Ownership of digital photos is a thorny issue, not helped at all by the difficult legalese that makes up most online terms and conditions.
With many popular social networking and photo sharing websites, you may 'own' your digital photos, but once you post them online, you give the site the right to use them how it wishes.
The photo application Instagram, owned by Facebook, caused a commotion when it changed its terms and conditions to state that it had the right to sell users' photos to advertising partners.
The UK government has also not helped the issue by passing changes to copyright laws that could make it easier for media companies to claim ownership of, or at least use, images posted online.
So just what are your rights with the various photo-sharing sites and social networks? We've waded through the hellishly long terms and conditions for some of these companies to see what they mean for you.
Instagram's stance boils down to the uneasy difference between ‘ownership’ and ‘license to use’.
Post a photo to Instagram and yes, you do own it. But Instagram has the right to use it in its promotional activities, and it can transfer or sub-license this right to its partners.
To put it another way, it’s your car. But park it in the Instagram garage, and you give Instagram (and its friends) a spare set of keys and the right to go for a drive whenever it likes.
But a further clause reveals that this relationship doesn’t work both ways, and you're not free to help yourself to any old content on Instagram that isn't your own.
As the owner of Instagram, it's no surprise that Facebook's take on content ownership is the same.
As a Facebook user, you own any content, including photos, that you post online, according to its terms. However, it also states in its T&Cs that you give it the right to ‘use’ your content, and this right can be transferred or sub-licensed to its partners.
According to the T&Cs of both Facebook and Instagram, any profit that is made as a result of using your content will not be shared with you.
It’s a familiar story over at Twitter’s T&Cs, with the same language being used around adapting, modifying, distributing and using your content, which includes any photos you upload.
By signing up to Twitter you agree to let it 'use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute' any of your content, including photos that you post.
Once you post a photo to Twitter, it’s perfectly within its rights to use that photo for its own purposes.
Even photo-uploading stalwart Flickr isn’t immune to the legalese around rights to use your content.
Post a photo to Flickr and you give Yahoo! a right to 'reproduce, modify, adapt and publish' your content, though only for the purpose of promoting its own services.
Behind the legalese
With a lot of online photo-sharing sites, the same legal terms keep cropping up. But what do they mean for your content?
It's a complete catch-all. There’s not much of a limit on what ‘using your content’ could boil down to, and it puts plenty of rights within the hands of the service.
Again, these terms could cover a lot of ground, for example cropping an image to show only a part of your photo rather than the whole thing if it were used as part of a promotional campaign.
These terms allow the services to use your photos in promotional activities such as advertising campaigns, although it’s unlikely you’ll see your photo on the side of a bus poster.
This lets the service transfer the rights to your photos to any partner they may work with now or in the future – for example, an advertising partner.
If any profit is made as a result of using your photo, you won’t be seeing a penny of it.