The proliferation of social networking sites boggles the mind. They all claim to be the best, most popular, most important, to your business growth, networking, getting jobs, showing your work, all that. Which ones are actually worthwhile? Who knows? How much time do you spend/waste finding out? It takes a lot of effort to create a presence on a social networking site. I’d say about the same, or more, effort than it does to get eyeballs to a website. And, eyeballs do not equal clients or sales. In that area, your website probably is a better outlet for attracting the eyes of those companies you really want to attract, not the looky-lou’s frequenting MySpace and Flickr.
But, that’s not the only thing you need to think about. Make sure you read the Terms of Service (TOS) very closely, paying special attention to the copyright and usage sections. Many will stipulate by uploading content of any kind you give the owners of the site the non-exclusive, world-wide, royalty-free license to distribute, create derivative works, even re-license, the works you upload to the site.
Most social networking sites, by default, toss your content into the Creative Commons license pool, unless you specifically designate your content as private (which on some sites require a premium subscription – read, pay for it – Ning.com is an example). If you don’t read the TOS carefully and find out where you designate the license model you want to use, you could be in for a bit of a shock down the road when you find your rights managed image is now being used as royalty free. That’s a sticky situation.
I place a copyright notice watermark with my name and website on all my images posted to the web. The advent of Orphan Works and these sneaky TOS make it unsafe to leave your images just lying about like money on the street.
However, these social networking sites are also quick to point out that they are rigorous in defending their intellectual property rights by stating you are in no way and by no means granted any permission, right, or ability to use, modify, redistribute, license or otherwise manhandle any content, code, trademarks, or other copyrighted material of the site.
Seems a bit one-sided doesn’t it?
Read carefully. Then make up your own mind.