Cyberwise: How Do I Protect My Photos on the Web?

Avoid having your work stolen

I have a simple question: I am an amateur photographer and would like to display my photos online on Websites such as Flickr. How do I keep them from being used without my permission?

—Anonymous
Via E-mail

Great question. There are many places to display and share your photos online, and as an amateur looking for feedback (and possibly assignments), Flickr (www.flickr.com) is one site I would recommend. And you are right to be concerned about protecting your work.

Before you upload images—or any creative work for that matter, whether to a photo-centric site or, say, Facebook—I would suggest you read the site’s terms of service carefully and adjust your privacy settings as well. There are ongoing concerns at numerous social media sites about the use and ownership of personal images.
Second, consider using a Creative Commons license (www.creativecommons.org). There are varying degrees of permissions such as a basic attribution license, which lets others copy and use your work but gives you attribution; and non-derivative, which means others can use your work as long as they do not alter it. There are various combinations of licensing that you can use (non-derivative, non-commercial, for example, means a work cannot be altered and/or used for commercial purposes); it just depends on your level of comfort. The idea behind creative commons is to encourage sharing and fair use of your intellectual and creative property. You set the rules and permissions.

Finally, I would recommend that in addition to joining a social networking site that you actively engage in the communities there. One of the best ways to ensure that the integrity of your work is maintained is to connect with like-minded folks who have your best interests at heart.

This article originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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