4 reasons not to join social networks – Part 2: Copyright

We already discussed the danger of losing too much of our privacy while using social networks. Now it’s all about



  • Will Facebook own the photos I have uploaded?
  • What can they do with it?
  • Can other people steal my ideas?
  • How can I still keep control over how my rights are protected?

You may be concerned about what is going to happen to your ideas if you share them on the web. People might see your work/photograph/text on the Internet and might use your ideas for their creativity. This is not only possible but actually very likely. People do use the Internet to get inspiration for their own work.But this can happen at an exhibition as well. Are you considering limiting the audience of your exhibitions to prevent it? Artists have always learned from one another.

Picasso puts it like this:

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso

Don’t worry and don’t spare your ideas. There are plenty more where they came from. Ideas are like fruits – the more you pick, the more will grow in the following year.

It is a different thing when people actually download your work and either claim it to be theirs or share it (with or without modification) somewhere else on the web. The law protects you against this kind of theft.

How your images are protected by the law

  1. You never loose ownership of any ‘intellectual property’ you publish online – neither on social platforms nor anywhere else on the web. Not even if you don’t use watermarks or put your name underneath.
  2. On social networks like Facebook you give away the right of usage – to make sharing within the platform possible.
  3. It is not allowed to download photos and share them somewhere else – neither online nor offline – except if you have licensed your photo to allow usage (see chapter…) for private or commercial use. It is not enough for someone else to give you credit without this permission.

Even though the copyright law is quite clear about these things it might still happen that people download your images for their own use – just because it is possible and not everyone is fully aware of these restrictions.

Some platforms have started to use different technologies for your protection.

How social networks protect your images


Save to library Right click Zoom in Share to …
Facebook yes yes yes Facebook
Twitter yes yes yes Twitter
Google+ no no yes Google+
Pinterest yes no no Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest,
Instagram no no no Twitter, Facebook
Flickr customized customized yes Twitter, Facebook, Google+

The safest networks to share photos are Instagram and GooglePlus. Both platforms make it very difficult to save photos to private libraries.  Content you share on Google can only be reshared within the platform while Instagram allows their users to share a link to images onto Facebook and Twitter. This link will always lead back to Instagram and your name. This way the photo will stay protected from being saved to private libraries after it got shared to other platforms.

Creative Commons

Flickr lets you customize if and how you want to allow others to use your photos.

You can decide on different licenses:

  • All rights reserved
  • Attribution Non Commercial License
  • Attribution License
  • Attribution Non Commercial No Derivs License
  • Attribution Share Alike License

Photos that are licensed with ‘all rights reserved’ can’t also technically be saved to private libraries. (Of course if someone REALLY want to steal an image he can always do a screenshot. Even on Snapchat it is possible to grab a photo and save it somehow. There is no real protection.)


What you can do yourself to protect your images

If you are for example a professional photographer you might consider adding your own precautions to make abuse impossible or at least much more difficult:

  • License: all rights reserved
  • Upload images in small sizes
  • Insert metadata with your name
  • Use watermarks
  • Choose platforms that don’t allow right clicks or saving to library

See also: Four reasons not to join social networks – Part 1: Privacy

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