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BUSINESS & LEGAL BLOG: Social Media and your Photography

6 February 2020

Nigel Riches copy

© Nigel Riches

There’s no doubt that social media use by all ages continues to grow year on year. Whatever your own view of social media platforms, they’re pretty much an inescapable aspect of online life, not only in our personal space but work-life too. That’s particularly true if you’re a professional image-maker and work with brands of any size.

We face a number of problems engaging with social media as an outlet for our work, either produced to promote ourselves, or made for our clients to showcase themselves, the most significant of which is control… or rather, the loss of it. All social media platforms are essentially private companies providing a service to us as customers, although it can often feel, given the lack of competition, that they are somehow above that status. When we create an account on a platform, we agree to the terms of use of that platform, and 99% of people will not have read those terms, in particular, what we allow those companies to do with our content and with our data. It’s significant that we give those companies a very broad grant of rights, in relation to both aspects.

Twitter, in particular, over the past few years starting in around 2017, have been tweaking the terms of use that one agrees to by signing up to, using and continuing to use, their platform. Gone are phrases about ‘respecting an individual’s intellectual property’ to be replaced with an alarmingly broad extension of their licence to use. The key phrase in Twitter’s terms is;

“You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organisations or individuals for the syndication, broadcast, distribution, Retweet, promotion or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use. Such additional uses by Twitter, or other companies, organisations or individuals, is made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services as the use of the Services by you is hereby agreed as being sufficient compensation for the Content and grant of rights herein.”

In plain English, this says that simply using Twitter’s service provides enough compensation for any uses that Twitter may deem to put your work to as outlined above. Note that this includes (or rather, does not exclude) any commercial use. You are, in effect, giving Twitter an open cheque book and saying, ‘help yourself to my work – I’m just happy to be able to use your service’.

We think this is wrong and we would recommend anyone that wants to use Twitter to show work that you post a link to work hosted elsewhere, rather than posting original material directly onto the platform. Twitter, so far, is the only platform to have broadened its rights in this way.

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