Copyright and Photo Use when Building A Brand Online.

Social media is a great place to share your life, your dreams, your thoughts and your business. You can make new friends and reconnect with old ones.

The dark side (because we always have to have one) of social media is that anything you post on the internet is public and available for unscrupulous people to take.

There are some legal laws that protect your images. I’ll briefly go over them and if you have specific questions please contact your intellectual property attorney.

1) The person that activates the shutter owns the copyright to the image, meaning that they get to say what happens to the image and make any money for selling the image.

2) The appropriate language for sale or giving permission to another person, company or corporation to use your images is to LICENSE the image. When you give a license it is just as important to say what your client can do with the image as is it is to be specific about what they cannot do. For example, “This license allow client to print the image number X created on X day up to size 8 x 10 for personal use only. All other rights reserved and prohibited, including resale of image rights, all other uses beyond creating a print for personal use only.” NEVER give or sale your copyright unless the client is prepared to pay you buckets of money.

3) Make sure that you put a decent sized copyright (year) your name on any images that you post on the internet. Also, do not assume that will protect you. Some people don’t care if they print or share your image with the copyright notice.

4) Copyright law provides some protections against people taking them, however, the only way to get enough protection to be worth litigation is to register the images with the copyright office. Once registered, the images are protected from infringement starting at $10,000 per infringement.

If someone infringes your copyright, there are several kinds of recourse, all depend on you. The first would be to notify the infringer that you are aware of the infringement and ask them not to continue, the second would be to notify the social media platform of the infringement and ask them to intervene. The third would be to hire an attorney to write a cease and desist letter and finally, you can sue for damages.

However, most have found that “self help” via an all out social media campaign against the infringer to embarrass them into stopping the infringement has been most successful and the quickest route to making it stop. To do this you need to enlist your network and ask them to take a specific action and/or set up a site that makes the infringer public.

This issue isn’t going away, however, if we make it social suicide to infringe, perhaps it will slow a bit.

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