There are 500 million photos uploaded to Facebook every day and 40 million photos are posted on Instagram every day. (Source)
Impressive figures, but why do they matter? They matter because they represent opportunities, some that have been missed. With tens of hundreds of millions photos uploaded to social media every day, there's bound to be infringement on your content. Yes, YOURS. Let me explain in more detail below.
In the past year, when Robin Williams passed away and celebrity news sites were quickly churning out their tribute content and obituaries, a Traker told the team of how he was contacted for permission to use his photo of the late actor’s “star” on Hollywood Boulevard, and he allowed them to use it for free.
To be honest, when I heard he gave the photo away for free, I was flabbergasted. Here he had the opportunity to set some rules his copyright and he … gave it away? For free? No credit either? I felt like I had been personally wronged even though it was his choice and definitely his right to.
Chances are that in one of those moments you weren’t posting selfies on social media, you have posted a photo you took of an event, celebrity, or some other kind of shareable in-the-moment subject. And it’s also possible that in light of a highly publicized event or issue that relates to your photo or video, someone has contacted you to use said photo or video you posted.
As a Traker, I know that intellectual property and intangible assets are definitely worth more than zero, especially when they are so connected to a widely recognizable event or issue, like that time an animal took a selfie. Regardless of how positive or negative of an effect they have, these kinds of highly-discussed events are breeding grounds for valuable IP to develop even if the creator of that IP doesn’t realize it.
I asked Mary Juetten, our CEO, at what point does someone have to choose between officially filing for copyright and deciding to leave it with the default copyright all creators have?
Mary answered, "You have copyright once you express in a tangible medium but you cannot enforce infringement without registering with USCO. You can use the © symbol regardless."
With that answer in mind, I think that everyone should establish rules for how their content is shared. When someone contacts you to use your photos that is where you have a huge opportunity, because you’re actually aware of their intent and they were decent enough to ask. You can of course give it away for free without even asking for attribution, or you can demand them to pay a royalty fee. And the photos people might be looking for don’t have to be due to a recent event. Sometimes brands screw up big time and use a photo from social media for commercial purposes without permission, notably Lil’ Kim for one of her singles. That’s the type of event where it’s clearly time to whip out the can of Legal Whoopin’.
Ignorance is not bliss. Your content is valuable, and other people know it. Are you going to let them take advantage of you just because you "don't care" about your copyright? You are missing out if you let it happen. Establish rules.