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Copyright 101: Safeguarding photographs on Social Media

Fazlur Rahman Khan
Copyright 101: Safeguarding photographs on Social Media

Social media has undoubtedly given the creative community a huge platform to showcase their work, particularly photography. It has not however, given the adequate level of protection along with the platform. For people who are genuinely concerned about their work being duplicated or used without prior consent, the significance of copyright awareness is crucial, especially when they publish it anywhere in the electronic highway. 

For instance, let’s look at Facebook, arguably the most popular social platform among today’s generation. Any picture uploaded in Facebook, gives them (i.e Facebook) the right to have a non-exclusive royalty free license on the image/content. Remember the little box that you ticked as “I Agree” under the fine printed Terms and Conditions (which you may or may not have read), when you signed up for Facebook? Yes, that is exactly when you have (inadvertently or not) granted these rights to Facebook.  

Basically Facebook has the license to use the image in any way it deems fit. It can also transfer or sub-license its own right over a user’s content to another entity if required. It is also important to note that, Facebook’s license does not terminate upon the deactivation or deletion of the uploader or user’s account. The image/content is only absolved from the license once all users that have interacted or used the said image/content have broken all links to it. In a nutshell, even if the images are small and watermarked inside and out to keep the third parties at bay from infringing them, Facebook could use it in its own discretion. Having said this, Facebook still serves the purpose of virtually exhibiting your creations to a larger audience and potentially attract more opportunities in your professional life.

Now, moving on to the topic of copyright protecting your image or content for print and web work. There are mainly three ways that you can physically tag your image with your copyright information in the age of digital photography.

Step one: Tag your copyright information in your camera. This way, whenever you take a shot, it automatically tags that picture with your copyright information on the metadata. The same can be done when you transfer the picture files to your computer using software like Lightroom, Aperture or Photoshop. Hence, if someone steals your work or infringes your copyright, you can authenticate by checking the detailed image properties of the digital file.

Step two: One of the most common ways albeit not the safest, is watermarking your pictures. You can make a logo using software like Lightroom, Aperture and Photoshop and add that to your pictures so as to easily visually identify your work. However, be warned that, watermarks can be easily erased using a range of software, most popularly, Photoshop. Therefore putting your copyright information in your metadata appears to be much safer. The best bet is to actually do both, so that you can have a safety net in worst case scenario.

Step three: Registration of your portfolio or any of your intellectual property i.e. your body of work with the copyright office is the safest and most reliable option available in this field. But the process is time-consuming and in some cases, quite expensive. The Government cost for copyright application is BDT 1,000 (Taka One Thousand) and shall take about a period of six months to obtain the copyright certificate in your name. 

As the wise men say, better safe than sorry. Thereby, given the set of choices, you can continue with your passion in a securer mode and safeguard your brainchild(s) from the vicious minds.  


Photo credit: _MG_3513_ed via photopin (license)

October 03, 2015
About Author

The author is a passionate freelance photographer. 

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