You love using social media, but recently you've heard that you may no longer own some of the things you've posted online. You know that people can see what you've posted, but does that mean you gave up your rights?
When you post images or text to social media platforms, make sure you understand the contract you have with the company. When you sign up to have an account, you may find you're granting the company the right to use your images or text as it sees fit.
Social media: The contract
On one particular social media site, Facebook, users retain rights to their posts. However, just stating that doesn't make it true. Much of the risk to you comes from privacy settings on Facebook and other platforms. For instance, if you have your settings designed to allow the public to view your profile and posts, the contract you have with the company may no longer protect you.
Text is the least protected online, but photos and videos give you a better chance of maintaining your copyright. Under the above social media site's terms, the company retains the right to use any content you post in connection to its services. Essentially, anything you post online through the service becomes open to use by Facebook and any of its third-party partners. This catch to the contract is why you need to be particularly careful when sharing anything online, whether it's photos of you with friends or details about an upcoming work project.
Can't you restrict companies from using your images or text?
To some degree, yes. Social media companies generally only have control over your images or content for as long as they're online through the company's programs and applications. If you don't want the company to have a right to use something you've posted, it's within your best interests to remove it have have that content deleted from the server. Be careful, though, because even if you delete a post, it might still exist on a friend's page or somewhere else where you shared it. If that's the case, the business still holds the right to use your content in whatever way it sees fit without paying you for using it.
You can best protect yourself by being certain of the contracts you sign. If you're not sure if you should sign, it's usually in your better interests not to do so without an attorney's opinion.