Social media can seem like a free-for-all. And sometimes brands treat it like it is.
Have you ever tagged a product in an Instagram photo? I have.
The way that your photos on social networks are treated by brands is evolving. What rights do brands have to your images? And what rights do you have?
A New York Times article by Sydney Ember and Rachel Abrams explores what happens when brands overstep their rights to use user-generated content.
"Instagram and other social sites like Pinterest and Twitter have long been sources of selfies and candid shots that retailers and other companies mine for "consumer engagement," a broad industry term that can mean anything from Facebook likes to hashtags for brands," says the article. "But as the practice of promoting user-generated content has intensified, the intersection between brands trying to capitalize on social media activity and people's expectations of some privacy (even as they post personal photos on public platforms like Instagram) has grown far more murky."
So what's the best practice for brands? Get the consent of the person who took the photo before you use the image elsewhere.
"This is a new area, and we want to make sure our customers are dotting the 'Is' and crossing the 'Ts,' " Sharad Verma, the chief executive and co-founder of Piqora, which helps brands curate user-generated content from sites like Instagram, told the New York Times. "It's important for brands to be very upfront and transparent about how the photos are being used."
Let's say that a brand uses a photo with getting consent? Then what happens?
There is a lack of oversight. And social networks, like Instagram, want to strengthen their own relationships with brands to create ad revenue. Instagram makes money by opening its photo feed to advertisers. That's how it is designed.
But what about privacy and intellectual property? "Privacy groups and consumer advocates continue to voice concerns about how companies use data culled from social media to endorse or sell products," says the New York Times article. "In 2012, Facebook, which owns Instagram, reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit over its "sponsored stories," or its practice of turning a users' likes into ads tailored to their friends. The court approved the settlement in 2013, but it is currently being appealed."
How should a brand get consent to use a photo posted on Instagram? Getting consent can be as casual as a comment underneath the photo itself. A brand can just ask for consent in the comments and then, if the users answers affirmatively in the comments, consent is granted.
"Clothing and retail brands say that featuring user-generated photos on their websites and in their Instagram feeds is an effective way to connect with consumers, who are increasingly skipping commercials, blocking online ads and generally ignoring anything that resembles traditional advertising," according to the New York Times article. "Taking photos from social media accounts is also often cheaper and faster than creating a traditional marketing campaign."
Some brands say that they do not always need to ask for permission to use a photo on their websites because users give implied consent by tagging a company in their posts.
These brands could run into trouble if a user decides to sue for copyright infringement.
image via shutterstock.com