If you’re a photographer and share your work on Instagram and other social networks, chances are someone will contact you to ask for a use of your photo. And when this happens, make sure to always read the fine print. Otherwise, you may give someone an unlimited usage of your work without being aware of it.
Photographer Ben Sassani recently shared an aerial photo of New York City on his Instagram account. The beautiful photo gained a lot of comments, and one of them asked Ben for permission to share his image. Conrad New York Midtown (a Hilton-owned hotel) left a comment on Ben’s photo reading:
Ben wasn’t lazy and did his homework. He visited the website provided in the comment and read the terms and conditions. As photographers, I believe you can immediately see why these terms and conditions are fishy:
“After reading the fine print, they essentially would be able to use the photo to profit in any shape or form they’d like (if) once I agree,” Ben told PetaPixel.
Many people (myself included) wondered if the agreement would be legally binding if you just comment #AgreeConrad on Instagram. PetaPixel asked NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher for more information, and it turned out that there are reasons to be concerned:
“While the document may be short (by other online agreement standards), the photographer had every reason to be alarmed as the terms he read grant unlimited permission to use the photo in any way they choose without any remuneration and also place all the liability for any improper use by Hilton on the photographer submitting the work. Additionally, they can use his personal information along with the work.”
While many of us would read the terms provided and decide whether or not to agree, keep in mind that many photographers wouldn’t do the same thing. I believe it especially applies to those who are just starting out. First of all, they can be flattered by an offer like this. They need exposure, so they might agree without thinking it through too much. And also, they may still not know much about the legal side of photography and copyright. As Osterreicher put it, these “hashtag opportunities” are “a rights grab that is often not read or understood.”
So, no matter if you’re an experienced photographer or a newbie, let this be a friendly reminder to always read terms and conditions, including the fine print (especially the fine print). No matter how tempting an offer may sound, make sure to read and learn more about it before you agree to anything.