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PPA Sheds Light on Facebook License Policy

What happens to image licenses when those images are posted to a third-party site?

Facebook found itself in hot water in early February after stating it would continue to hold a usage license on artistic works posted to its pages after the owner of those works deleted them from the site or closed his account. A public outcry elicited a quick about-face from the company. The following day, Facebook issued a statement clearly articulating that its license to use posted images expires when users delete them from the site or close their account.

In a letter sent to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, PPA stressed the importance of adhering to U.S. copyright laws and explained that copyright protection is integral to the livelihood of professional photographers.

The majority of Facebook’s 175 million users post photographs to their pages and many pro photographers incorporate Facebook in their marketing plan.

As content-sharers on Facebook, users have given the site a license to distribute and display their work. When any user (including a professional artist) posts an image to the site, he hasn't given away rights to that image, but allowed Facebook to show and share it. Facebook does not assume ownership of the work posted.

With the volume of online content sharing, PPA understands any website owner’s desire for protection when handling copyrighted creations. That’s why Facebook asks photographers to grant usage licenses for the images posted on its site.

Whenever someone views your images on your Web pages or a communal site, or when an image you created is queued up in a search, it qualifies as a reproduction of your work. Facebook is bound to ensure that you, as a site user, agree to the display and distributionof your images within its online community.

Content-sharing website owners will also use their terms of service statement to help content creators manage their copyrights. Facebook, for example, requires users to affirm that they’ve obtained permission to use any information or creative works they post to the site. Further, Facebook provides information on its adherence to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the procedures copyright owners can easily follow to get infringed works quickly removed from the site.

—Maria Matthews, PPA copyright andgovernment affairs manager