September 22, 2017

Do I Really Own My Photos on Facebook? What Rights Does Facebook Have to My Photos?

With over a billion users, Facebook is the definitive homepage for many web users. After joining the social network, you are likely to spend more time sharing updates and photos with your friends, but you will not invest your precious time to read the lengthy terms of service document to figure out the true ownership of the uploaded images.


Ownership of your images, videos, and other content, which end up on Facebook, is always a matter of discussion. Facebook has highlighted extensive details on the matter, let’s take a look.

Does Facebook actually own My Photos?

In actuality, you are the sole owner of your own content. Facebook doesn’t own your photos, videos, and other content. That’s not how the world of copyright works.  In fact, it is right mentioned in Facebook’s terms of service: “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook.“

Now let’s take a look at what rights does Facebook really have with your photos once you upload them. Here is the relevant bit of the terms of service:

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

  1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us 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). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
  2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

The social network giant mentioned that it will get a ‘non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license’ to your photos. Now, what exactly does this mean for the ownership of your photos? As detailed by HowToGeek, here is the breakdown of the above Facebook’s terms of service, for your understanding:

A ‘non-exclusive’ license means that you are free to license your photo to anyone else you want. Just because you have uploaded a photo to Facebook, does not mean you are barred from sharing it on other social media networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. You can do whatever you want with it.

The ‘transferable’ and ‘sub-licensable’ means that Facebook can either transfer the license to another entity or just sub-license it, without paying you a penny or asking your permission. It means you are not at liberty to ask them for a payment if you feel offended by their actions.

Finally, a ‘royalty-free, worldwide license’ means that Facebook is free to use your photos pretty much how they’d like anywhere in the world, again without your permission.

But, You’re Still In Control. How?

The “subject to your privacy and application settings” conveys that you will still be able to control exactly how your images are used. If you want only your close friends, relatives or few selected people to see them, you can do that. This means that, even though Facebook’s license is broad, you’re still in control of how it’s implemented.

Again, another important clause, “This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account” also gives you control. It means, if you delete a photo, Facebook’s license is revoked. It’s the same when you delete your account.


Facebook’s terms of service sound scary but really aren’t. Facebook has enforced those pretty broad and scary licensing terms to make sure that they don’t face any legal trouble. For, facebook to work as intended, it needs this sort of vague license. Think of this: If the licensing conditions were not present there, displaying the photos you post to Facebook in your friend’s News Feeds would have been impossible. If you hadn’t given them a license, it would be a violation of your copyright for them to show that photo to your friends.

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