Notes: After a recent and prolonged encounter with a website owner, an interesting topic was revealed:

What are the rights and rules of using images posted to social media?

It’s interesting enough (to me) that I’m composing an article exploring the issue. I’ve collected a lot of dry and tedious copyright law and case precedent documents to use in the article. Boring.

The narrative here is a quick scratch pad account and initial thoughts on my recent and prolonged encounter. Just some notes to include in my article.

This is a quick documentation of a recent incident concerning author copyright and public domain claims on social media. Just a quick scratch pad account for a larger blog article exploring the topic.

– I’m alerted to many of my 66 photos published to a website.

– Visiting the site, I discover over 200 of my images that were lifted from FB posts.

– I contact the site owner to tell him he doesn’t have license and he’s to remove my images.

– The site owner tells me of the importance of his photo site and “Hopes we can work something out.”

– Site owner speaks of his intent to lead 66 tours using this site, as I see it is effectively monetizing the site.

– I again state he must remove my images from his site.

– I am provided an email address, to which I sent 15 emails with screen capture attachments of the unlicensed photos.

– Each email bounces due to the address being inactive or bogus.

– I contact the site owner again. I receive no response.

– Several days later, the site is uploaded to a different URL, and now a list of “thanks to these people for volunteering their images” is on the landing page. My name is included. I made it clear he is not to use my images, and he has not removed any of my images he was instructed to remove in the new upload.

– Messaging (fb) him again and reiterating he must remove my images, he grudgingly agrees. Yet he doesn’t.

– It has been over a week now. Between the publishing of my photos without permission or citation, the suspicious migration of his site, stalling by “hoping to work things out,” revealing he wants to be a tour guide and the site will help him with this, the initial bounced emails, uploading all the same content to a new site and including my name with “thanks,” avoiding my communication for over a week, and finally acquiescing, it’s reasonable to question the ethics of the site owner and his intent. It is further reasonable to take several actions to assure his attention and compliance with my simple instruction to remove my content used without license.

This is a comment I posted to the Route 66 Photography and USA Roadtrips group.


There’s a disconnect between public domain and copyright on social media, and for that matter the interweb as a whole. I recently discovered nearly two years worth of images I’ve shared to fb 66 groups published without license on a website that moved a few times before I could effectively have my images removed. A permeating attitude is “If you share your images to fb then you’re offering them to the public for free.” Not so. The author retains copyright.

In addition, properly citing an author’s images isn’t well-understood, with many online publishers believing a bulk “Thanks to” listing is acceptable in lieu of professional convention, which is crediting each individual image to its author.

Like many other roadies, I have a 66 book deal and corresponding websites in development (the sites are close to launch date). It’s really fun sharing my passion for 66 on these groups. However, the use of my images is exclusive to my projects and aren’t to be used elsewhere. And it’s more than being precious about my photography. Many of the images I take are entirely unique, off the beaten trail, heavily researched, and independently discovered through intense field work. When my images are used on an unauthorized project, it’s taking my time, effort, and expense as a volunteer reconassaiance service. Not cool.

And like many roadies, I sell prints of my images, so it’s essential collectors know the images are mine. And as for the unique quality of many of my images, it’s advertising for guided tours I offer. So, again, use of my images must be exclusive to my projects.

It’s impossible to know how fb group members are going to use shared images, and perhaps the low res compressed quality is enough to curtail widely damaging usage. Still, it’s good form to ask permission first and it’s important to properly cite the image if granted license.