Social media is a big part of our lives now. Some of us catch up on world news every morning by scrolling through Facebook. And some of us spend hours watching Instagram stories to catch up on everyone’s weekends. Imagine, as you scroll through Facebook you see that your friend posted a picture of you that you don’t like. Or, you see an ad with your profile picture promoting something you have no idea exists. What rights do you have if someone uses your photos on social media without your permission?
How Can Someone Access Your Photos on Social Media?
Social media is great, it’s fun and helps bring people closer. The problem with using social media is that many of us don’t read the fine print before signing up. Most privacy policies will tell you that if you voluntarily post something to the site, that information becomes public. That is unless you manually change those settings. Any public information, like your profile picture, will be available to anyone. This includes people who don’t have an account with that service.
Even if you post something privately, your friends could share that information, making it public. This means that even if you delete posts later on, they could still be available on the social media site.
You do not own the rights to an image just because you are in it. You need to be the person who captured that image in order to have rights. So if your friend took a photo of you, they created that content. As the owner, they are free to share or reproduce that image as they like. The exception to this is if you commissioned that image or agreed with the photographer that the rights to the image would belong to you.
Suppose your friend took a photo of you spontaneously and posted it to their Instagram, you don’t have legal standing under intellectual property law. The best solution in such circumstances is to simply as them to take it down.
What If I own the Copyright?
If you own the copyright to an image, you, as the creator of the image can exercise your rights if they have been infringed.
This means you can go to court and file for a civil action against the other party. However, this is a lengthy and expensive procedure. Also, the other party may argue that the image has been edited to such an extent that it does not resemble the original and therefore does not breach copyright. In any case, it is best to consider other options before going to court.
If the person who infringed your copyright is a friend, just ask them to delete it. If you find your image in a group, perhaps as a meme, then message the group administrator and let them know you own the copyright. Tell them that you do not consent to your image being used on their page. Should they refuse, consider the remedies your social media site offers. This can be things like reporting the image or group for violating community standards. You may even send them a cease and desist letter depending on the severity of the breach. You should consult a copyright lawyer for assistance if you choose to do so.
Another option is to file a complaint under the Australian Consumer Law for misleading or deceptive conduct, stating that the advertisement, using your image, misleads consumers about the business or product. Perhaps, if you are a social media influencer with a significant following, you may even argue the ad defames you and take an action through defamation law.
However, both these avenues would be lengthy. The outcome would heavily depend on the facts and its best to consult a lawyer before proceeding.
If your image has been used without your consent, the best thing to do is to ask the person to remove it. You could also have legal rights to those images you could exercise if you cannot work it out privately.
If you want to share photos on social media that is not yours, make sure you ask permission from the original creator and give credit. That would be the best way to make sure you are not violating anyone’s rights.
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