Facebook and Copyright

Over the past week I have been placing many of my photos from Phoenix Alternative on Facebook. Phoenix Alternative is a high school in Laval, Quebec where I taught for two years and helped organize the yearbook.

My classroom in Phoenix where I used to teach from 2004-2006. I implemented a mural painting program at the school and studied its impact for my M.A. research at McGill University.

For several weeks now I have been getting in touch with former students and I thought to upload the yearbook photos onto Facebook to share the memories. The student response has been tremendous and I have received many special messages and words of affection. Phoenix has been warming my heart indeed!

However, a member of staff that I used to work with has been less warm or affectionate. Today I noticed that a former colleague from Phoenix had taken one of my pictures of her on Facebook, downloaded it, and uploaded it again as her Facebook profile picture without my consent. To make matters worse she had added me to her restricted privacy settings so that I could not even see the many photos that I had tagged her in. To me this was a slap in the face and I promptly removed her as a friend.

People need to be aware of the ethics of copyright on Facebook and the internet. Just because a friend has taken a good picture of you it does not mean that you have the right to download it and use it for your own purpose. That is stealing.

Photography is hard work. It requires skill and care. Moreover good camera equipment is expensive. Nothing irritates me more that when someone uses my photography without my consent or without giving photo credit.

Most photographers are happy to share their work provided they are given photo credit. Giving a photographer photo credit is a sign of respect for their work and talent. It is a small thing to do but it means a lot. Moreover, it is the correct ethical action so please remember to credit the work of your friends and colleagues.


24 Responses to “Facebook and Copyright”

  1. August 19, 2007 at 4:51 am

    I think you’re overreacting. Your friend ‘stole’ a picture of herself which she obviously likes and you want her to pay for it or something? She could have asked – that would have been polite – but you should respect her desire not to have photos of her plastered all over Facebook. Did you ask her permission?

    Sorry to sound a little harsh but in this instance I don’t think copyright is the issue here.

    • 2 elysse g
      May 31, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      I agree with the photographer on this one. Any photos taken are property of the photographer. Without consent from the photographer the image should not be downloaded and especially should not be posted without a photo credit. I am a photographer myself and it is wrong for people to assume just because you have photographed them that they own the rights to that photo.

      You obviously are not a photographer yourself so you clearly do not understand the time and effort that is put into photography.

      If copyright is not the issue…then what is?

  2. August 19, 2007 at 5:09 am

    p.s. How do you subscribe to comments? All the feeds on the right margin point to the whole blog. Am I missing something? Thanks!

  3. August 19, 2007 at 5:52 am


    You are totally missing my point. The point is for photo credit.

    -No where in my article do I mention money.

    -All I ask for is credit.

    -You also miss the point that she wants the photos on Facebook which is why she stole the photo to begin with and is using it as her profile picture.

    -All of my photographic subjects have the right not to have their image displayed and I make this clear in writing at the beginning of my photographic albums.

  4. August 19, 2007 at 5:57 am

    Naruwan, here is the link to subscribe to the comment feed on Jo’s blog. I know about the sidebar issue, it’s local to WP.com, nothing we can do about it.


  5. 6 globetrotteri
    August 19, 2007 at 9:07 am

    Good for you Jo! I applaud your decision to write about this issue. I can’t believe she took your photographs, blocked you as a friend and then reposted your work as her own. I only hope there’s a good explanation for this. Her behavior is completely unethical!

    For Joanna’s readers, might I add, in addition to working with several magazines in Taiwan and Canada, Joanna has always done a lot of pro-bono work. She doesn’t get paid for this type of work.

    I only know of one model who asked not to be featured on Joanna’s personal websites. Joanna complied with her wishes.

    Jo shares her photography with her friends and family on Facebook and her blog. She only asks that she get the credit she deserves for her photography. To be blocked by someone after they’ve taken your work is a real slap in the face.

    Good for you for standing up for yourself!

  6. August 19, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    I do see where you’re coming from Joanna, and I did say that she should have asked you.

    At the same time, there are privacy issues here as well. If I were to hazard a guess as to why she blocked you on Facebook – not a nice thing to do, I agree – I’d say it was because she doesn’t want other people in control of images of her. I have to admit I would not like other people to upload and tag pictures of me without asking me for permission.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not siding with your photo-filcher! Just pointing out how some people feel awkward about having their images posted online by someone else. She went about it the wrong way by blocking you though.

  7. August 20, 2007 at 1:40 am


    I am very sensitive to privacy issues and always remove a photo if it offends a subject. In addition I always ask permission from the model before every photo shoot and only ever post flattering images of subjects.

    This brings me back to the whole point of this article which is that the internet makes it too easy for people to rip-off photography and the importance of giving photo credit.

    Any photographer amateur or professional will have their work used without their consent at some point. This is a very common occurrence and its not o.k.

    However, photography can also be used to share memories, history, emotion, beauty, and culture. That is why I take pictures and why I run this blog.

  8. June 27, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    If you are concerned about protecting your copyrights, you should never upload your photos to Facebook. By uploading the photo, you gave away the (exclusive) copyrights to Facebook. If Facebook wants to sell, license, transfer copyright, or sublicense your work, they have that right.

    Now, just because you lost exclusive rights to the photo, doesn’t mean that your former coworker had any right to photo… but Facebook has the right to give her the copyright. I doubt you can prove that Facebook did not do that (I’m sure she just downloaded it)… but this is entirely a U.S. copyright law issue.

    The other issue at hand is the rights of individuals who are the subjects of photographs. In the Netherlands, they give more rights to the subjects of photographs. I tend to think that subjects should have more rights to use photographs and make copies for their personal use. I believe that should fall into the terms of “fair use” of copyright law.

    A problem for photographers, authors, and musicians… or rather the copyright owner of any audio or visual work, is that in a digital world, perfect copies of an original can be made, and there is no difference between the two… and it is possible to make infinite copies. Actually… every time someone views your photograph on Facebook, a new copy has been made. The file on the server is not moved, but copied and sent over the Internet to the client machine. Your former coworker “downloaded” the image the moment she viewed it on her machine… she then “saved” the downloaded image for later use.

    So… I don’t mean to be harsh, but if you want to protect the copyright and use of an image, NEVER make it publicly available online in a digital form. It’s really a case of having your cake and eating it too. You have to decide whether you want to maintain control over an image or if you want to share it with the online world.

    These are just my opinions as a musician, photographer, graphic designer, videographer, software engineer, and B.S. of New Media Communication. I enjoy being a part of the conversation.

    Below is an excerpt from the Facebook Terms of Service:
    “By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.”

  9. 10 Geoff
    August 13, 2008 at 5:34 pm


    Fellow photographer researching Facebook’s right over your picture. They Reserve the right to use your content (including pictures) in connection with facebook. Now that mean’s they have the rights to the picture, luckily they don’t abuse this right. What has happened here though is your friend has clicked the “use this as your Profile picture” button, and then cropped it (it does this all online) and used it. I’d say she has full right, she wouldn’t have downloaded it, she just clicked an option on facebook 🙂

    This happens to me all the time. Feel flattered, it’s a better feeling than offended 🙂

  10. August 14, 2008 at 1:07 am

    Hi Geoff,

    Thank you for your comment. You are right in that once you put something on facebook it is no longer yours according to their copyright.

    However, it the case of my former friend she was someone who I had discussed my photography and copyright with. In several conversations I had clearly communicated to her how upsetting it can be to have your images used without your permission or consent online. Overall, it does not bother me if someone wants to use a photograph. I just prefer to be asked and provided with a photo credit.

  11. 12 Marla Aufseeser
    August 20, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks for this article!! I’ve been having really similar problems and am super-frustrated…Glad to know I’m not alone.

  12. June 19, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Talk about Alice In Wonderland.

    The photographer is complaining about the subject of a photo using that photo for her own noncommercial purposes?

    Are you kidding me? If anyone is unethical, it is the photographer! Nowhere do I see where the photographer has a model’s release, so I question the right of the photographer to use this photo herself.

    And even if the photographer did have a model’s release, that still would not prevent the subject of the photo also using it, unless the photographer had an explicit contract forbidding it, e.g. granting to the photographer an exclusive copyright, which doesn’t seem to be the case here.

    The photographer here illustrates an observation I have made many times. There are a lot of delusional, mixed up people in the world. It is important to size up people quickly and stay away from nuts.

    I think you owe the subject of the photo an apology for publishing her photo in a venue that was not contemplated when the photo was originally taken.

    Then the photographer may want to talk to a therapist about her over-inflated ego and exaggerated self-importance.

    You need a lot of help.

    • April 25, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      You are completely incorrect. You do not need a model release of any photograph that was taken in a public setting, otherwise no one would ever be able to take a picture for the newspaper. If this was a yearbook photo that was in a controlled setting (e.g. the little portraits that are done), she already gave her implicit model release when she sat for the photo. The photographer alone holds the copyright of the photo and the fact that she is using it for noncommercial purposes bears no meaning on that copyright.

  13. 15 Buck
    June 30, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Mr. Morgan,
    your concept of copyright is completely inaccurate. The creator of an image, no matter whether they are professional or not, retains the copyright. They alone have the right to do what they want with the photo, unless they sign those rights away. Just because I were to photograph someone and give/sell them a photo, that does not give them the right to do anything with it, other than display it. It is against the law for them to make copies or alter the image in any way, unless permission is given by the image creator.

    Having a model release would make the situation better. There is nothing unethical about using a photo to promote yourself. What would be unethical, would be to use it KNOWING that the subject asked that you didn’t.

    I recently found an image of mine being used to promote another business without my permission. I asked them to kindly refrain from using it or pay me for using it. I didn’t ask for credit (as the OP did) as I am in the business of selling images.

    I do agree that “there are a lot of delusional, mixed up people in the world. It is important to size up people quickly and stay away from nuts.”

    I don’t think the OP owes the “friend” an apology at all. Just my opinion.

  14. 16 Rich
    July 6, 2009 at 11:49 am

    As photographers we must protect our Copyright at all times but to the same degree we need to exercise commonsense in how we present our work and where we create our boundaries. No self respecting photographer should upload a single image to Facebook until such a time as they clarify or more important amend their Terms and Conditions. Imagine a situation where you offer exlcusivity to a client for a fixed period but this image is on Facebook and they decide to use it for their own advertising ? You will have then damaged your own professional reputation and opened yourself up to a potential lawsuit for breach of contract. Control over Copyright must always be maintained.

    On another note model releases should be sought for every single image where you intend to make commercial use of the work. I wonder how on this front Facebook could use any image unless they have confirmed that a model release exists.

    Your friends behaviour appears peculiar but maybe there is more to it ? Once however you upload the image you give up certain rights, once you tag it Facebook does indeed give the individual the right to use the photo. The site is technically built on the basis of communication and sharing.

    Although I can see your frustration I think in this case it is more the straw that broke the camels back and you should be more concnerned about presenting any work on sights such as Facebook rather than worrying overtly about the personal, non commercial use of a photo by a former friend.

    Good luck with your photography.

  15. 17 Sympathiser
    September 30, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Hello Joanna,

    When I read your blog about your former friend using your photo, it reminded me somewhat about the struggle I had with 3 websites who will remain unnamed and their refusal to delete information that I had posted under my full name about 5 or 6 years ago.

    The information I posted was not damning or insulting to any individual or any company, but as an author about to be published, I felt it necessary to remove any unwanted information from the internet that I had posted previously.

    This was a lot tougher than what I had first thought! Without wanting to go into details about all this, 2 websites eventually complied with me after a lot of persuasion and the 3rd of these websites and I were very close to court action over the whole drama.

    The experience I went through did get particularly nasty even though I was dealing with long established professional websites. The battle raged for just under 6 months with the third site, that was until I decided that I had lost enough patience and sleep over the whole thing. I bluffed that I had an appointment with a team of solicitors about another matter the next day and even gave them the name of a law firm, fake appointment time etc. I said if the information in question was not removed before the scheduled appointment that I saw it fit to add the greivance to my existing legal battle over another privacy matter.

    When I got up the following morning to go to work, I checked the website in question and the information that we had been arguing over had vanished! I was so shocked at the fact that they had been able to erase it all along even though they kept fobbing me off with things like ‘we do not have an IT representative to handle your querie’ etc etc.

    Even though your web experience concerns your photography, to me it is just the same thing… Websites using your stuff, purely because they can.

    My advice is to be very careful over what you put on the internet. Be very careful especially if your name is attached to it. You just never know when it will come back and haunt you!

    Anonymous! See I have learned my lesson!

  16. 18 Lexie
    January 2, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I have a question which maybe some you can help me with. I am a musician about to release an album. If a photographer takes my picture and I want to purchase the pictures to use as album artwork and on my website, does that mean that the copyright transfers to me? or do i only get permission to utilise them but the photographer retains the copyright. My concern is that if the photographer retains the copyright they can later sell the same pictures to another party who can make prints of these pictures and sell them when I am established. Also, if the photographer takes pictures of a client and then posts them up on their portfolio on facebook do I as the purchasing client lose my control over the redistribution of these pictures. I am not too concerned with the individual who copys and pastes a picture to their profile or to their screensaver etc; just about commercial use and reselling of the image.

    any information regarding the business and the rights held by the photographer vs the rights held by the subject of the photo would be muchly appreciated! without a great artistic photogrpaher I wouldnt have great pictures to market myself as an artist and to use as a fantastic album cover; however I would still like to protect the use of the image as it is a picture of myself..

    many many thanks!!!


  17. June 26, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    When you upload a photo to facebook you loose all copyrights of that photo. Facebook terms says that it now owns the copyrrights to that photo and may do as they please with the photo, which means other people can download that photo and use it as they please!. If you dont like it dont upload a photo to FB. its that simple!

  18. 20 AJ
    January 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I’ve looked over the comments by “Dawson” and “Bob” and if you actually read the excerpt “Dawson” provided from the Facebook “Terms of Service” it reads that as a photographer loading images to Facebook you grant a license to use the images but you do not give, sell, sign over or otherwise relinquish your COPYRIGHT! This discrepancy is all the difference and I explain this to my clients over and over– I give them a license to use the images– I do not give them ownership and RIGHTS over them.

    All “Jorees” and many of us are looking for is credit for our work and not to feed our egos but in order to possess that which we created and earned. If you lost $500 that you earned and someone picked it up and pocketed it and then went on to brag about how they earned all this money in one day would you be okay with that? No– it’s unethical , not to mention, illegal!

  19. 21 Bethany
    April 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    A model’s release is not necessary if the photo was taken in a public place. Then the photographer can use the photo for whatever purpose he/she wishes – even selling it. Doesn’t mean it’s always ethical, as in the case of tabloid journalism, but it’s definitely legal. I would check into the legaleze about schools and whether they are considered a public place.

    In addition, if you are a professional photographer, create your own website and publish previews securely, without allowing downloads, while labeling them with a copyright stamp so they can be previewed for purchase without being copied or downloaded. Many professionals do that for stock photography catalogs.

    On another point, every “borrowed” image I’ve seen on Facebook credits the original poster of the photo.

  20. 22 Brandon
    January 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm


    ‘Nuff said.

    Also, if your photos aren’t registered with the US Copyright Office, then anyone can take them off Facebook…including Facebook, and use them however they want.

    Either stop complaining about one silly photo that you took of someone else; or go through the proper channels to get the copyrights for your photos. Until that point, you have no legal entitlement to ANY compensation, photo credit; and it certainly is NOT stealing.

  21. 23 walter shin
    February 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    are you joking? this is why professional photographers have to deal with poorly informed people regarding copyrights. Please research photo copyright laws more carefully.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Jo’s tweets


RSS rss feed

  • Grow With HubSpot New York February 23, 2016
    The marketing software company HubSpot sponsored an event at Irving Plaza in New York, NY on Thursday February 18th to provide an overview of their services to potential clients and marketers. HubSpot markets through Web 2.0, social media, email marketing, CRM, and blogs. The event began at 2pm and began with a session on how […]
    Jo Rees
  • TCS NYC Marathon Long Training Run #1: Race review July 26th, 2014 August 14, 2014
    Pacers from the New York Flyers running club 20.9 miles 8’37” pace/mile time This was a very meaningful race that I’d trained hard for. I knew that running 20 miles along the rolling hills of Central Park was going to be a challenge. I wanted to finish and finish strong. The race began at 7am and […]
    Jo Rees
  • Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon Race Review: 1:49:40, June 22nd 2014 August 14, 2014
    This was a special race as it took place in my hometown of Vancouver, BC. I had wanted to run a Vancouver race for a while and it was an absolute pleasure to run through UBC, West Van, and Stanley Park for 13.10 miles. The course began at UBC’s Thunderbird Arena and ran along SW […]
    Jo Rees
  • Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon: Race Review 3:58:18 August 14, 2014
    It was a great experience to run my first marathon at home in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois on April 26th. I decided to run with the 3:50 pace group and met a lot of interesting people on the course. Our pacer Steve had run 13 marathons in one year and I connected with others who traveled across […]
    Jo Rees
  • February 2014 April 12, 2014
    Here are some images from New York and Urbana, Il from February 2014
    Jo Rees
  • PicFrame Collages March 17, 2014
    Here are photographs from our trip to Washington DC last weekend that are framed using the PicFrame app.
    Jo Rees
  • Photographs from January 2014 February 10, 2014
    Here are some images from Urbana, IL and New York, NY from January 2014
    Jo Rees
  • Photographs from December 2013 February 9, 2014
    Images from the holidays in Urbana, IL and New York, NY  
    Jo Rees
  • Photographs from November 2013 February 9, 2014
    Here are some images from last November in Urbana, IL and New York, NY
    Jo Rees
  • Photographs from October 2013 February 9, 2014
    Here are some images from Urbana, IL from last October and early November
    Jo Rees

RSS rss comment feed

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS rss photography

  • Alps and glaciers, Chamonix/Mont Blanc June 20, 2018
    Mike Howe
  • 06/20/2018 June 20, 2018
    79/100 of #the100dayproject 100 days of color I missed the deadline again for Monochrome Madness but
    Lisa Chelkowski
  • Young Great Egrets June 20, 2018
    This pair of juveniles is one of the last active nests in this rookery. The Egret young hatched over
    Ted Jennings - TPJ Photography
  • Wallpaper nest June 20, 2018
  • Notice-Me Prints June 20, 2018
    Notice-me prints ASK, and it shall be given to you!
    Navya Ravichandra

%d bloggers like this: