Facebook users 'devalue photographers' work'

Facebook users are accused of breaching copyright and depriving photographers of revenue by uploading professionally taken pictures without consent.

Following its announcement last month that 750,000 photos were uploaded within a weekend, the website now says more professional images are being submitted for profiles and in shareable albums.

“People aren’t knowingly breaking the law, they just need to be made aware,” said Steve Hewlett, of photo insurance provider In Focus, which is warning Facebook users to think twice before hitting ‘upload.’

“You can’t just take a photographer’s work off their website or online proofing albums; it lowers the value of their work. Photographers are entitled to ask Facebook users to remove their images and can take legal action if they refuse.”

His comments refer to the fact that copyright belongs to the person or group who took the photograph, unless the photographer was contracted to take the images on condition the client owns the copyright.

Even then, Facebook users can still expose themselves to a legal claim from the owner of the photography when uploading pictures or imagery other than those they own or personally created.

Keith Arrowsmith, of intellectual property law firm Ralli reflected: “I have been involved in cases where consumers have been faced with demands for hundreds of pounds of licence fees after unwittingly using unauthorised photos online.

“There is a certain amount of naivety regarding what can and can’t be used without permission. The facts speak themselves, however, and people do get caught and do get in trouble for using images they have found online without seeking prior permission.”

In Focus said it would be advising photographers to supply an ‘Image license’ document outlining what clients can or can’t do with the imagery. Hewlett said: “It’s good business practice to make things clear.”


24th February 2011

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