Copyright and social media: Who owns your media?

You always share your images online. In fact, you have a great following because of all the images you post. You are an influencer, and you love it.

Unfortunately, you've found that the sites you post on have been using your images for promotion. You see others taking your images, too. Is that fair or legal? What should you do?

The good thing for you to know is that copyright is pretty simple. Whenever you make something, whether it's taking a photo of yourself or creating a poem, it belongs to you. With copyright, you don't have to seek a copyright. You don't need to fill out forms or pay a fee.

Even on the web, this applies in most cases. When you post an image on your website, it still belongs to you. If someone tries to take it and use it as their own, then you can generally ask them to stop or seek compensation for profits they've made from your work.

How does posting on social media affect your copyright or rights to your work?

Once you post to Facebook or other social media platforms, you're giving that website or platform a license to reuse those images or that content for its own purposes. On top of that, you won't receive royalties of any kind for doing so.

For example, Facebook currently receives a "non-exclusive, sub-licensable, worldwide, royalty-free and transferable license." On Instagram, the license is exclusive, royalty-free, fully paid and transferable. It is sub-licensable and a worldwide license.

This might seem vague, but the intention is usually to allow the social media platform to use your pictures or other data without having to pay you or infringing on your copyright. For example, if your post comes up in a hashtag search, the company won't be liable for displaying it. Similarly, if Facebook takes one of your images to use in a promotion, you also won't be able to receive royalties, and the company won't be in violation of your copyright.

Though the companies do receive the right to use your work, that doesn't mean that you lose your copyright. It also doesn't mean that anyone on these platforms can take your work as their own. If someone takes your image or work off your social media account and uses it elsewhere, you can still pursue a claim against them and take legal action to make them stop.

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