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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

If you post to Twitter, does twitter own your photos and artwork?

A few of us at twitter (thanks @ashuping) were having a discussion about images & creative commons which expanded to microblogging. A few months ago I read a really interesting post arguing that if you post an image through twitter it is essentially public and free to be used by anybody (or at least that is how I read the article). Now, I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. However, I am artist and I do share my work on social media sites. Generally, I use Picnik to push through to facebook and to twitter and even to picasa!

I used to use Flickr alot and I've been thinking about going back to Flickr because it does support metadata, cc licensing, and a host of other features...but it bothers that I was paying for a PRO account, but I couldn't use it commercially. Just seems ridiculous. Anyhow, I digress.

I think Twitter's TOS on the surface sound scary, but it seems to me that linked/embedded images (such as those pushed through via flickr, youtube, etc.) would retain their original copyright/licensing at their "home" sites - after all, we all share all sorts of things via sharing links and hotlinking; hotlinking involves borrowing (or stealing depending on the viewpoint of the hosting site) bandwidth, but the image is still on its home site where it is protected via license/copyright (if the home site supports that). It seems that is the argument that Eric Reagan, a lawyer is taking (his post really describes the whole situation). As Eric points out, there is always human interpretation, though.

So what is an artist to do? My suggestion is to use a site where you can control licensing, watermark and use the lowest resolution you can. We already have to compress our photos greatly, so photos on the web are never truly the original creation. As for sites where you can't assign licensing or copyright, you have to make the decision as to whether you want to do use them and how. Maybe watermarking suffices; maybe not - read the TOS. Since a majority of my work is 2D mixed media, a photograph is never going to truly approximate the actual image; for photographs it is a little more tricky.

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