I was reading a story over at A Photo Editor about how Haitian Photographer Daniel Morel is suing APF (Agence France Presse) for using images that he uploaded to Twitter after the earthquake in Haiti. Actually, Morel, who was in Haiti at the time of the quake, was one of the first photographers to document the destruction. He quickly set up a Twitter account and used TwitPic to upload pictures. It seems that some unscrupulous person claimed ownership of the images and then AFP used the images, which were then distributed by Getty, all without Morel’s permission. The whole story is very sorted and AFP is trying to claim that they did nothing wrong, especially since Twitter’s TOS states that any images posted in Twitter are fair game. The problem is that Morel didn’t upload images to Twitter. He actually used the TwitPic service, which links to images in Twitter and maintains that contributors maintain all rights to their images.
The story is very interesting and will probably have a lot of implications on photographer’s rights in the world of social media. There is another angle to this story and that is how to prevent something like this from happening with your images. If you read my buddy RC’s post yesterday over at Photoshop Insider, you know that watermarking your images is probably a fruitless effort. What you can do is edit your Exif data to make things easier for people to get in touch and strike a deal for your images.
I did a little experiment yesterday afternoon. First I took an old image of mine and opened it in Photoshop. Then I opened the Image Info by clicking File/File Info, which brings up the Exif dialog box. This is where you can append your image with a ton of data that will be saved with the image.
There are actually a lot of ways that you can do this besides using Photoshop. You can set up your Lightroom to automatically embed the info during file import, or even have it included at the time of capture by setting up Copyright Info right in your camera (this option is included with many newer dslr cameras).
Once I had the info saved in the file, I uploaded it to TwitPic. Then I did a simple right-click on the image in TwitPic, downloaded it to my computer, and opened it in Photoshop. When I checked the file info, I was pleased to find that all of my copyright and contact info was still there. You don’t even need to use Photoshop to do this, here’s a screen grab of the info screen using Apple’s Preview.
As you can see, anyone that wanted to contact me about my image would have no problems.
Of course many of you use Flickr to get your images seen by others and it is a very fertile location for anyone searching for usable imagery. The problem is that most people don’t set up their Flickr accounts to protect their images. The first thing you should do is to open the Privacy&Permissions section of your account and set it so that only you can download your images. Also, make sure that only you can blog your images. Setting these two simple options will ensure that anyone that wants to use your images will have to contact you first. You should also set your import settings so that your license is set to All Rights Reserved. I know that the Creative Commons license is pretty popular but if you plan on selling your images you want to make sure that you are claiming all rights.
Sure, there will always those that take your images by doing things like screen grabbing but if you give the honest ones a way to get in touch, they may not pass you by.