Facebook to update Rights Manager, giving photographers greater control over copyright
Facebook is planning a number of changes to the way image copyright is managed on the platform, with an update to its Rights Manager tool that will give certain accounts the ability to claim ownership of images as well as moderate where images show up, including on Instagram.
Rights Manager is a customisable tool found within the Facebook Creator Studio platform, and is designed to give creators an element of control over their content across both Facebook and Instagram.
In an update, the company said it is starting to work with 'certain partners' on implementing changes to the tool.
According to the Verge, the changes are sweeping, and could theoretically mean that if a brand uploaded an image to Rights Manager it could monitor where the image is reposted, including on Instagram. The brand would then be able to issue a takedown, which removes the infringing post entirely, or use a territorial block to limit the visibility of the image to certain jurisdictions.
At the same time, a brand could also add an ownership link to the image if they saw it being shared as beneficial, or exempt other users if an agreement has already been reached for sharing.
Facebook says the goal is to eventually open the tool to everyone, as it already does with music and video rights, which would potentially give creatives much greater control over how their work is disseminated. In turn, it would potentially bring an end to reposts on Instagram and Facebook, without prior permission.
However, the development of the tool is not without its challenges, according to Dave Axelgard, product manager of creator and publisher experience at Facebook, speaking to The Verge:
“We want to make sure that we understand the use case very, very well from that set of trusted partners before we expand it out because, as you can imagine, a tool like this is a pretty sensitive one and a pretty powerful one, and we want to make sure that we have guardrails in place to ensure that people are able to use it safely and properly,” he said.
According to Facebook, the tool requires an image rights holder to first upload a CSV file to Facebook’s Rights Manager that contains all the image’s metadata. At this point, the rights holder can determine where the copyright applies and limit it to certain jurisdictions.
Once the tool verifies the metadata and image match, it’ll then process that image and monitor where it shows up, by scanning the two social platforms to find matching content.
If another person tries to claim ownership of the same image, the two parties could then go back and forth to dispute the claim, with Facebook eventually yielding it to 'whoever filed first.' There will also be an appeal process built-in to Facebook’s IP reporting forms.
There are grey areas however, with the widespread use of memes being a particularly difficult area to manage copyright, especially so as by their very nature are often heavily manipulated.
Axelgard says the company is “learning more and figuring out the proper way to address specific use cases like memes.”
Instagram's somewhat lax approach to copyright has already been tested this year with a court case in June when it clarified that its terms of service does not include sublicensing embedded content, leading to questions about how media brands in particular often embed instagram posts to circumvent copyright.
More recently, the company has also suggested it may give content creators the ability to 'switch off' the option of sharing and embedding images, something that's only currently possible by making images private.