Social Media: Using Your Photos To Promote Their Businesses

© Paul Mozell

Have you read the Terms of Service Agreements for your favorite social media sites recently? If you sheepishly answer “No,” you’re not alone. Those documents are as thrilling as EULAs – the End User License Agreements attached to all the software we use. Late December is here and in addition to making all those change-my-life, lose-that-weight resolutions, it’s a good time to brush up on what we are all giving away for free to cyber-space. For Free. Yes, with few exceptions, we are all giving those household names the rights to use the images and photographs we upload to their servers for promotional purposes and possibly much more.

Of course I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t play one on TV, but it is clear to me that the following Terms of Service agreements give FaceGoogleLink plenty of loopholes to crawl through in the event they want to commercialize one of your photographs. To me, it sounds as though they are talking out of two sides of their mouths at once.

Check out these excerpts from the most popular sites:


Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

FB logo has similar terms:

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

linkedINlogo may be the boldest

You own the information you provide LinkedIn under this Agreement, and may request its deletion at any time, unless you have shared information or content with others and they have not deleted it, or it was copied or stored by other users. Additionally, you grant LinkedIn a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sublicenseable, fully paid up and royalty-free right to us to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, process, analyze, use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, any information you provide, directly or indirectly to LinkedIn, including, but not limited to, any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques or data to the services, you submit to LinkedIn, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or to any third parties. Any information you submit to us is at your own risk of loss as noted in Sections 2 and 3 of this Agreement.


500px. This up-and-coming photo-sharing site uses some language that is similar to the terms of the big boys, but they do have a callout on their page with his statement.

Your photos will preserve whatever copyright they had before uploading to this site. We will protect the copyright and will not sell your photos without your permission.

I like 500px; I have a free subscription and I know they appreciate the loyalty of their professional and non-professional photographer audience. I heard the founder of 500px speak on TWIP, (This Week In Photo) podcast and he confirmed this policy. This is your call to make, of course. I’m just posting the raw details here for your interpretation. If you want a presence on these sites—and it’s hard to avoid them these days—you might give some protection to your copyright by posting your photographs on a site you control and then put nothing more than a thumbnail link on FaceGoogleLink.


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