The Photo They Wanted for Free.
Instagram. It, like Facebook, Twitter etc. can be great tools for getting your creative content out to people who would not normally see it. I have had pictures shared on several Instagram accounts such as @tourismjasper (the city of Jasper Alberta), @cbcnewbrunswick and @destinationnb (Tourism New Brunswick) to name a few.
I was looking through some of last year's photos on Instagram this evening and noticed that @explorecanada wanted to share the photo you see above. I was kind of upset I didn't notice this last summer when I posted the photo because with just one glance at the gallery of @explorecanada, it's easy to see that some of the best photographers in the country are being featured! They have a million followers, so who wouldn't want their picture to be shared on such a grand scale? The more exposure the better right?
Now normally the process of allowing your photo to be shared on another account is fairly simple. Some sites say to use a specific #hashtag to be featured, others will actually send you a direct message to make sure that it is ok for them to share. Needless to say I was a little curious as to why I was being asked to follow a link in their Instagram bio.
So I clicked to see where it took me.
Obviously this raised a few red flags for me once something this in-depth came up for sharing a photo on Instagram. Let's look at some of that smaller print shall we?
I'll be really upfront and honest with you guys, I'm not a lawyer. Surprising I know. However, what I glean from all this legal-speak is that once you click that button, you give them the right to use this photo however they want. I'm intrigued! Let's read on!
There's some good stuff in this one. I don't get to have a say in how my art is used. I can't ask for compensation if say, it's used in a major marketing campaign and for some reason you guys felt the need to put something in there about invasion of privacy. What exactly are you doing that is going to invade my privacy?
Oh....because your are collecting and storing my personal information! And possibly giving that information away to people outside the country?! Now just hold on a minute, who's running this outfit?
Let me recap. One of the more popular Instagram accounts in Canada, that features some of the best photos that depict how stunning the country we live in is, is asking me to waive my rights to compensation for my work, approval of how it is going to be used, and collecting, storing and giving away my data? All for the "opportunity to participate" in a government run tourism initiative? Oh? There's more you say?
There's the website. And here's what you are greeted with.
Two different websites to choose from. The traveler's website is actually the kind of site you would want people from other countries to see if they are thinking about coming to Canada. Has lists of things to do in certain areas, showcases some of our beautiful country (which we now know that some of that content they got for free if not most) and is probably a really good resource for tourism.
What I found more interesting was on the Corporate site.
Well being a government run program (or at least partially funded by them), you must have great job opportunities for people passionate about travel and photography etc. right?
You get the point. Don't pretend to appreciate the immense artistic talent our country has, and then turn around and exploit it.
All of their financials and statements and what they spend on salaries, expenses etc. is open information on their website, and although I'm not an accountant, it seems that this operation is making money. And enough money that it could be paying for the rights to some, if not all of the images they are gathering off of Instagram or Facebook or who knows where else.
I went down this rabbit trail because I am becoming more and more protective of my creativity. Having control over it and how it's used. I am sure a lot of people that have had their photo shared by @explorecanada didn't bother to look at that fine print, because let's be honest, who does? And more then likely just the excitement of having so many people see their picture, providing all the followers and likes from that account are legitimate and not bots, probably overrules thinking critically about what you're agreeing to.
This is all to say, protect what you create. Know what it is being used for when you agree to something. Don't be afraid to ask to get paid for what you do. Your time and skills are worth something.
Your art IS worth something.