Using Pressgram to take control of your online photographs

Facebook, the worlds largest social media site, is at it again.

There has been numerous news stories in the last week on how Facebook is once again changing their Terms of Service (TOS) for it’s users. What does it mean for photographers and anyone who uploads photos to Facebook?

First off as expressed in the new TOS that is currently awaiting approval,

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

In addition,

You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you. If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it.

If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to the terms of this section (and the use of your name, profile picture, content, and information) on your behalf.

Talk about taking away all of your rights!

Perhaps if one puts enough watermarks on a photo Facebook just won't even be interested in it.

Perhaps if one puts enough watermarks on a photo Facebook just won’t even be interested in it.

From all of the articles and comments I have read on this topic (and I am no lawyer so none of this is legal advice) it appears that any photo you take and then upload to Facebook – be it your kids birthday or soccer game or that award winning sunrise photo you took at Zion National Park – Facebook can and will use that in “commercial, sponsored, or related content…without any compensation to you.”

Perhaps some folks don’t know this, but advertisers have been known to pay big bucks for the use of photography in advertising campaigns.

Think a watermark or other copyright notice on the photo is going to protect you? Think again. Even if you put a huge “©” across your photos Facebook still has the right to use it based on these terms.


So what can a photographer do to protect their images on Facebook?

If these terms stay in effect as is, the only way to do that is to stop posting directly to Facebook and instead share link content from your website or blog to Facebook.

Of course this has it’s own drawbacks: mainly interaction with linked photos is almost always less than interaction with photos posted direct to Facebook. Why? Because Facebook makes photos posted from links appear as thumbnail images. Photos posted direct to Facebook appear large and beautiful (well, relatively because Facebook has never been great at displaying large photos).

It is all part of the master plan of Facebook. They really don’t like links shared on their platform because you have to leave Facebook to view it and they don’t want you to leave. They prefer content posted directly to them so they can capitalize on that content and turn it into cash for them through advertising. And by uploading photos direct to Facebook you will now be feeding that cash cow, with no compensation or choice.

This is were Pressgram comes in.


Own your content, always & forever with Pressgram

“Own your content, always & forever” is the rallying cry from Pressgram, an iOS app (and soon Android) that takes the best features of Instagram (taking photos, adding filters, and sharing them in an online community) but rather than post the photos direct onto Facebook you post photos onto your own WordPress blog. You then have the option of sending a link from your blog post to Twitter and Facebook. Facebook only hosts the link to your blog post and not the photo, so Facebook then can not use your photo as they see fit.

So what do photos on Facebook look like when posted from Pressgram?

The top post on Facebook was from Pressgram while the bottom was posted direct from WordPress.

The top post on Facebook was from Pressgram while the bottom was posted direct from WordPress.

As expected Facebook shows a small thumbnail image with a link and some text from the actual blog post.

The post on the bottom appeared first. By using the free Jetpack plugin for WordPress I have it set up so that whenever I publish a new blogpost WordPress automatically sends it to Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

The post on the top arrived on Facebook via the Pressgram app. The link to the blog post is there, but also a link to pressgram where a copy of the photo also resides (good if you don’t have a wordpress site yet, bad if you do because I don’t want to see 2 links going to 2 different locations for the same content).

As I mentioned earlier, the only way to see big photos on Facebook is to post direct, but with the upcoming TOS I can’t recommend direct posts anymore – especially if you sell your photography.

Pressgram works with both self-hosted WordPress.org sites as well as sites hosted on WordPress.com. If you are new to WordPress and don’t know much about web development and coding I would recommend the WordPress.com site.

Pressgram just hit the App store with version 1.0 on September 5th. While it is missing some killer features it is a good, stable first release. One glaring problem I have with it is that you are currently limited to square photos but in conversations I had with the developer via Twitter I was assured that support for full-frame rectangular photos is coming very soon.

The developer already has published a roadmap for Pressgram and is worth reading to see what he has in store for this app.

With all of these social medial sites, apps, photo contests, and more trying to take our content away from us it is so encouraging to see a developer finally coming out of the woodwork to help turn the tide and bring control of our photos back to us.

Please help spread the word about Pressgram and how bad Facebook is becoming in regards to our photo rights by sharing this post and telling everyone about Pressgram. If Facebook gets its way other social websites probably will follow unfortunately. Even if you are not a professional photographer you should be concerned with these new TOS. Just carrying on and accepting them truly does none of us any good.

For further info on this subject I highly recommend reading Jim Goldstein’s blog post about Facebook and these new TOS.

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  • Christine September 10, 2013   Reply →

    Very informative article. Thanks!

  • John Saddington September 10, 2013   Reply →

    thank you for this incredible writeup! and your support!

    • Matt Suess September 10, 2013   Reply →

      You are welcome and thanks for the great app!! Finally someone on “our side” 🙂

  • Kathy Scanlan September 10, 2013   Reply →

    Thank you! Being new to the scene of posting photos for sale on the internet, I found this very informative.

    • Matt Suess September 10, 2013   Reply →

      Awesome – glad to hear that Kathy.

      If you are looking at posting photos online for sale you might want to take a look at Zenfolio which hosts my photo galleries. Customers can order all kinds of stuff on the site from prints to t-shirts and mugs. There is a free 14 day trial too.

  • Michael John Beil September 10, 2013   Reply →

    Such a great post Matt!

  • Audrey Smith September 11, 2013   Reply →

    Great info, Matt. One question, though: in the beginning of your post, you quote Facebook as saying, “you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.” Wouldn’t the “in connection with” part also include any links? Wouldn’t it pertain to ANYTHING posted on Facebook? I haven’t read the new TOS yet, but it sounds like nothing posted would be exempt. Thanks!

    • Matt Suess September 11, 2013   Reply →

      From what I understand Audrey, when you post a link FB only grabs some meta text and possibly cashes the thumbnail – but it definitely isn’t grabbing and hosting the larger page photos. In addition I don’t think big organizations like CNN would let FB lay claim to one of their news articles that someone on FB posted a link to, so for now sharing links is the safest way to go, short of quitting FB altogether of course.

      • Patrick September 12, 2013   Reply →

        Matt –
        Sorry, disregard my comment below. I see someone already raised the same general issue. The license grant in the language is personal (“you grant us”). Thus, I may grant FB a license to use content from CNN, but since I don’t own the content, that license is meaningless (sort of like me trying to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge). However, if I publish a photo on my personal website, I would have ownership and the right to license that IP to FB, possibly making their evil plan come to fruition.

        Technologically speaking, you are probably right in that they do not cache the full resolution image . . . yet.

        In the end, concerns like Audrey’s and mine might be merely paranoia, but it certainly is unfortunate for artists who have tried to use Facebook to share their creations with the community.

        • Matt Suess September 12, 2013   Reply →

          I see your points Patrick. If what you are saying is true, then if CNN shares the post on FB then FB would own the content on that link. Maybe that is FB”s ultimate goal, but right now the uproar is through uploading content direct and not via a shared links. Ughhh this whole thing is a mess – I think today (Thursday) is when we are supposed to hear about the updated TOS again…

  • Michal September 11, 2013   Reply →

    by the way – the first paragraph you cite from Facebook Terms has always been in the Terms (see Section 2 of Facebook Terms). The only new language is the second paragraph.

  • Patrick September 12, 2013   Reply →

    Great article, but I have to disagree with some of your advice:

    “If these terms stay in effect as is, the only way to do that is to stop posting directly to Facebook and instead share link content from your website or blog to Facebook.”

    However, the proposed TOS give FB a license to anything posted “on or in connection with Facebook”. The “in connection with” language suggests to me that they are claiming a license even if you post a link to your photos from another service.

  • Steve Dimock September 30, 2013   Reply →

    You might want to take a look at this Pod Cast :

    It has a section that discusses the TOS changes as seen by the attorneys at the copyright alliance. They too are suggesting doing links.

    That said, I just took a look at the googleplus TOS and have to wonder why you are not equally enflamed by them. I see that you are a big contributor at G+ but their terms of service also state that, while you retain the copyright, you grant them irrevocable right to use anything posted in anyway they want.How do you see this as different?

    For a small business, and lets face it you, I and all the other people out there are small by contrast to Facebook (#2 on the internet) and Google (#1 on the internet), it is very difficult to make forward progress without using social media of some form. Yet, using Social Media also means that we are supporting those very companies that are trying to steal our creative content.

    These times are definitely interesting. 🙂

  • Daniel Loncarevic December 6, 2013   Reply →
    Daniel Loncarevic

    Are the changing the TOS now or they are changed already?

    • Matt Suess December 6, 2013   Reply →

      Great question Daniel. I had looked a couple times since this was written and haven’t been able to find out anything, nor have I heard about it in the news. I would proceed with caution in regards to Facebook. I don’t post my work photos direct to facebook anymore.

  • Randy Bayne December 7, 2013   Reply →
    Randy Bayne

    RT : Using Pressgram to take control of your online photographs – http://t.co/0JqB7tgZe8 http://t.co/yAUHce83EF

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