Who Really Owns the Photos You Share on Social Media?

An artist sold other people’s Instagram photos for $90,000 apiece. Find out what his actions mean for your social media activities.

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The works that art dealer Larry Gagosian displayed in his booth at the Frieze Art Fair New York were on sale for $90,000, the culture-oriented news website Vulture reports.

But that’s not why this news caused a stir online.

Gagosian sold works from artist Richard Prince’s “New Portraits” series, which are essentially enlarged reprints of photos Prince took from Instagram accounts. Some experts say that is legal, CNN reports:

Consider this a two-part lesson. You forfeit certain rights by using a social media network. And once your photos are out in public, they’re out of your hands forever.

Instagram is a photo-oriented social media service owned by Facebook.

Prince’s series was previously displayed last fall at the Gagosian Gallery in New York.

The New Yorker magazine described the exhibit’s works as photos of people ranging from model Kate Moss to everyday folks “advertising themselves in racy selfies” reprinted above “reproduced bits of comment threads tend[ing] toward the slangy and salacious.”

Instagram’s privacy policy states:

Any information or content that you voluntarily disclose for posting to the service … becomes available to the public, as controlled by any applicable privacy settings that you set …

Once you have shared user content or made it public, that user content may be re-shared by others.

Mary Ann L. Wymore, an intellectual property attorney in St. Louis, tells CNN that Instagram’s policy could be considered a legal loophole that allows someone like Prince to grant himself permission to copy entire Instagram posts:

We’ve found the defense they’d probably try to rely on, which is consent — explicit or implied. People need to be very careful about their privacy settings.

To learn more about Instagram privacy settings, visit the service’s “Controlling Your Visibility” and “How do I set my photos and videos to private so that only approved followers can see them?” pages.

Stacy Johnson

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