Does Facebook Own Your Photos?


One thing the seems to plague people on the internet in respect to photography is what happens when you post images on the internet for people to publicly view. This is one question that I have been wondering in regards to Facebook and their Terms when it comes to uploading content (in this example personal photos) to their website to show them to friends and family. I remember when I first signed up with Facebook that you had to agree that anything you uploaded (including photos) become property of Facebook and thus give them full “worldwide” access to do whatever ever they want with your photos. Does this seem right?

Be Careful of What You Share!

I looked through their Terms and came up with the following statement:

When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content. Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content.

Now I might not be a lawyer or I might be reading the above Terms incorrect but to me it sounds like I am giving up any rights I have on my photos I upload to them, essentially passing over ownership of said items to Facebook. If they want to use a photo of mine via one of my (30+) albums they can and they can do whatever they want to do with it and even make money off of them.

Why Does This Bother Me?


When I take photos I like them to be owned by me and not let people do whatever they want with my photos especially make money off of them (be it monetary or traffic etc). If people ask me to use my photos I am more than okay with that as long as they give proper attribution for the photo; if I took the photo, tell people I took it and don’t try to make it seem like you were the person who shot it.

With Facebook I will tend to upload smaller, lower-quality photos (500px wide at 72dpi and medium Jpeg quality) so that if they do go to use a photo it’s not going to be good for print and might be a bit grainy. If you upload your untouched, full sized photo, does Facebook save this somewhere on their server and just show you the resized version? Having the full sized (or original) photo at their disposal if they need it? Remember if they use it, you gave them the right not to give you anything for it.

Should This Bother You?

If you are okay with Facebook owning your uploaded photos then by all means you can ignore this. Do you want Facebook to make (more) money off of your creativity and not thank you?

If this does bother you but you still want to upload your photos to Facebook just ensure what you upload isn’t the original size and that the quality is less than the original photo as well. This will hopefully deter them from selecting a photo of yours to use however they want and not give you credit.

Possible Options That I Will Look Into

I have been using Flickr more and more since I can add licensing information to the photos I upload. What I could look at is the various ‘Applications’ on Facebook that allow your to show your Flickr albums to your friends. This would be a nice option and then Facebook would not have my photos stored on their servers right?

I still want to show my photos on Facebook because there are people on Facebook who do not check Flickr or my blog. Comments on Facebook are nice and I do know Flickr has comment ability as well but the person needs to have an account to leave a comment (less accounts better right?).

So What Does This All Mean?

Well it means I am not sure if I should stop uploading my photos to Facebook all together. I like showing people my photography world and having people comment on them. Facebook does allow me to easily create photo albums and allows for friends and family to give me constructive feedback. The other option I do like is that I can ‘tag’ people in the photos.

Though on the other hand I don’t like to hand over my photos to a company that might use them to make money from them without compensating my time, expenses and whatever other costs that might have happened while taking a photo.

There was some good discussion at the PhotoCamp where if you do worry about your photos being used for purposes not in your control, then don’t upload them. The internet (well web) allows easy access to anything you show publicly. So if you’re not totally paranoid, just create smaller, lesser quality photos to show the world. If someone wants to use a photo for a particular purpose, ensure they need to ask you to obtain a better quality version of it.


What are your thoughts on Facebook and their Terms when it comes to uploading content (specific photos)? Did you know these Terms when you first signed up to Facebook or when you upload photos?

Filed under: Photography
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  • Michael Kwan
    Sep 30, 2008 @ 13:38:44

    There are two main reasons why I choose to upload my pictures to either my blog or Flickr, rather than to Facebook.

    1. The ownership issues that you discuss in this post.
    2. Facebook is a limited audience, whereas my blog and Flickr are available for viewing by anyone. It’s all about reach.

  • Tyler Ingram
    Sep 30, 2008 @ 13:43:09

    That does make sense. More people will see your photos on Flickr or a blog than on Facebook. My privacy settings on Facebook only allow my ‘friends’ to see my photos that I upload.

  • Kulpreet Singh
    Sep 30, 2008 @ 14:00:59

    So basically in plainspeak the conditions are saying “As long as your photos are on Facebook, you’re agreeing to give us the right to do anything we want with any of your photos for any reason. Once you take your photos off, we might still have a copy but we won’t use it. However, rest assured we don’t claim to own your photos so we won’t sue you for using your own photos, just so you know.”

    That is c-r-a-z-y, wow.. I hadn’t read that in detail and I guess many people wouldn’t.

  • Guitar Hero 4
    Sep 30, 2008 @ 14:37:54

    I think their statement is quite common, isn’t it? For example; The terms for Google Chrome include a section giving Google “a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.” That seems pretty extreme for a browser, doesn’t it?!?

    Similar, if I remember rightly could be said about many Google services, even Google Docs. Mmmmm, I wonder if anyone uses Google Docs for their company accounts?!? GAH!

    I have other examples, but they slip my mind right now. I have to agree with Photocamp, “if you do worry about your photos being used for purposes not in your control, then don’t upload them”, but still, like you pointed out, if you still wish to share – do so, but with a lower quality version. Ahhh, such a simplistic method, but I really had not thought of this!

    Something similar to how they deal with it on would be quite nice too, whereas you can decide on upload the permission retrictions.

  • RosieTulips
    Sep 30, 2008 @ 16:32:18

    I stopped uploading photos to Facebook when I knew what they could do with my content. It’s too bad the people I most want to share my photos with don’t have Flickr accounts! I am always giving out guest passes since I don’t like making all my photos public.

    Anyhow, if you keep uploading your photos to Facebook, you could always put a watermark on it. Not that that would deter them from cropping it out, etc!

    Even though I don’t post Facebook pics anymore, I still like seeing everyone else’s photos!

  • Tyler Ingram
    Sep 30, 2008 @ 20:35:15

    @Rosie if it’s a real watermark then it spans over the entire image. Like they do with prior to buying an image, the put a white X with in which you can’t really edit out easily.

  • Raul
    Sep 30, 2008 @ 23:58:04

    Now you understand why I am NOT on Facebook? :)

  • Connor
    Oct 1, 2008 @ 01:25:48

    Tyler you’ve made a good point and also why I don’t pics on facebook. I mean good they in theory could take your pics and sell them to like a sex toy company?? It’s a stretch but still

  • VancityAllie
    Oct 7, 2008 @ 22:50:25

    I’m aware of Facebook’s policy, but I choose to ignore it. Even though I’m a photographer and I would be quite upset if someone else/Facebook used my photos, I have already been sucked into the vortex that is Facebook. Unfortunately, all my friends use it and it’s pretty much the one way I communicate with everyone in my social circles.

    So I let Facebook have my photos, not by choice, but by force. Peer pressure force. :)

  • Melanie
    Oct 13, 2008 @ 06:35:53

    It is scary thinking that facebook will might use our photo’s for particular things. However, I do believe that the owner of facebook is not stupid enough to give away our photos to “sex stores” or anything of that kind. They might just use our photos to advertise facebook. They wouldn’t use our pictures for anything unfamiliar because they wouldn’t want to jeoperdize their reputation.
    And i’m sure their statement above is only to protect them from having anyone sue them…because these days.. ppl sue for any reason.

  • Theo
    Nov 16, 2008 @ 03:48:04

    If your photos have people in them surely Facebook will be unlikely to use them commercially as hey have no way of knowing if the subject has signed a model release form or not?

  • Mim
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 19:12:23

    I’ve got pics of my baby up on facebook and so do all my friends who are mothers … I would hate to think that anyone would use my sweet innocent baby pics for bad purposes … this discussion makes me want to delete all of them from facebook. But then my family from all over the world couldn’t see my baby growing up … it’s a dilemna for sure! There’s got to be some sort of regulation for this stuff!

  • Aæex
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 11:19:05

    I just don’t upload any particularly good pics on facebook. Sure, There are som fantastic landscapes here and there, but they are al resized to 25% before uploading to facebook. So they will never be able to print them in good quality or use in ads. Also, most pictures I want to share I simply send to people by email. If they wanna keep allright, if not, they delete

  • Tyler Ingram
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 11:56:16

    I do the same now for Facebook. Resize to 500px wide at most and then drop resolution down to 72dpi and set quality to about 60%. That way they do not have a version to be able to use in print, though I would think they would use people’s photos for online marketing.

    Does anyone know of anyone who has had Facebook use their photos though?

  • Glen
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 17:06:19

    I dont post on Flickr either there was a big campaign where images were taken from flickr for free and nothing was given to the photographers, I now use a new site called where you obtain copyright, you give them the right to distribute the image in a way that promotes your work and the site but thats all just to get exposure but all images on the site must be bought to be used, very secure.