Who owns your image?

By Tina Wickliffe

An image, your image, will generally get more likes and shares than a text post on social media, but once uploaded, what rights do you have to your image?  Do you still own it?

Take this scenario:  Wiki snaps a photo of Jess, and Jess uploads that photo to her Instagram or Facebook - who owns the image - Wiki or Jess? 

In the first instance, it’s the photographer that owns the image. 

But as lawyer Hayley Putaranui explains, “If Jess has paid Wiki to take the photo of her, then Jess owns it.  To establish ownership of copyright the '©' symbol is normally used, but if Jess wants to enforce her ownership she would have to go to court to prove that.  If the image goes on Jess’s Facebook page, then Jess is the owner of that”. 

Confused?  When you sign up to a platform like Facebook, its terms and conditions say that, as a user, all content you publish belongs to you. 

But read further along and you’ll come across words like non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free and worldwide license. 

This language essentially gives to Facebook the right to do whatever it likes with your content, and that includes passing it on to third parties.

“You don’t pay them for the service, but bearing in mind they do make their money from selling what you use and your experience on their platform to other people,” says Putaranui. 

“The reality is, if I’ve been in a kapa haka competition, my image is being used, have I got the resource at my disposal to go and sue someone?  So you try emailing Mark Zuckerberg or his staff...very fraught with difficulty.  And that’s the short answer”.

The other short answer if you’re worried about the safety of your images?  Delete, delete, deactivate.

Unless of course that image is shared, in which case it will remain on the social media platform. 

Remember, you gave an implied right under the terms of service.