Can a yearbook publisher use my Facebook photos?

I took the photo of my friends and uploaded it to Facebook (almost a year ago). I picked up my school yearbook today and the photo was on the Weekend Life page. I understand that I give specific permissions to Facebook when I upload it onto their server, but am I still the owner of the photo? The bottom of the yearbook page also says “Photos by: (insert name of random student).” No one asked for my permission to use my photo and when I called them out on it, they told me that since it’s on Facebook, it’s up for grabs. Is there anything I can do about it? I know it’s just a 2-inch wide photo in the yearbook, but I do not appreciate not having been asked for permission first.

Kar on May 22, 2012

Well Facebook is getting to be quite a source for copyright questions! “Am I still the owner of the photo?” Yes. You took the photo, you own the copyright. You gave permission only for Facebook to display the photo. “… it’s up for grabs.” Your photos cannot be used for commercial purposes unless you say so, which you did not. However, your photos can be used for “fair use” purposes which the yearbook may or may not be. The Weekend Life page could be construed as “news reporting” which is a classic and stated fair use that is “not an infringement of copyright (17 USC Section 107).” You have a “moral right” to be attributed for the photo, such as with a credit line. “Is there anything I can do about it?” Probably not. You could send a cease-and-desist letter, and/or request that you be credited for the photo. But the yearbook may be unlikely to get reprinted. A federal copyright lawsuit may not progress far.

fair use, moral rights, recourse

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