Facebook’s position as the most popular social media site on the internet places it under a significant level of scrutiny. Many would agree such criticisms are necessary given the platform’s history of sharing user data without consent and the sketchy deals it makes with third-party companies.
Facebook users may also wonder if the platform takes ownership of their photos or makes them public domain. The good news is that Facebook pictures are not considered public domain. Let’s examine why this is so.
Before we answer the question “Are Facebook pictures public domain?”, it is worth learning what exactly “public domain” refers to and how a piece of media may become public domain.
A media is considered a public domain if there are no exclusive intellectual property rights associated with it. This media could have been public domain from the very start, or it may have become public domain when the rights associated with it expired, were forfeited or were waived.
Let’s take the 1960 horror black comedy film The Little Shop of Horrors as an example. This film’s copyrights were initially owned by the production company The Filmgroup. At the time of the film’s release, laws stated that films would automatically become public domain 28 years after their release.
Rightsholders would have the option of renewing their copyright for another 28 years if they wished to. However, The Filmgroup did not renew their copyright, which led to the film entering the public domain in 1988.
If you have taken a photo and have uploaded it to the internet, your image will be protected by copyright in the United States. This means others cannot use this photo without your permission.
Under current laws, you will retain the copyright for this photo throughout the duration of your life. You will also retain the copyright for seventy years following your passing. However, once this seventy-year period is up, the photo will enter the public domain. This means anyone who wishes to use your photo without your permission will need to wait seventy years after your passing to do so.
Now that we have looked at the main laws surrounding copyright and public domain, we can answer the question “Are Facebook pictures public domain?”. Under current United States laws, Facebook pictures are not public domain.
When you upload a picture to Facebook, you become its copyright holder. You can set the photo-sharing option to “public”, but that would not make the photo public domain.
If you encounter someone using your Facebook photo without permission, you can take specific steps to get it taken down. The first step is to inform Facebook about the issue and ask them to remove it. The platform is obligated to take down such content if it breaches its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.
If the person using the photo claims it is their own, you can claim copyright by uploading a CSV file from your Facebook profile to the platform’s Rights Manager. This CSV file contains metadata for your photos and will serve as evidence that you uploaded the picture first. A Facebook employee will then verify the information in the CSV file and allow you to claim copyright for the image.
As mentioned above, you don’t have to worry about your pictures entering the public domain if you upload them to Facebook. However, it is always best to keep an eye out for users who may use your photos without permission.
The good news is that Facebook is proactive in helping users with such claims and offers many routes to report and take down such photos.
Want to learn more about copyrights on social media platforms? Check out the resources below: