Intellectual Property Rights for Instagram, Flickr and Twitter Photos

The following post is a guest post by Olga Egorsheva, the CEO of the marketplace for social media content, Lobster makes it possible for anyone to earn money by selling licenses for the photos they have already published on Instagram or Flickr. Olga is Russian by origin, lived in France, Norway and Germany, and started the company in London with its vibrant startup and media community. With entrepreneur + artist parents, she loves connecting tech, business and creativity to create new platforms.

Every decade of recent history seems to have its own defining characteristic. People talk about the Roaring 20s, the Depression-stricken 30s, the free-spirited 60s, the rise of IT in 2000s…. And the most defining characteristic of the decade we are living in now is probably the rise of social media. We all love connecting with people, adding friends, and most of all, sharing.

Social Media sites like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter are playing a very important role on our screens and therefore in our lives.

In a world where sharing thoughts, moments, or photos with millions of people is literally as easy as tapping a button, privacy and intellectual property are two concepts that are quite problematic. Once you put a photo up on Instagram or Flickr, it seems to belong to the world. And up to a certain point it does because anyone else can consume it.

But no one else owns it (unless you stole it in the first place). But a sad truth is that many don’t see this.

Some people see a great photo on Instagram or Flickr and use it without asking for permission or wondering whether they are doing the right thing or not. And suddenly a photographer will see his own photo on a webpage, a news article or even used in an advertising campaign.  Or, even worse, they might see it in shop, as a print on a T-shirt sold by a famous fashion brand all over the world.

Tuana Aziz, a commercial photographer from Sweden, discovered one day that the Spanish fashion brand Mango was using one of his photos without his permission. Aziz had  shared the photo on Instagram in August 2011 and made it his profile picture in February 2012. Aziz came across the shirt featuring his photo in a shop in Sweden and then discovered that the brand was selling it online as well.

Who owns your Instagram ImageA unique and drastic case? Sadly: No!

Tuana Aziz’s case is not unique. In 2012, New-York based photographer Sion Fullana discovered that two of his photos ended up on the Instagram account of Vogue Spain without his permission.

However, the most notorious case is probably the one of Daniel Morel, who was awarded $1.2M in the lawsuit against Agence France-Presse, after the company used one of his Twitter photos without his permission. As a photo-journalist, Morel took photos in Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake. One of his photos, depicting a native woman trapped under the rubble, was pulled by AFP from his Twitter account and used without his consent.

Morel was finally compensated after a lawsuit that went on for almost 3 years. You could say he was lucky. AFP on the other hand lost more than just time and money. They also lost a lot of their prestige and a lot of trust. Their brand took immense damage – just because they did not invest enough time.

As always, there are two sides to the problem – and many would ask for permission and even buy a license to an image, if there was an easy way. But until now there wasn’t any easy way.

The UK based startup Lobster.Media is trying to change this mindset. Lobster provides a marketplace for digital content that allows users to connect their social media accounts and therefore offer their images in the marketplace. Buyers can then acquire a cheap license for any image in the marketplace. Lobster is growing rapidly and already has more than 250,000 images in its database which can be licensed at once with image licenses for as low as 0.99$.

Many people are willing to license their social media content.

Have you experienced your own stories of stolen content? Tell me in the comments!

This article is based on my original article here:

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  • Pete Austin

    Re: Have you experienced your own stories of stolen content?

    Yes – when some thieves stole original artwork from my car. But never with digital content, though my games must have been pirated a million times, because breach of coyright aka piracy is not theft but a completely different matter, and maybe not even a crime. How can you not know that?

  • Silvia Obaid

    making money “commercial use” of the item without the knowledge and
    permission of the original creator of the item is the issue. Other than
    that, sharing from the original source gives positive exposure for the
    work as the link of the source is embedded in the item.