Capturing Incredible.

Understanding Copyright, Social Media, and Your Chase Material

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It’s a brave new world out there, or rather, the world has changed dramatically from where it was just a few years ago.

Social media is a mature market now, and to reach an audience many photographers and filmmakers use the mediums without hesitation. I do it, many others do it. But you really need to understand what you are giving up when it comes to your copyrights by sharing on social media. All too often people really do not understand what posting on social media really means — so here’s four pretty hard rules to follow.

Rule #1: When You Share It, You Lose Control

No matter how much you wished it weren’t so, when you share an image of yours on social media it’s going to end up going places you never dreamed of. It may end up being a picture of Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina — it may be misattributed in a future storm event by someone wanting attention. Regardless, sharing images and videos on social media means you are giving up the control over how its distributed.

Rule #2: Anything You Share Is Easily Downloaded

No matter what you post, no matter where you post it — anything you post on social media is easily downloaded. I can download any YouTube video with a simple browser add-on, much less any other embedded video online. Photos with right click protections? Pretty easy to work through by anyone who knows anything about HTML and how to view page source. For this reason I always have a couple of principles I follow:

  • Never post a full res picture, or anything close to it.
  • Always watermark photos and videos.

Rule #3: Don’t Give Permission

Here’s a simple principle: on-screen credit may make you feel cool for a bit, but it does nothing tangible for you. Exposure is the lamest pay-back you can ever get. Hardly anyone will look up someone after they see a name on the news — and news networks (no matter how big or small) have large enough budgets to pay you for your material. If your material is good enough for them to have a paid employee to look you up and contact you, it’s good enough to be bought. I have seen chasers give up an entire seasons worth of chase funds to simply get on-screen credit with no other compensation. It doesn’t work, you won’t be famous, and you’ll just end up completely out of the public’s mind five minutes after the segment ends. If someone approaches you and asks to use your photo or video, your default answer should be no unless there is compensation involved.

Rule #4: Don’t Freak Out Over the Little Guys

At some point in social media history, if you shoot anything of quality, someone’s going to use it. It may be Joe’s Extreme Chase Team. It may be Kidz Korner Weather Studios. I don’t know. But don’t fret over this stuff. If anything, it’s a compliment that people think your stuff is so good, they want their name attached to it. I’m actually being serious — you’ll drive yourself batty if you try to run down every copyright violation out there.

The people you should concern yourself with are the people who take a photo you’ve taken off of social media and locally hosted it, left no credit (aka a link to you), and have ads running alongside your material without your permission. A careful understanding of what you are agreeing to when you post material though, will let you know that many uses like people embedding tweets or Facebook posts into their sites means you agreed to let that material be posted, as opposed to them saving your image and posting it without the embed. This is especially true for YouTube embeds on news sites. By enabling embedding or public posts, you are giving permission for anything to take your posted material and embed it into whatever they want. However, you also retain control over whether it can be displayed or not because you can simply delete it. For some this is no big deal, for others this may be a deal breaker for social media.


If you remember these four rules, your experiences in sharing material will likely be much better and much less stress free. There isn’t a site that I know of that actually takes your copyrights away when you post, but many sites do acquire the rights to sublicense and distribute any content you post when you simply post something. Terms of Use are binding documents, and there is no excuse to be ignorant of these simple rules of the web in 2015.

Until next time!