Is it legal for someone to take a picture I post on Facebook for their own commercial use without my approval?

It depends on a few things – whether you took the picture (because the person that took the photo owns the photo) and whether your profile is set on the Public setting. It is true that you waive certain rights to the use of your photos when you upload them to the various social media site or photo sharing websites. You really have to look at each site’s terms of use policies to understand what you’re dealing with. Here is the pertinent language from Facebook’s Terms of Use:

“For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

Facebook also addresses when other people use your “IP content:

“When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).”

Thus, it appears you may have difficulty asserting your IP rights if you’re profile was Public when you published the picture. Nonetheless, if you feel that your rights have been violated, Facebook provides a few options: 1) “the fastest and easiest way to report that to us is to fill out this online form” or “you can choose to use traditional (and slower) methods, such as mail, to contact our designated agent. In that case, make sure you send us a complete copyright claim.”

An experienced IP attorney would be able to give you a more definite, insightful answer as to your rights. Feel free to stop by LawTrades for a free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney to help you through this complicated matter!