October 25th, 2013

PPE 2013: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Social Media

The theme of Thursday’s PhotoPlus Expo panel “Practicing Safe Social Media” seemed to be that social media is a necessary evil in today’s photography industry so photographers need to be smart about how they use it. The ASMP-sponsored panel had a variety of speakers who each brought a unique viewpoint to the discussion. Covering the legal ramifications was attorney Ross Buntrock; giving the media’s perspective was AOL/Huffington Post Photography Director Anna Dickson; representing the photo industry was photographer Richard Kelly; EyeEm CEO Florian Meissner provided a social-media company’s viewpoint.

Buntrock and moderator Peter Krogh broke down the terms of service agreements for four popular social-media sites, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, and the news was pretty bleak. All four TOS agreements are essentially broad licenses that allow the companies to provide the images and data from their sites to third parties. This doesn’t mean that they own the copyright to any work you post on their networks. The panelists illustrated that point by briefly discussing the case of Daniel Morel, the photojournalist who successfully sued AFP, the Washington Post and Getty for using images from the Haiti earthquake that he posted on Twitter without his permission. However, it does mean that these platforms can let advertisers use your image in sponsored posts without your permission and without compensation. (Buntrock noted that adding a copyright symbol to your image before posting it to these social networks doesn’t impact the TOS at all.)

It would be easy to just say, “Forget, I’m not going to use social media.” Except Dickson made an interesting point that the reason she’s on Instagram is because that is where everyone else is—both photographers and photo editors like herself. Whereas five years ago she would’ve followed photographers on Flickr, now it’s Instagram. She also said the “look” of Instagram photos is popular now, so many websites, including AOL/Huffington Post, use the site to find images for articles and slide shows.

So herein lies the rub: You want your work to be followed and found by potential clients, but you don’t want to give it away for free. Meissner’s company, EyeEm, is trying to eradicate this issue by providing the same social features as Instagram but including a notification system that alerts photographers when a third party wants to use their image, and offers compensation for that use. Other sites and services were mentioned as also having some sort of permission or compensation model, including Stipple, Scoopshot, SmugMug and PhotoShelter.

However, until one of these sites has the same massive user base as Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, they don’t solve the immediate problem of how to get exposure while also protecting your work on social media. Kelly’s strategy for dealing with this issue is simple: Know what your message is on social media before you start posting on these sites. For example, he uses his accounts to keep followers up to date on what he’s working on, advocacy issues for photographers and his teaching gigs. That’s it. He doesn’t use the tools to post new work or market himself. And Dickson, to a certain extent, supported Kelly’s idea by noting that she loves it when photographers post behind-the-scenes images so she can see what they are up to as well as get a peek at their personality.

At its core, this is what social media was originally intended for—sharing who you are and what you are up to. Though you can use these tools to market your work, it would be wise to think of how you can do that without actually posting the finished image since it can easily spread around the Web without your attribution and without you ever seeing a penny of compensation.

Related Articles
In TwitPic Copyright Claim, Daniel Morel Seeks $13.2 Million from AFP, Getty

AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyrights, Judge Rules

January 15th, 2013

AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyrights, Judge Rules

A federal court has ruled that Agence France-Press violated photographer Daniel Morel’s copyrights by distributing his images of the 2010 Haiti earthquake without permission.

The copyright infringement claims turned on whether the terms of service for Twitter, the social network that Morel used to distribute his images of the earthquake, gave AFP the legal right to download the images and re-distribute them.

“The Twitter TOS [terms of service] provides that users retain their rights to the content they post–with the exception of the license granted to Twitter and its patterns–rebutting AFP’s claim that Twitter intended to [give AFP license] to sell Morel’s photographs,” the court said. On that basis, it concluded that AFP was liable for copyright infringement.

The court also found The Washington Post, which published the images, liable for infringement.

But the court declined to rule on whether the infringement was willful, or whether Getty Images–which also distributed Morel’s photographs–is liable for infringement. The judge left those questions for a jury to decide. See our story on PDNonline for more details about the ruling.

--David Walker

Related Articles
Morel Wins Pre-Trial Victory Against AFP, Getty

Morel Releases More Evidence Against AFP, Getty in Copyright Case

Insult to Injury: AFP Suing Photographer It Stole Images From  (for PDN subscribers)

Morel Case Highlights Copyright Risks on Social Networks (for PDN subscribers)

December 21st, 2012

Bowing to Pressure from Users, Instagram Retracts New Terms of Use

Under a continuing barrage of negative feedback, account cancellations, and defections by its users to other photo sharing services, Instagram has withdrawn the most controversial changes to its terms of service agreement. The about-face means that Instagram will not assume the legal right to license users’ photos to third parties without permission.

“Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010,” said Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom in a statement posted on a company blog late yesterday.

Among the most objectionable terms of service changes proposed by Instagram was a clause allowing the company to license photos to third parties, and also use the photos in advertising, without the knowledge or permission of the Instagram user who posted those images in the first place.

A number of professional photographers, as well as some high profile users of Instagram including National Geographic, announced that they intended to stop using the service because of the proposed changes to the terms of service. Instagram said earlier this week by announcing it had no intention of selling their photos, but that apparently wasn’t enough to calm upset subscribers to the service.

In the meantime, subscriptions to competing services have spiked, according to a report in the New York Times. Flickr’s mobile app has jumped in popularity on the Apple iTunes app chart, and subscriptions to the photo sharing service Pheed have quadrupled in the past week, the Times reported.

Systrom explained in last night’s announcement that after introducing changes to Instagram’s terms of service and privacy policy earlier this week, “it became clear that we failed to fulfill what I consider one of our most important responsibilities – to communicate our intentions clearly. I am sorry for that, and I am focused on making it right.”

So once again Instagram has modified its privacy policy and terms of service. When the latest versions take effect–on January 16, 2013 and January 19, respectively–Instagram will have broad rights to use photos, but only with permission from the contributors.

“You hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, subject to the Service’s Privacy Policy,” says the latest TOS agreement, which goes into effect January 19. It adds, “You can choose who can view your Content and activities, including your photos, as described in the Privacy Policy.”

The privacy policy that takes effect January 16 says that Instagram “will not rent or sell your information to third parties outside Instagram (or the group of companies of which Instagram is a part) without your consent, except as noted in this Policy.” The exceptions are service providers who “will be given access to your information as is reasonably necessary to provide the Service under reasonable confidentiality terms.”

Instagrama also says in the new privacy policy, “We may also share certain information such as cookie data with third-party advertising partners” to deliver targeted advertising.

Users can control who sees the content they post by adjusting privacy settings on their account.

Instagram’s user policies are still subject to change, however, and Systrom hints that there will be more changes to come. Instagram company–which is owned by Facebook, a publicly traded company–is under pressure to earn money.

“Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work,” Systrom told users.

Related:
Photographers Balk at Instagram’s New Terms of Use
Now That We Know Instagram Isn’t a Charity, What Would You Be Willing to Pay?