Social Media Content Ownership of What You Post

When you post on social media, you are not only sharing content with the Internet publicly. You’re also granting certain permissions to the platforms you post on. Social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter focus on users’ own content.   They have guidelines ensuring that the sites themselves also have rights pertaining to what you post. It’s important to be aware of who owns the content you post on social media. If you’ve ever wondered about what legally happens to your ownership rights once you post content on social media, keep reading! Here is a breakdown of who owns your content on five popular social media sites.  Those social media sites are: Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook.

How do I know my social media content rights?

Terms and conditions dictate all your ownership permissions and rights for the content you post on social media. Terms and conditions often get a bad reputation for being long, annoying, and hard to understand. But it can help to just glance through a site’s documents to find out what exactly you’re agreeing to before you sign up. Reading the terms and conditions is how you’ll know your rights.

Instagram

Social Media Content Terms and Conditions Sign
You own your images, but Instagram has extensive licensing rights. You won’t receive any royalties from images they use to promote their app.

Instagram doesn’t claim ownership over the pictures you post. When you share a photograph that you’ve taken to the site, you still have copyright claim over that photo. However, Instagram does have licensing rights: specifically, “non-exclusive, fully-paid, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use content that you post.”

What does all this mean? Essentially, while you are the primary owner of the content you share, Instagram has extensive privileges to share it. They don’t have to pay you if they use your images to generate revenue. They can license it out further to another company or third party. Instagram never has to tell you if they use your photos for anything. This is because you’ve already agreed to it when you joined the social media site.

Instagram can redistribute your content, use it for branding, use it to advertise, and more, all without your knowledge. When you agree to Instagram’s terms, you are also agreeing that you own the content you post. This means that you can’t take someone else’s images and try to pass them off as your own or pretend you own them. You need to have the rights to an image in the first place in order to then let Instagram have the rights.

YouTube

You own your content, but YouTube has extensive licensing rights. YouTube can reproduce or use your content in their own content.

On YouTube, “content” is considered anything that you post, whether it be text, video, music, or other media. YouTube’s terms of service dictate that they have “worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sub-licensable, and transferable license to use, reproduce, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the content in connection with the service.” Similar to Instagram, this grants YouTube the permission to use and share your content anywhere and in any context without your explicit permission. They can license it out and reproduce your content. YouTube also has the ability to take your content and break it down to make new content of their own.

You do ultimately have ownership of your videos and content produced through the site. But YouTube has extensive permissions that allow them to use your content in many different ways. If you choose to leave YouTube and delete your account at any point, YouTube still has the rights to keep and use copies of your content.

Snapchat

You own the content you create, but Snapchat keeps a record of it all and has extensive licensing rights. Snapchat can display any of your content through their app.

All Snapchat users retain copyright for the content that they create and send. Snapchat’s setup is different from sites like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Content created through Snapchat is set to “disappear” after a certain amount of time. This may make it seem like your content is not owned like other social media sites, but this unfortunately isn’t the case.

Snapchat’s terms of service grant the app permissions to not only license, store, display, and use your content, like Instagram and Snapchat, but also to “adapt, edit, broadcast, promote, exhibit, and publicly display” any content uploaded to the app “in any form and in any and all media or distribution methods.” So, in short, Snapchat has all of your content stored and has the permissions to use it royalty-free. They can also redistribute it through the platform, like on Snapchat’s featured tags and stories.

Copyright also gets a little bit confusing in regards to other people’s content on Snapchat. If you screenshot someone else’s content and use it elsewhere without explicit permission, you are technically violating copyright, because you aren’t the owner of the image. With Snapchat, it’s important to remember that even if the content you post disappears from your story, it hasn’t disappeared entirely; Snapchat still has a record of your posts and permissions to use them in the future.

Twitter

You own some of the content you create, but Twitter has extensive licensing rights. Twitter allows for anyone else on the app to use your content through app functions.

Twitter is similar to other social media sites. You retain the rights of ownership to any content you post through Twitter, including tweets, text, photo, and video, but Twitter still has a broad license to use your material.

Twitter’s copyright permissions are slightly different, though, because of the nature of the app. Twitter’s terms of service allow the site to “make your content available to the rest of the world and let others do the same." Twitter is centered around the idea that other Twitter users can retweet and share another user’s posts and content. They all have the ability to do this legally, as outlined in Twitter’s terms.

Because Twitter is also largely text-based, certain tweets you make are not yours by copyright. Just because you tweet something doesn’t immediately make it your intellectual property; for example, facts or common phrases cannot be copyrighted. For a tweet to be copyright protected, it must be original and have some amount of creativity.

Facebook

You own the original content you upload to Facebook, but they have extensive permissions for licensing and use of your content.

Facebook’s terms and conditions set the social media site up similarly to Instagram. Facebook’s terms and conditions state that, while you still own your pictures and content posted to the site, users give Facebook permissions to “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free worldwide license” to use any content you post on Facebook or in connection with Facebook.

Again, this means that Facebook can take and use your content at any time without your explicit permission. They can share it on Facebook or with third parties. However, your privacy settings on Facebook can help control how much content they have access to. If you choose to delete your account, Facebook no longer has rights to your photos unless they’ve been posted to other accounts. Keeping your privacy settings tight can help give you control if you ever do want to remove your content from Facebook entirely.

So, what does social media content mean for me?

In short, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook have similar guidelines. You’re still technically the owner of what you post, but by signing up for an account, you grant each of these sites extensive permissions to use your content, royalty-free.

While these social media companies do legally have permissions to use your content, it may come as a comfort to know that the chances of them actually using it is slim. There’s not much of a need for you to worry about Snapchat taking the blurry picture you posted on your story at eight in the morning and putting it on a bulletin board.

However, it’s still incredibly important to know exactly what you’re signing up for. When you create an account with these sites, most people start posting personal pictures and information. Always think twice about what you post—and consider reading the terms and conditions next time, just to keep yourself aware!

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