforce this incorrect policy.

You might have noticed that the first email stated that “If these people are attacking you for pointing out that others are taking credit for work that is not theirs then this could be technically considered a violation of the community standards – both what you’re doing and what these people are doing to you”.

So not only does Facebook allow your photos to be used freely by other members, it turns out that pointing a finger at people who “borrowed” other peoples’ photos is against the company’s rules.

This is the reason any post Corey makes on the Photo Stealers page leads to the content being deleted and her account restricted, and it was during her attempt to get the page back up that she received the above emails.

We’ve reached out to Facebook with several follow up questions regarding their policies and our rights as photographers and will post an update once they respond.

UPDATE: The emails sent to Corey created massive waves online and Facebook issued an official statement saying that the representative above was wrong:

“The information given in these emails is incorrect. Our terms are clear that you own the content you share on Facebook, including photos. When you post something, you simply grant Facebook a license to use that content consistent with our terms, including displaying it to the audience you’ve shared it with.

In addition, we prohibit people from posting content that violates someone else’s intellectual property rights. If a rights owner believes that content on Facebook violates their rights, they may report it to us. Upon notice, we stand ready to respond including by removing the content from Facebook.”

It will be interesting to see if the mess this story stirred will cause Facebook to respond to copyright claims faster than they have been doing so far.

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Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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23 responses to “Facebook Representative Claims They Own Your Photos”

  1. SC FotoStudio Avatar
    SC FotoStudio

    They suck

  2. Kat Curtis Avatar
    Kat Curtis

    Yeah one court case and she’ll loose her job

  3. Mike Hill Avatar
    Mike Hill

    Glad to say I am not dumb to share my money shots online. All my photos I share are for sale but they are also free to download as well.

    1. JOhn Avatar
      JOhn

      Money shots? *snicker*

  4. JarFil Avatar
    JarFil

    Wrong.
    They are NOT saying they “own” your photos, only that a copy becomes their property under a very permissive license. Don’t like that license? Don’t upload your photos under it.
    It is also NOT stealing to just follow this license, and getting angry while saying otherwise can very easily become harassment.

    I don’t upload to Facebook precisely because of these Terms Of Service. If you do, it’s your problem.

    1. NotReallyHere Avatar
      NotReallyHere

      as stated earlier; nothing new, and this have been know for years.

      I never upload photos (unless they are utterly useless for anything else) to facebook, I only link to them ….

  5. David Hoffmann Avatar
    David Hoffmann

    This pops up every couple of years. And this time around is no different. it`s still not true.

  6. RJH Avatar
    RJH

    Mandy should stick to sales…she’s not real bright.

  7. Stephen Feldstein Avatar
    Stephen Feldstein

    they can claim anything they want. i shot them, i own them! take me to court!

  8. Ian Brace Avatar
    Ian Brace

    Why would they want to own a billion drunken selfies?

  9. Moses Rodriguez Avatar
    Moses Rodriguez

    Apparently we now know what the F in Facebook stands for. F them and what they might claim.

  10. Daniel Mcavera Avatar
    Daniel Mcavera

    Dave Conroy

  11. Pete Bosch Avatar
    Pete Bosch

    Facebook representative is a dumbass.

  12. Tim Ashman Avatar
    Tim Ashman

    Nothing new here. You grant Facebook everything but ownership.

  13. Eric Schleicher Avatar
    Eric Schleicher

    The issue here isn’t ownership. They’re pretty clear on it. You own the photo. What this outlines is that if you provide a license to Facebook which is very broad. You can revoke that license by deleting the photo, but if it’s been shared, the license persists.

  14. Sally Avatar
    Sally

    Yeah, I agree with others here… Nothing new. Pinterest, Google+, blog service providers et.al. might be equally if not more restrictive. The bottom line is Read those Terms and Conditions. Too many users of these services just blindly click I Agree without reading all that boring legal junk then they wonder why they lost their rights to their works. There is no excuse for not trying to protect your rights and just don’t post on sites with these types of ownership statements but then what does one expect for free. They don’t charge you but they’ll get you some other way.

    1. Sally Avatar
      Sally

      Just for the record, I did not add the link on the word et. al. in my above post. I have no idea how or why it got there.
      Sally

    2. mike Avatar
      mike

      I think the interesting part here is that Facebook reps don’t read it either. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they did abuse copyright. Thus copyright holders must be vigilant.

  15. bob cooley Avatar
    bob cooley

    This is standard boilerplate language on any website – it essentially covers their tail legally for your images showing up on their servers.

    Nothing to see here, move along :)

  16. Phil Zepeda Avatar
    Phil Zepeda

    This is just not true.

    1. Robert L. Sneed Avatar
      Robert L. Sneed

      It’s very true. If you upload a picture that you named “Phil Zepeda” facebook algorithm is to save it to their network and rename it (1000_1000_1000) or something like that.