When I post online I do not do it with the intention of making money off of it. I do it because it is fun to stay in touch with everyone (in a sense) and let people know what you are up to without having all 1,000 of your Facebook friends at your side. However, when you post online, you are not only reaching all of your Facebook friends, but you are also reaching outside companies who may want a chunk of what you are posting.
Kathy Gill reports on a case of copyright infringement in Haiti in “Who Really owns your photos in social media?” An amateur photographer had pictures that were used by outside companies from his Twitpic account. The companies did not follow the guidelines set out about pictures put out on sites like Twitpic. While Twitpic may have protected the photographer’s rights in their rules and guidelines, other sites do not offer as protective of a license on the pictures posted.
The fact that these sites (which don’t keep the pictures copyright to the photographer) do this to get money from outside companies is beyond greedy. They already get enough with frequent advertisements, why do they have to sell our pictures to outside sources as well? Clay Shirky describes the usage of photos by a larger group in “Institutions Vs. Collaboration”. He says that just by doing a search online, you can find pictures from tons of people from everywhere. He describes the 80/20 curve where the top people contribute many more photos than the bottom 80%. I believe these companies are using the internet as their database to find pictures that they want for themselves.
When the websites online monetize your photos, and the outside companies buy them off of you, the person in the middle who took the picture is the big loser. As I mentioned earlier, my intentions of posting pictures or anything online are not to make money off of it. Still, if your pictures end up being one of a kind, they should still be in your name. Think about how picture ownership was before the digital age. Take a picture, print it out, you are the only one who has it unless you make copies (your call). Just because technology improved, why should the ownership of these pictures change? Someone has to stick up for the little guy (us, the photographers) and protect our pictures. In the pre-digital era it would be like someone physically taking the picture from you, now it is just so much easier. It is almost like we need a lawyer to protect the rights of our online lives. With the economy so bad in this country do we really need to go through so much to protect what is our’s? Stop making money off of us, and give us our fair shot to get some internet fame.