Yesterday, the internet was in abuzz with news that Facebook was taking ownership of your photographs when you uploaded them. It stemmed from a post from Stop Stealing Photos (which you can read here), where a representative from Facebook that stated to them in an email,

…once something is posted or uploaded onto Facebook it becomes Facebook’s property. So if the original photographer uploaded the photo first onto Facebook and then others have taken it from there and uploaded it to their pages or profiles, this is legal and within policy, there’s nothing I can do about it unfortunately even if they are taking credit for the photos.

Imagine the uproar that ensued.


We live in a world of terms and conditions which are pages and pages long. Because of the bombardment of information that is flung at us daily, we filter out most of it, and check the conveniently placed box that says ‘I Agree’ without actually reading what we are agreeing to. In this TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) generation, we trust that companies have our best interest in mind, when really, we know better. But what does it really say in those terms and are we really giving Facebook permission to take our photos?

The short answer is no. In an update on the same post, Stop Stealing Photos dug further and was contacted by another member of the Facebook staff. He confirmed that the original employee was misinformed and clarified by saying,

Our terms are clear that you own the content you share on Facebook, including photos. When you post something, you simply grant Facebook a license to use that content consistent with our terms, including displaying it to the audience you’ve shared it with.

We also prohibit people from posting content that violates someone else’s intellectual property rights. If a rights owner believes that content on Facebook violates their rights, they may report it to us. You can find more information about this topic here:

iagreeFacebook And PayPal are NOT Stealing Your Photos

Rachel Brenke, aka ‘The Law Tog,’ who has provided some wonderful resources for photographers in regards to contracts, copyright and other lawyerly things, cleared up the issue on her website in this very informative article. For those of you who are thinking tl;dr (ironically), Rachel talks about the differences between license and ownership release and clarifies that Facebook and Paypal’s terms state a “license for use of the intellectual property is being used, and not an ownership transfer.

Rachel further clarifies that Facebook and Paypal (under fire a few weeks ago for its recent terms and conditions update) does not own any of your intellectual property. The main takeaway is that as a business owner, you MUST be informed and read up on what you agree to when you “sign” those terms and conditions.


Rachel also shares the following eye-opening video called #PrivacyProject, where people were asked to read aloud some of the terms from apps they had agreed to from their smartphone. Watch it below and then go visit Rachel’s post to read in detail about license versus ownership release and the importance of knowing what you are agreeing to, especially as a business owner.

To see more of the legal resources, Rachel has to offer, check out her extensive inventory of documents created specifically for photographers here.