A blog that focuses on the photography of Dean J. Birinyi, an interior and architectural photographer based in San Francisco, CA.

The darker side of social media marketing

Stonelake Clubhouse at Dawn
Elk Grove, CA
Lennar Homes 

Yesterday I heard about the Philips Light-Collector  website. A new social media platform for lighting designers and others involved with lighting.

From the website :
Collect memorable images that record the unforgettable impact lighting can have in design, art, architecture and nature.
Share your collection with a global online network of peers, colleagues, experts and influencers.
Inspire and be inspired: your pictures, thoughts and suggestions can provide a vital creative spark for others and help bring your lighting ideas to life.

Sounds good doesn’t it. A place to go to find lighting inspiration and showcase your own work hoping to connect with a potential client or two.

Unfortunately this was brought to my attention:
You affirm, represent and warrant that the User Content submitted to the Light- Collector Web Site does not infringe any proprietary right of another, such as but not limited to copyright, trademark or patent, or any confidentiality obligation.
You acknowledge and agree that any of your ideas, submissions or discussions or any other User Content provided by you within the Light- Collector Web Site that is not the subject of intellectual property right protection may be used by any other contributor without compensation or attribution.

You hereby grant to Philips, its subsidiaries, affiliates and partners a worldwide, irrevocable, royalty free, non-exclusive, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, prepare derivative works of, distribute, publicly perform, publicly display, transmit, commercially exploit and publish User Content provided by you, on this Light- Collector Web Site or any other Philips web site or in other Philips marketing or public relations materials in any and all media.

What that means is that once you upload an image to the Philips LightCollector website Philips owns that image and can do anything they please with it including sell it to your nearest competitor and you can’t stop them. They can use the photographs of your work you post to promote anyone and anything they please and they don’t need to ask your permission, or give you credit. So that photograph of a living room or office that you paid anywhere from $150 to $550 dollars for you’re giving it to them for free and they won’t even say “thank you.”

This is called a rights grab and it’s becoming more common every day in social media (remember last weeks instagram outrage?) and even in design competitions. Usually when held by a manufacturer, but even some professional associations have gone down this route.

The neatest thing about this particular rights grab is the first paragraph:
“You affirm, represent and warrant”
That language puts the person who posted the image in the hot seat if there is a copyright infringement, say of the photographers copyright, etc. So if the photographers copyright is violated Philips gets to make lots of money and you get to go to court.

If you're thinking “if it gets my name out there it’s worth it to me” you need to read the last line of paragraph two again.
...may be used by any other contributor without compensation or attribution.
“Without attribution” means your name won’t get out there.

The moral of this story is if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Social media is a great tool and it can create many new opportunities to connect with your clients and prospect, but you need to watch out. Read the terms of service and never let your guard down. This is business and blindly accepting someones terms of service without carefully reading and understanding it is just like signing a contract without reading it; you’re likely to at least be taken advantage of if not hurt badly.