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The Interior Designer’s Guide to Image Rights on Social Media

Posting images of your own work and the work of others that you admire is important to maintaining a strong social media presence as an interior designer, and keeping your audience (and prospective clients) engaged. Authenticity on social media means showing and giving credit to great work done by others that also represents your own interests, but it’s important to know that re-posting content without crediting the original creator is considered an infraction. Infractions are rarely punished but it’s still something you want to avoid. 

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This article will provide a complete rundown on how image rights are handled on social media platforms, and how you can navigate this murky territory when executing your social media strategy. 

The Murky World of Image Usage on Social Media

Some of the biggest problems with using social media as an interior designer relate to image rights, for three main reasons:

  • Your images might get used without credit: The first potential problem is that other users can easily take your images and repost them anywhere on the internet without giving you proper credit. While technically any original creative image has copyright protection the moment you finish creating it, you cannot sue for copyright infringement if you don’t take the extra step to register your work with the US Copyright Office, according to Intellectual Property firm, Law Office of Jason H. Rosenblum, PLLC. 
  • You might inadvertently share others’ images without credit: The other potential problem interior designers face is when posting inspiration images or creating mood boards that pull images from social media sources. Using Pinterest presents a host of copyright infringement opportunities, as it mainly facilitates the aggregation of images that are often without original credit. 
  • It’s murky territory: Because of the inherently social nature of social media, and the positive definition of “going viral”, sharing will remain an integral part of participating in social media, which makes it difficult to implement stringent policies aimed to stop copyright infringement. 

Social Media Image Copyright Policies

While social media companies don’t have a great incentive to crack down on copyright infringement, they do typically require users to sign agreements that outline restrictions around image usage, while giving these platforms a license to use others’ work for a variety of purposes, including promotional purposes without payment. 

 

Here is an overview of how the social media platforms most relevant to interior designers handle image rights.

Twitter: Gives sole responsibility to the creator to police copyright infringement, but users have a means to file a complaint if they find evidence of copyright infringement. 

Facebook and Instagram: Facebook (which owns Instagram) says that users own their intellectual property rights and the Rights Tool Manager (more on that below) now makes it easier to monitor and discover instances of infringement. However, you are also giving permission to Facebook to use your images however they want, including making derivatives of your content. 

Pinterest: The agreement for the site built on aggregation gives Pinterest a non-exclusive and transferable license to use your images, much like Facebook. Both agreements give the companies a non-exclusive license to use your content.. They also stipulate that Pinterest can change the use of your images on the site at any time. 

Check out this helpful article from The Balance for a complete breakdown of the Terms and Services Agreements of the major social media sites.

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How to Properly Use Images, and Protect Your Own

So far, only Facebook and Instagram have announced plans to help protect creator’s rights, and even those measures only go so far. So be sure that your social media plan is built to monitor and protect your own images.

  • Copyrights: At the highest level you need to make decisions about what to post, either yourself or delegating to a team member who is a social media expert. No image is entirely safe, so you may want to save certain images for print use or if you do post them, go through the trouble to copyright them. 
  • Watermarks: You can also consider watermarking your images, which is a deterrent to authorized use, but is burdensome. 
  • Monitoring: Consider assigning the ongoing task of monitoring design aggregator handles, like “@kitchensofinstagram” for example, to a team member. To help monitor images on Facebook or Instagram, can utilize the Rights Manager feature, a new feature for both Facebook and Instagram business account users. Available through Facebook’s Creator Studio, it “allows rights owners to assert control over their intellectual property across Facebook and Instagram, including when the image is embedded on an external website,” per TechCrunch. To do so, the rights owner has to submit a compilation of the images it wants Facebook and Instagram to monitor for duplicates across the platforms and the web. 
  • Contacting: Once you find unauthorized use of your images, the first step is to ask them to take it down or to properly credit you. Darla Powell, Principal of Darla Powell Interiors says, “nine times out of ten you will find that it's ignorance or forgetfulness on the poster's part.”
  • Formal Complaints: If that doesn’t work, you can file a complaint using a process called a DMCA takedown notice, which allows you to send the notice to the host of the website that you think is violating your copyright. The ISP removes the duplicate copy and notifies the website owner. Beware, the owner can send a counter-notice, which then becomes a process. It is best to consult an attorney who can walk you through the correct steps to filing a DCMA takedown notice, and you can decide what to do from there. You may want to get an attorney to help you through the DMCA takedown notice process to make sure you are doing everything correctly.

In addition to protecting your own images, be sure you are using images from others properly and giving credit as needed, because you want to make sure you are not the offending party, either. Darla Powell, follows this topic closely:

“In the event that you're sharing inspo images, follow the rabbit trail to the original and  ensure that you have credited everyone that is credited in the original post. Of course, asking for permission is 100% failsafe and an excellent idea.” 

While the image rights issue on social media is murky, with more acknowledgement than recourse, an interior designer can still take measures to protect their images and ensure they do not violate sharing etiquette themselves. As always, taking a proactive position on how you want to handle image rights on social media is a worthy investment of your time. As an interior designer and business owner, you can never be too prepared. 

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Margot LaScala
Margot LaScala
Margot is a writer and interior designer based in the NYC area. She is passionate about keeping up with the latest architecture and design news to not only stay informed, but inspired.

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