Licensing “social media” use

May 25th, 2010 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , ,

There is an interesting blog post/discussion on about whether or not social media is considered covered by an “internet” usage license. It is a great topic, and really important for photographers to think about. Whenever something is vague in your contract, it might be interpreted differently than you intend, either by a client, or a judge. Neither is a good result. Remember too, that your client is the company, not the person. One quick “downsize” and the person who you have an “understanding” with is no longer there to enforce that understanding.

As interesting as the original post is, be sure to read the comments for some interesting points. The post has responses from photo buyers, whose opinions are likely to be similar to your clients. The comments include solutions from photographers.

In my opinion, one of the most important things to consider in this situation is that if you allow clients to post photos on “social media” websites, the images will be subjected to the terms and conditions of those social media sites. You don’t know what those are, and therefore can’t monitor them or pull your images down if they become too grabby.

Remember just a few weeks ago, we discovered that AFP thinks that any photo posted on Twitter (it was actually TwitPic) is free for the taking (I don’t agree). Does that mean that giving your client the right to post on social media= giving AFP all rights to you picture? Something to think about, and yet another reason why it is important that the Twitter case comes out in favor of the photographer.

There must be a balance. Social media usage is something that will be valuable to clients. I think that you should either clarify that it is a separate charge, or as one commenter suggested, increase your internet usage fee and clarify that it is included. Social media is also a very BROAD term, and applies to many different things out there. Finally, some social media sites allow the person who uploads to select a “creative commons” license, which really does give the farm away. Most social media sites also strip the metadata from your images, creating an instant orphan work.

Some options: 1) Have a internet usage license that excludes social media; 2) increase “internet” price to account for the additional uses that clients will now have; 3) have a “social media” license that specifies the social media sites to be used; 4) request that any images be posted along with specific copyright info; 5) provide a separate set of low resolution files specifically for social media use; 6) stick with the status quo, and let the chips fall where they may (just don’t get mad later).

Either way, be clear about what you intend and what your client expects. That is how you keep your client and stay in business.

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