Do You Own The Content You Post To Instagram? Should You Watermark It?

Mark Dalton
Oct 30, 2017 · 4 min read

So I addressed this topic recently on my Instagram story in the context of watermarking Instagram photos following questions from several people following me on Instagram.

Watermarking has been something I have always been against on Instagram, with such a small real estate to play with for images I feel that watermarks can take away from the overall shot on Instagram. However, as a photographer I got that wrong.

A company reached out to me on Instagram a few weeks ago asking if they could use one of my photos to promote their business and content. Sure, no problem…but I charge for businesses to promote using my photos on social media. €25 and you get the image without a watermark to use on your social media channels as you please.

Note — this is different from being featured by community channels for which there is no charge of course. I love being featured by community pages on Instagram, its an honour for me and that is not something I am ever going to message people and ask money for. They are showcasing my work to their community and I love that.

However for a business looking to promote or feature my shot for their business page? Yep you gotta pay for that. Anyway this company told me they wouldn’t be paying which is fine except they went and tried to use the photo anyway. As a result, every photo I upload to Instagram is now watermarked in the bottom corner and naturally people have started asking questions about that. Is is necessary? Should they be doing it to? Lets take a look at that.

I own my Instagram photos…right?

Yes, bottom line and simple answer is that you own your Instagram photos. Instagram does not claim ownership of any content you post on their platform.

However, its not that black and white either. You do grant Instagram very broad licence rights. Basically a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license for Instagram to use content that you post.

What does that mean? Basically it means that you give licence for Instagram to use your content for free, for any reason, anywhere in the world. It is common practice for community pages or indeed user accounts to re-share content on Instagram which they don’t own themselves as long as the source is cited.

This is what we do on the Derelict Stories account, we credit the photographer and the source in the caption. Now Instagram is highly unlikely to use their broad licence rights to sell your content for profit simply because that would put users off the platform. However it is important to know that these broad licences exist.

“But I didn’t agree to this! I don’t give Instagram my permission to do this! Those photos are mine!!”

Typically we see users getting up on their high horse at this point. Sorry to tell you but you did agree to this. You agreed by signing up to Instagram, you agreed by uploading photos to the platform — that is you agreeing to the ToS that none of us read when we join.

So…should I be watermarking?

I’m not going to tell you not to use watermarks. If you really want to use them then by all means go ahead but for about 98% of people on the platform there is no point watermarking.

The 2% of people who may need to use a watermark are people protecting their work that they need to get paid for and making a living from but want to share on Instagram too.

So I use watermarks for one simple reason, I don’t want a company to take the photo and use it for their paid promotion on Instagram. They make money and sales from the photo that I took, edited and uploaded. Now should that happen, Mark Dalton Photography is stamped down on the bottom corner of the photo. Honestly, its not much if any protection at all but for a photographer its a little something which turns out to be better than absolutely nothing.

The average end user simply doesn’t need to use a watermark, simple as that. You aren’t really protecting your photo at all by watermarking it. People aren’t going to see a watermark and think, “oh shit I better not steal that photo.”

My watermark isn’t really protecting the photo from infringement, it is more for myself knowing if some little shit steals it, my name is on it and for a photographer that can be important.

If you do decide you want to use a watermark regardless of this then try to pick something which is designed well, discrete and doesn’t take away from the photo — seriously some of the watermarks people use are horrific.

Mark Dalton

Photography. Technology. Social Media. Opinion.

Mark Dalton

Written by


Mark Dalton

Photography. Technology. Social Media. Opinion.

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