How to Copyright Your Picture on Facebook

by Fraser Sherman
Two people are browsing their laptop.

Two people are browsing their laptop.

Any time you create a work of art, which includes taking a photograph, you become the copyright holder. You don't have to do anything because copyright is automatic and vested in you as soon as the work is finished. Posting the photo on Facebook -- or Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram, for that matter -- doesn't affect your copyright. However, you forfeit control over what Facebook can do with your photo.

Facebook Rules

If you read Facebook's terms of use, you won't find any claim to copyright of your photos. At the time of publication, the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities says when you post images "you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license" to use them. While the pictures are legally yours, Facebook may post them elsewhere at will or license them to some other site, without reimbursing or notifying you.

Options Limited

Formally registering the copyright doesn't affect Facebook's license to use the photos. About the only thing you can do if you're concerned is delete the photos from the site. Under Facebook's current terms of service, deleting the photos ends the license you granted -- unless you shared the images with another Facebook user who doesn't delete them. If Facebook sub-licensed them to some other website, that sub-license remains in effect too. You'll have to contact the licensee and ask about taking the photos down.

About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

Photo Credits

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