Photo licencing can be a minefield. (see what I did there?)
When it comes to ToS, the devil is most definitely in the detail, and at one of our reader's request, I've put together a guide to what to look for. As ever, I have to state that I'm not a lawyer; all I have to go on here is my own experience of using photo-sharing sites and, heaven help me, previous experience of drafting ToS.
Copyright and licensing rights
The first thing to get straight is that there's a difference between copyright and licensing rights. If you take a photo (or compose a song, or write a story... you get the picture) you own the copyright to it. That means you have the right to have that photo attributed to you and you can say how, where, and when you want it reproduced, if at all.
On very rare occasions, you can sign away your copyright to your creation - and in fact I did this quite recently when the copyright of a project that I wrote was attributed to the company for whom I completed the contract, not to me as an individual - but it's usually in very specific circumstances.
Licensing rights, on the other hand, are what you, as the copyright holder, use to allow people to use your images (or your words or your music &c). If someone wants to publish your photo, you provide them with a licence to do so. There are a plethora of different types of licence out there, which serve different purposes, allow different things, and have different implications for you as a copyright holder. Hence the confusion.
Why you need a licence
You've been away on holiday to Mauritius and you have a selection of the most incredible photos showing the places that you visited, the food that you ate, and the sights that you saw. You want to share them with your family, your friends, and to be honest, anyone who wants to take a look because you're really proud of a few of them. So you sign up to the photo-sharing website SooperPix that'll let the world at large marvel at your artistic genius.
You have to sign a licence. You own the copyright to these pictures, which means that you have to grant SooperPix the right to display them on your behalf. If you didn't, it wouldn't be able to host them on the website and let the world look on awestruck at your awesomeness.
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