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Get to Know a Pro: How Justin Van Leeuwen “protects” his work online—Part 3

My facebook timeline page – did I check the TOS before uploading? Can others just access my work freely?

Our friend, Ottawa photographer Justin Van Leeuwen, is a member of the CanvasPop Pro Community and is sharing his insights on “protecting” your photos online.  Here’s part 3 of his 3-part series (check out the first and second posts). 

If you’re uploading your images to a service like Flickr or Facebook, you should really, really (really) pay attention to the Terms of Service (TOS). You know that huge disclaimer you didn’t read when you signed up and clicked on “agree”, or “ok”, “yes I have read it” (even though you didn’t?)? Those terms will often govern the usage of your image or strip your rights through the agreement. If you’re concerned at all about what happens to your images when you upload them to a service, you must take the time to read these thoroughly. These policies change often, sometimes drastically, and so may the terms to your images that they already have.

Facebook’s privacy policy also covers what happens to your images based on your settings. You want to promote your images by sharing them, right? Except it also opens the images up to whatever apps your friends have decided to authorize on their account. This includes CanvasPop’s new Facebook printing service. It’s a great way for your friends to print out their own images on Facebook, it’s also a great way for them to find an image you took, print it out, and give it back as a gift. You can even find photos where you’ve been tagged and make a canvas of your trip to Vegas. This is all based on the API.

To many photographers, it just seems like another way for people to “steal” their photos. The API gives me access to my friends’ images, so I can print them out. Legally I don’t own that image, and while I might say I have verbal authorization to print it – that’s a lie. If it’s watermarked then CanvasPop will flag it and it won’t be printed, but if not there’s really no way for them (or any printer, or app, or individual) to know whose image it really is.

If this worries you, you might want them to shut down the API (a Facebook issue) but that doesn’t stop me from right-clicking and downloading your image and sending it to a printer that way, or just doing it at home myself. It’s up to you as the copyright holder, the photographer and creator to protect your images and determine what level of security you need. If it’s absolute control I strongly suggest keeping your images off the internet. You can’t blame the internet for proliferating your image, opening it to theft while still embracing it to do exactly the same in promotion of your work.

I try to live by a few simple principles: that people aren’t out there to screw me over, that if it’s online you will lose control over it, and to not spend all my time worrying about my images being used non-commercially (as in, if someone else isn’t profiting from my image I’m not going to stress about it).

Sharing images is why I got into photography in the first place, so I want them to look as good as possible and focus on making more of them for a growing client list.

What you you think? 

Justin Van Leeuwen is a Portrait & Commercial photographer based in Ottawa, Ontario. He spends too much time on twitter as @justinvl and also blogs large images that you can probably steal on his blog at www.JVLphoto.com.