Can somebody use your images and repost in Instagram?
First of all, let me begin by saying I am not a lawyer, so nothing that I say should be taken as legal advise. If you want to be 100% clear on your legal rights you should contact a lawyer.
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Who doesn’t love Instagram? It’s filled with beautiful and curated images that inspire us… and sometimes make us crush on somebody else’s life.
Half the time though, it’s not somebody else’s life we are crushing on… it is a story they are creating using images that don’t belong to them. There are certainly lots of users who go about this the right way and hire a photographer to follow them around to capture the story and look they want… or others who use their own photographs.
I don’t blame people. It’s become commonplace to use images without consent especially now with repost apps that make us think it’s ok to do.
The thing is. It’s not.
I know you know that because you are a photographer who has worked hard to build a business out of your talent, and you understand the true value of an image. The task now is to kindly explain to non-photographer Instagram users what copyright is, and why it is important not only to what you do as a photographer, but also to what they do in their business as well. It serves none of us in the end. Let’s break it down.
Instagram’s community guidelines explicitly states
Share only photos and videos that you’ve taken or have the right to share.
As always, you own the content you post on Instagram. Remember to post authentic content, and don’t post anything you’ve copied or collected from the Internet that you don’t have the right to post. Learn more about intellectual property rights.
“Your own content” means anything you have taken with your camera or device or created in a graphics program on your own. Anything “you’ve copied or collected from the internet that you don’t have the right to post” means ANYTHING screen-grabbed, pulled, screen-captured or reposted from anywhere other than something you have created yourself or have gotten written permission from the creator to repost or share.
The thing is… not everybody knows this to be true… especially with the introduction of Instagram repost apps that seem legit and encourage re-use of images without consent from the creator. It happens all the time, and chances are, you don’t even know when your images have been used unless you do a Google image reverse search… but even then, Instagram images don’t always show up in a Google search.
Most users do not know that reposting with credit to the photographer is not enough as far as copyright image usage is concerned…. most do not know that they need credit in writing.
What do you do if you find your image being used without persmission.
Be kind. Most people don’t know they are doing anything wrong as there is confusing and ambiguous information out there about it. They are most likely doing it without understanding, and will gladly want to rectify the situation quickly once it is brought to their attention.
Email or message the user directly and ask them to either
a.) provide a proper credit for your work, and inform them that next time they need to ask for your permission before use.
b.) ask them to kindly remove the image as you did not provide consent for them to use it, and you own the copyright to the image.
c.) Tell them how pleased you are that they love your imagery, but that there is a cost attached to using the images… you would be happy to send an invoice along for the use.
d.) Tell them that you are flattered that they love your work, and that many influencers, businesses and brands have hired you to do photo shoots for them to fill their feed with high quality, on-brand images that make their feed stand out. Would they like to set up a consult?
e.) If they have a product or service that you would like to try or use, ask them if they would like to do a trade for fair value use of your images… just make sure you know the dollar value of your image usage, and offer a dollar for dollar trade.
If you have tried the above options, and they refuse to remove the image, then you can report it to Instagram for copyright infringement, but I highly recommend contacting them first to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The value of photo credit in exchange for image usage
Most Instagram users do not know that credit to a photographer is expected even when they are paid for their work. Credit is not providing you as a photographer enough value for your work. Credit is not a currency, and usually does not lead to any further exposure for your brand… even on influential accounts. A proper shout out or testimonial is definitely of value, but I would suggest asking for referrals as credit in and of itself doesn’t usually lead to much… and should be given regardless of payment.
Educate people on what you do, and why the costs are the way they are. You use expensive equipment that you have to replace frequently. You have business expenses just like anybody else, and you have to pay for permits and insurance beyond what other businesses might have to pay. If you aren’t paid… you don’t have a business.
This is an issue in all areas of intellectual property: music, photographs, graphics… and I’ve even heard of people ripping youtube videos and showing it as if it is their content. We all want things to look and sound fabulous, but we don’t want to have to pay for it. The thing is…. you have something that everybody wants. You have the creative edge that is necessary for businesses to have a presence online. Know that value and charge what you are worth. I know it’s tempting to help people who are just starting out… and that’s super cool… just make it a fair trade, otherwise you are going to watch their business blow up and you are going to stay in “just getting started mode” because now the standard is set and nobody wants to pay for it because somebody will always do it for free.
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