Where do you obtain the content you post on social media and your website?
I see a lot of businesses and individuals using content, which they don’t have permission to use. I believe that most of the time, it is unintentional and simply due to a lack of understanding of copyright laws. There is a good chance you may have done this at some stage, even if just accidentally. However, it is important to understand copyright and how it affects you, especially if you want to avoid the negative consequences of what would happen if you are caught or reported.
Copyright laws can be quite complicated, but the best rule of practise is quite simply this:
If you are not the original creator of a work,
If you do not have permission to use it,
Don’t use it.
Is any original piece of work that someone has created. It could be any of the below, but this list is by no means complete or exhaustive:
- original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including illustration and photography
- original non-literary written work, such as software, web content and databases
- sound and music recordings
- film and television recordings
- the layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works
Please check the copyright laws in your country, but remember the internet crosses borders.
Common mis-uses & misunderstandings
Very often, people may share content because they find it inspiring, beautiful or want to use it to help draw attention to their text or post. Regardless of the intention behind it, it’s still not allowed.
It is not ok to share any content that you did not create yourself, without the original creator’s permission or a licence to do so.
This is even if:
– You’ve seen other people post it already
– You’ve credited the person
– You’ve stated that “no copyright infringement intended”
– You think it’s inspiring or beautiful
Do not get confused by content going viral or being re-shared on social media. When you post that content as a new post, that is not the same thing.
Example: If someone posts a blog post, such as this one, and shares the link on facebook, you can generally re-share it as it links directly back to the original source – which is this website blog post.
But it’s not ok, to copy the content of this blog post (not even part of it) and post it on your account as a new post. Not even a screenshot and not even if you want to help promote my post.
If content has been posted with public settings on social media, doesn’t actually mean it’s public domain.
The meaning of public domain is quite different to something being visible to the public. It’s more to do with the copyright being expired or otherwise not-applicable, for very specific reasons. As most people don’t understand public domain, it’s just best to assume that something is NOT public domain.
Example: An artist or photographer can share their work on social media in order to showcase their portfolio. You – the public can see their work, but it is still copyrighted work and you still need their permission if you want to post or use their content somewhere. Compare this to a shop where there are items on display in the window. Just because they are on display doesn’t mean you can simply take it and walk out the store with it without paying. The items are on display because the owner wants you to buy it fairly.
If you see an image posted on social media or on the internet and you really want to use it, get in touch with the original creator to ask for permission.
When I have shared images from my travels on social media, on occasion a business will get in touch to ask if they could post or use those images on their social media too. Often the answer is a simple yes and I am happy to share. However, there are times when I have to say no. This may be because I have agreed a contract with a stock photo library or publication for the exclusive use of those images. Or perhaps I don’t feel comfortable with it. Either way, I appreciate being asked, it is the right thing to do.
So I encourage you to ask the original creator for permission before re-sharing their images or content because you may get a positive answer. However, if you don’t get a response at all, or they say no, please simply respect the copyright rules and find other content you can use legitimately instead.
Serious consequences of copyright breaches
Breaching copyright laws is serious. Even though you won’t necessarily go to jail for an infringement, the copyright owner could take legal action. What is most likely is that at the very least, your social media account could be blocked or deleted once reported.
I know of several businesses this has happened to.
How would you communicate with your audience then?
Please read the instagram guidelines around sharing content.
Valuing the work of others
It’s also disrespectful to the original author of the work. We seem to value the work of others less and less, and our expectations for things to be free have risen dramatically in recent years. Yet if someone asked you to do your job for free – even just for a day – I’m sure you wouldn’t like being undervalued and unappreciated. When an artist or creator makes something, they put as much energy and effort into creating it as any other person would do in their jobs. Let’s respect each other’s work and value each other.
Where to find content that is fine to use
If you need images to use, there are many resources and stock libraries where you can obtain images to use legitimately. The images I use are always either my own or from stock libraries.
If you have a website with Squarespace or Wix, you will have access to free stock photo libraries within the website builder itself. Otherwise you can also use resources such as Unsplash or Canva to create your social media content. Or how about hiring a photographer so you have your own unique content?
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not a lawyer and this content it not intended to replace any professional legal advice. I have spent 13 years working in media, handling content licencing and media rights. I have also studied media law in relation to journalism, so I simply speak with relevant practical experience.
Christine Wehrmeier | Owner, Kokoro Creative.