Caution about sharing photos online

Many photographers (including myself) post client photos online in password protected proofing galleries. This allows clients to share their photos with family and friends, while keeping them from the eyes of everyone on the internet. Occasionally clients or family members want to post wedding photos on a photo sharing web site. I caution clients against doing so and have added a clause about this in my current contract. One potential problem is that they may find their photos appropriated for use in advertising, without permission or compensation. Another potential problem is that someone may misrepresent the photos as their own.

Two news stories illustrate these potential problems. In 2007, Virgin Mobile launched a bus stop ad campaign using photos uploaded to Flickr.com. Photos posted on Flickr may be subject to a “Creative Commons by Attribution” license. This means that anyone can use them without compensation as long as they credit the author. A photo used by Virgin Mobile depicted 15 year-old Alison Chang at a fund-raising car wash by her church. The photo was taken by the church’s youth counselor who uploaded it to Flickr. Virgin Mobile allegedly used the photo without compensation and without obtaining Alison’s permission. The story is described on Wikipedia at this link.

In another news story, “Photographer finds Flickr pics sold on iStockphoto,” Icelandic photographer Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir found 25 of her photos being sold by another photographer on iStockphoto. Three of the photos were self-portraits!

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