This is one of a series of questions submitted by attendees of the Copyright, Common Mistakes and Myths Webinar and answered by Laura N. Gasaway, author of Pocket Copyright Guide for Publishers.
Question: My photos have been published in a book and are already copyrighted by the publisher. I have been told that if I post these photos on Facebook, they (Facebook) will now own the copyright. Is this true or false?
Answer: First of all, no, posting photos to social media does not transfer copyright. Whether or not you can legally post the photos depends on the transfer agreement you signed when you assigned the copyright to the publisher. If you reserved any rights, or did not specifically transfer the electronic rights, you would have the right to use the photographs that you “authored.” The publisher certainly is behaving as if you assigned the entire copyright to it, but that may not be the case. Publishers sometimes claim that they have rights they don’t actually own. You need to check that agreement, or have someone check it for you.
Pocket Copyright Guide for Publishers by Laura N. Gasaway and edited by Iris Hanney contains information vital to the publishing community.