Do Companies Need Permission to Post Pictures on Facebook?
By Jeremy Bradley
Facebook is a great way for your business to engage with current and potential customers. Besides posting status updates, sales promotions and other items of interest, Facebook allows business pages to post pictures. However, before you post photos or images, you need to make sure that you have legal or social permission to do so. Some types of images requires written permission before you can use them; with other types of photos, particularly those you've taken yourself, it's just best practice to ask permission of those featured in the images. Separating the images into categories can help you decide whether you need to seek permission to post the pictures on Facebook.
Using Your Own Photos
Using pictures that you've taken exclusively for the business' Facebook page is the safest option. Since you own the photos, you don't have to get permission from anyone else before using them, unless the images contain customers or employees. In those cases, simply ask the people in the photo to give you written permission to use the image. This can be in the form of an informal email or a consent form that you prepare and ask them to sign. This protects you from anyone coming back later to say that they're upset or angry that you've included them on Facebook without their permission.
If you haven't taken the photo yourself and you've obtained it from a website or search engine, chances are the image is copyrighted. There are a range of Internet sources available for finding pictures. Even ones that appear relatively straightforward, such as Google Images, may contain copyrighted photos. Always make sure you check the permissions on the photo's description before you use it. You may have to purchase the rights to use the photo from its creator or distributor. Also beware that even photos that are licensed under Creative Commons or the public domain often require you to give credit to the creator or photographer in the photo's caption. Always check the image source to determine the requirements for using a photo -- and if there's any doubt, contact the owner before using it.
If your business hosts an event where large numbers of people from the general public, including customers, attend, you are generally free to upload those photos on Facebook without seeking the permission of all of the numerous people in the photos. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy at public events, and therefore you are under no legal obligation to seek permission. However, if you want to be doubly sure of protecting yourself from future problems, post a sign at the event letting people know that photos will be taken, or as you can group shots, kindly inform the persons in the pictures that the images will be posted on Facebook. This gives them an opportunity to opt out of being in the picture if they so choose.
As you might suspect, Facebook prevents businesses and personal users from uploading images of an extremely graphic nature, especially if those images contain nudity. While Facebook does not prevent you from doing so, you might also want to watch out for posting pictures of children. Anyone under the age of 18 cannot legally consent to being included in your Facebook page, so veer away from posting their photos unless you get permission from their parents or legal guardians. The bottom line is to keep your business' legal interests at heart. Try not to do anything that will jeopardize anyone's privacy or that ill potentially can get your business into trouble.
Jeremy Bradley works in the fields of educational consultancy and business administration. He holds a Master of Business Administration degree.