In the recent years, we have transferred our lives in the social networks giving in this way access to literally unlimited number of people to our profiles and sharing with them our thoughts, photos, videos and briefly - we have made public our life and professional activity.
But do we have control over our posts and published materials and are they protected? This question has two manifestations - in relation to any other user in the social network and in terms of the social network itself.
1. Copyrights and other users
Often the "use" of others' photo or creation is "innocent" and it is a result of the common impression that everything online is free and freely usable. This hypothesis, outside the purview of Art. 24 of the Bulgarian Law on Copyright And Related Rights, however, is acceptable only after an explicit prior permission of the work author. On Facebook has became usual to see many thematic groups which undisturbed and without considering copyright, publish others' photographs. In this regard, today we can say that we have more responsible online behavior and that, fortunately, is more common that the author of the used photo is named and/or there is a reference to the original source.
But there are cases of stolen works without the author's knowledge and authorization, which seriously damage the economic interests of the intellectual property rights holder. For example, in 2011 the professional Swedish photographer Tuan Azis published his photo in Instagram, which later accidentally has found like as a T-shirt stamp in a shop of the Spanish brand Mango. Another case ended with process and salty compensation is related to the France Press Agency's publication of a photograph, found on Twitter, depicting the damages of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 without the permission of its author Daniel Morel.
In this sense is and the decision of the Court in Rome from 01.06.2015 according to which every photograph published on Facebook is an object, protected by the copyright law and under which the local newspaper is fined to pay all material and nonmaterial damages to the author whose photographs were published without his permission.
2. Copyrights and the social networks /Facebook, Twitter, Instagram/
When it comes to the social network itself the issue about the copyright protection and ownership of works subject to copyright has another aspect.
When registering, every user has to read and accept the terms and conditions of those sites. And according to these general conditions in their current version it becomes clear that we have a very limited protection of our publications. Similarly, the general conditions inform us that with becoming part of the social network we give it a free license to manage our photographs or video.
In its general terms the social network provides that it has "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”). The so-called "IP content" is the copyright publications (photos, video, etc.). This license gives Facebook the right to use the IP content until the cancelation of the user's account. But even then, if the content is shared with other users it remains within the social network! Moreover, Facebook can transfer the license over the user's content without any permission.
It is necessary to mention that even after deleting our profile, according to the general terms and conditions, the account content is kept for an indefinite period of time on Facebook servers and it is possible to be restored.
On the other hand, in respect of third parties (other network users) Facebook seeks to ensure our copyright protection through its platform for reporting violations and through the possibility of deleting the violators account.
It is not surprising that the acquired by Facebook in 2012 program has settled similarly the copyright terms. But Instagram goes even further because of the possibility to retrieve an economic benefit from the user photos which enjoy the biggest interest. This is possible because when you became a member "you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you ". At least, Instagram is not allowed to change in any way the original by putting a logo of the advertiser on our photographs and it is allowed only to share them creating an association with the sponsored brand.
Instagram even reserves itself the right, through regressive responsibility, to seek compensation from the user in case that the published and shared user's photos infringe a third-party copyright.
In its general conditions Twitter also guarantees itself more extensive rights in comparison to Facebook. Thus, publishing materials by Twitpic we give „a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content" through any media formats and channels!
What is more - Twitter (Twitpic) states that “each user of the Service a non-exclusive license to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such Content".
On the background of what has been said here is not surprising to find that in case we decide to delete our account the above-mentioned license continues "for commercial reasonable time" after cancelation or deleting the content. What means a "commercial reasonable time", however, Twitpic does not explain. How we lose control over our creations once published becomes clear from the fact that the license rights guaranteed to other users or by sub-license prevail on our rights over this content and it remains available on the network.
In the lights of the current copyright regulation according to the social networks general terms, the conclusion is that before the registration and the publication of own creations which are subject to copyright every user has to decide whether he is ready to lose the total control of his publications in exchange for the benefits of sharing and promoting them.