What is Content Ownership?

Creator Economy 101

19 Jan 2023

Understanding content ownership is important for creators as it can have a significant impact on the way that your content is used, shared, and monetized online.

As a creator, understanding content ownership is necessary for protecting your work and ensuring that you receive credit and compensation for your creations.

What Are Your Content Rights?

Creators such as artists, filmmakers and influencers should be in charge of their own content online. That means creators can decide where their work will be seen on the internet. It's important for creators to protect the rights to their work and make sure they get this kind of credit for it.

Content ownership is extremely important because it informs the legal rights and responsibilities associated with creating, distributing, and using various forms of intellectual property. 

For creators, having ownership over your content provides creative freedom while also ensuring that your creator-owned work cannot be misappropriated or used without your permission in the first place. 

Who Owns the Copyright to Your Content?

Have you ever signed up for one of the many content-driven platforms out there and wondered who truly owns the content you upload on it? 

Well, at the base level the copyright, a legal protection that grants creators of creative works exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display their works, generally belongs with the originator — that's you. 

But there is a value exchange that takes place that you should consider before aligning your brand to any one platform. 

Advantages of sharing content to a platform

When signing up for platforms, creators should know what rights they give away in exchange when they agree to the terms of service agreement. For example, sharing your content to a platform such as Instagram or Flickr is important when it comes to growing your reach. 

This is because you can leverage from a borrowed audience which can turn users of the platform into lovers of your content and eventually superfans of your work. 

But when signing up, make sure you know what rights are being given away in the terms of service agreement. This is important because you need to make sure that you have control over your work and receive credit for it. 

Artists will be all too familiar with the term ‘exposure’, and that is exactly what these platforms provide in a nutshell. But at what cost is only apparent if you dive into the details.

When signing up, make sure you know what rights are being given away in the terms of service agreement. This is important because creators need to make sure they have control over their work and receive credit for it.

Disadvantages of sharing content to a platform

In the era of social media platforms, content ownership can be further complicated by the terms of service of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Users are often required to grant the platform a license to use their content in exchange for the ability to post it on the platform. This can lead to confusion over who has the right to use a piece of content and how it can be used.

While it may seem that you are simply posting your content to a website, what is actually happening is a binding and ever-evolving agreement is being entered into. For Facebook, it means that anything you post on the website under the “Public” setting is available for anyone to use.

For Twitch, it’s that you grant them a royalty-free license to use your content without restriction. While both examples allow you to maintain ownership over your work, it's easy to see how platforms can make creators suspect what might happen to their content or image when used for purposes that stray far from original intent. 

This is the slippery slope that happens when complete ownership is pulled away from the creator’s hands. Yes. Platforms will argue that creators own their own content. But access to that ownership and its usage can be morphed in so many ways when control is not entirely yours.

Platform-Specific Terms of Service

It's important to note that content ownership can differ across the platforms you use, as each platform may have its own set of terms of service and policies. For example, while many platforms require you to grant them a license to use your content in exchange for the ability to post it on their platform, there are some platforms that allow you to retain full ownership of your content, more on that later. 


ArtStation is a digital art website that allows artists to post and share their content.

You retain ownership of your original content.

Your content may be shared with third parties, for example, on social media platforms or available for purchase through the Marketplace. 

You grant royalty-free, perpetual, world-wide licenses to Epic and their service providers to use, copy, modify, reformat and distribute your content. 

If you would like your content to be prohibited from use with AI you can tag it as “NoAI” but this must be done actively by the artist.


Instagram is a social networking platform for sharing photos and videos.

You retain ownership over your content but you grant Instagram a licence to use this content.

This includes your profile and user behavior which can be used in connection with accounts, ads, offers and other sponsored content that you follow or engage with that are displayed on Meta Products. 

This licence ends when the user deletes their content or account.


Facebook is an online social media and social networking service that allows users to share content such as photos and videos.

Users retain ownership of the intellectual property rights in any content they create and share on Facebook.

A licence to use this content is granted to Facebook when it is shared on the site. 

This license ends when the content is deleted from Facebook's systems.


Flickr is an image and video hosting service, as well as an online community. 


Users retain all intellectual property rights in the content they post. 

By posting content, users grant SmugMug a perpetual, nonexclusive right to use the content. 

SmugMug may limit the amount of user content stored on the site and remove excess content at any time.



Patreon is a membership platform that allows content creators to run a subscription service. 

By posting creations on Patreon, creators grant the company a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use said creations. 

The purpose of this license is limited to providing and promoting memberships to patrons. 


TikTok is a video-focused social network.

You or your licensors will own any user content uploaded or transmitted through the app. 

TikTok may generate revenues, increase goodwill or otherwise increase their value from your content (i.e. advertising, sponsorships, promotions, usage data). This Agreement does not entitle you to any payments. 

You waive any rights to inspection, marketing approval, promotional materials related to your content. 

You also waive any and all rights of privacy, publicity, or any other rights of a similar nature in connection with your content. 

You also waive and agree to never assert any moral rights, or to support, maintain or permit any action based on any moral rights in your content.

TikTok reserves the right to cut, crop, edit or refuse to publish your content at their sole discretion. 


Twitch is a livestreaming video platform and community for gamers that allows users to submit, transmit, display, perform, post, or store content.

By using the Twitch Services, you grant Twitch and its sub-licensees an unrestricted right to use your User Content including modifying it and redistributing it in any form or media now known or developed in the future.

Twitch may retain server copies of Submitted Projects that have been removed or deleted, but will not display, distribute, or perform them.


Snapchat is a multimedia instant messaging app and service that allows users to share content such as photos, videos, and messages.

Users retain ownership rights to the content they share on Snapchat, but grant the app a license to use that content.

The scope of this license depends on which Services users are utilizing and what Settings they have selected.

For all content submitted to the Services, users grant Snap Inc. and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable license to host store cache use display reproduce modify adapt edit publish analyze transmit distribute that content. 

This license allows for Snapchat to make user-generated content available to service providers with whom it has contractual relationships related solely for the provision of such services.


YouTube is a global online video sharing and social media platform.

You retain ownership rights to your content, but you grant YouTube a worldwide license to use it in connection with the Service.

The licenses granted by you continue for a commercially reasonable period of time after you remove or delete your Content from the Service.

You grant YouTube the right to monetize your content on the service (i.e. displaying ads or charging users a fee for access). This Agreement does not entitle you to any payments. 

Impact of ownership on the digital art creator economy

As creators continue to make their mark online, the issue of platform ownership and its impact on creators needs to be discussed, especially in the context of digital artists. Platforms like Instagram and YouTube have become powerful tools for creators.

However, they will often adhere to a corporate aesthetic and page layout which is great for maintaining a sense of brand consistency. But this can be a pain point for creators looking to stand out by doing more than simply changing the header banner on their profile page.

When looking at platforms that cater specifically to the needs of digital art creators, it can get a little spicy. For example, the introduction of artificial intelligence tools onto DeviantArt and ArtStation has made it apparent where they stand. Some people believe that AI-generated art is not truly "art" because it is created without human intention or creativity. Others argue that AI can be used as a tool to enhance human creativity and produce new forms of art that wouldn't be possible without the assistance of AI. Regardless of which side you lean, businesses want to make that decision for its creators.

DeviantArt, an art-driven social networking platform launched its AI art generator last November and if any artists didn’t want their work to be used to train the AI to create its own rendition of art, they had to manually opt-out. The backlash online was so great that DeviantArt updated their terms of use to be an opt-in agreement instead. Meanwhile ArtStation stood firm on its decision to allow its users to opt-out of training the AI. 

Creators who want to build a successful career in a digital art creator economy must be aware of unexpected implications such as this if they continue using platforms that borrow access to ownership in exchange for convenience. 

Centralized platforms vs decentralized platforms 

All the platforms that have been mentioned up until this point are centralized, meaning that a centralized system has complete authority and control over your user data and how it's accessed as long as your content exists on the platform. Think of it like a co-guardian relationship between you and the platform when it comes to the decisions being made for your content. 

In general, creators should seek to maintain control over their content online. This could be in the form of using self-hosting or self-managed platforms as a way to protect intellectual property rights and ensure that they receive proper credit for their work; however, this may also be costly for self-starters looking to grow first. If this isn’t possible, decentralized platforms are a viable solution.

Decentralized platforms enable creators to make their own content and retain control in its entirety. This means they don't need to worry about someone using their work without credit, benefitting from royalties earned by the content, or having restrictions imposed on them by a platform that can smack the ban hammer on anything and anyone at any time.

These platforms also provide creators with features such as analytics, custom branding opportunities and more control over who sees what content. Creators can enjoy having greater ownership of the platform in which they are sharing their content on, giving them access to a wider audience than ever before while providing an extra layer of security against potential copyright infringement issues.

Owning your work gives you complete control over the access, monetization, and partnership opportunities associated with your creative assets. By joining a decentralized platform designed for creators, all rights to the content you create stays with you. Free from algorithms and greedy revenue sharing models created by sites that put their needs in front of creators.

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