Avoiding Copyright Troubles on Social Media

Avoiding Copyright Troubles on Social Media

July 31, 2020

Social Media has transformed the way individuals and companies communicate by providing a platform where they can publish and publicize almost anything. It has proven to be a great tool for businesses interested in exploring the marketing opportunities available on social media for instant mass publication of content including everything from photos, tweets, blogs and links to content, but this must be done with a proper understanding of existing copyright laws.

The need to understand these existing laws is even more important as every social media user is a publisher of some sorts and it is very easy to share videos, quotes, photos and more quickly and easily. As this happens really easily and quickly, there’s no question that copyright rules are often completely forgotten or ignored, hence the need for business owners who have decided on using social media as part of their business strategy to understand and consider copyright laws.

There is an estimated 75 million users on Twitter worldwide, over 1 billion on Facebook and over 100 million on Instagram – that’s a lot of eyeballs. Businesses are recognizing the opportunity to connect with potential customers. With that much content being generated, it’s raising some interesting questions regarding copyright and intellectual property. Ultimately, the question of whether or not various tweets can be protected comes down to the legal answer of “it depends.”

It’s undeniable that the customs of most social media applications including Facebook and Twitter encourage the sharing mentality, and this is often okay with owners of copyrightable material. For example when someone creates a funny meme (a clever photo or video with text meant to go viral), by posting it in the first place, its clear that the creator wants it to be shared without any expectation of payment or credit. Note that some memes do include a URL or another type of watermark on the image, in which case the online creator wants that credit info to be included with the image. In a case like this, removing the watermark on the image of the URL violates the clear intention of the creator, yet the likelihood of consequences are low. The important detail every social media user should note is that, while the rules may seem fuzzier, the intention of the creator is always an important factor for consideration.

Beyond memes and funny clips, using photos (text of anything subject to IP protection) that you find online and sharing them in any of your business activities is a very bad idea if you do not have the permission of the content creator. Its one thing when an individual shares another’s content recklessly on social media but when same thing is done by a business, it is seen as attempting to profit commercially with the infringement, making it more serious. It is also very bad for the reputation of your business. As a business, do not feel free to share content on social media unless you use them within the rules of intellectual property. If the content does not include special licensing, then general copyright rules apply. Creators sometimes may allow you use their content non-commercially or even commercially as long as due credit is provided. Other issues that may arise on social media include using copyrightable material for another purpose other than what the owner gave permission for.

So, since the possible uses of photos and other creative works on social media is so endless, and potentially high profile, businesses can make it a point to agree from start with their creators about whether and what social media uses are allowed. Many creative people/content creators would be happy for you to share their work on social media, but often want to be credited. Giving credit is easy to do and can actually help the reach of the social media post by potentially tapping into the content creator’s followers.

Businesses should note that giving credit for using another’s content does not get you out of infringement trouble, if you are in fact using something without permission. This is further complicated by the fact that when a social media account is created, users agree to the particular terms of use of the website. These terms often include a statement certifying that the poster holds all intellectual property rights to the content that he or she is posting on the site. When you sign onto social media platforms like this, you are agreeing to such terms, social media users take on the liability for an infringement claim, which may be brought by an author for content that users post. That’s not to say the social media providers are off the hook entirely, but they are learning to protect themselves more and more

Social media is still in its infancy with its rapid growth largely occurring in the last 10 years, so whether you are frequently posting or reposting on these sites, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the power of your click goes beyond something so seemingly simple. Businesses on social media need to be aware that there are consequences, both good and bad, to marketing within this medium. A company can take measures to protect itself by having a cogent plan outlining a strategy, and more importantly, specific guidelines for use can be helpful in protecting against unwanted situations.

Team 618 Bees




The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, no information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or professional advice from the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer. This post is protected by intellectual property law and regulations. It may however be shared using appropriate sharing tools provided that our authorship is always acknowledged and this Disclaimer Notice attached


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