Social sharing has become a staple in the posting schedules of all businesses, large or small. A photo, a video, an inspirational quote – they spice up your social media pages and keep your followers informed and entertained. But do you really have the right to share content created by others? Even if you found this content on their social media pages as well?
Copyright an Social Sharing – a Murky Field for Many Marketers
Copyright is an undeniable right of any content creator. Whether you write a tweet, take a photo or make a short video, from the moment the work comes into existence, you hold full rights over it. You can choose to:
- Deny use of your work to each and all
- Grant a license for someone to use your work for a fee (called royalty)
- Offer a free license for anyone (or a specific group) to use your work.
When someone takes your work and uses it to illustrate a blog post, create an ad or a social media post without asking for your permission and obtaining a license to use it, they are infringing your copyright. And you have a right to take action against them.
This, in short, is how copyright works, even on social media.
The Golden Rule: Accessibility Does Not Represent Right to Use
“But everyone can see that photo on Twitter! Why can’t I use it?” The fact that a content creator made their work available to view does not mean that they grant a license to use that specific work.
There are two exceptions (but they are still fraught with danger):
- If you post a screenshot of the entire post and use it as a base for commentary and interpretation
- If you embed the link into your website or social media page.
In this way you offer credit and you also create a backlink to the source. The danger lies in the fact that not everyone wants this kind of promotion. They can still take you to court for copyright infringement.
To make things a bit simpler, we created a list of do’s and don’ts in terms of social sharing of copyrighted content:
DO: Ask for Permission
You are browsing Facebook or Instagram and find a photo that is a perfect illustration for your blog post. You contact the poster, ask them for permission, wait until you obtain it in writing and then you use the photo.
DON’T: Screenshot a Photo
Screenshots are liable to interpretation. When you print screen an entire conversation on Twitter topped by a photo, you may argue that you were only using the copyrighted material as context for commentary. When you simply screenshot the photo and use it, you have just committed copyright infringement.
DO: Look for Copyright Free Images
Creative Commons is a huge database of photos whose authors waive the right to a fee for granting the license to use. CC licenses have various degrees of restrictions – some authors request credit by linking back to their site or simply stating their name.
DON’T: Rely on Fair Use Too Much
Fair use has come under fire in the recent years. Social media has made the lines between fair and unfair use blurrier than ever. When an individual shares a copyrighted image to show their appreciation for the photographer or for the subject of the image, it may be accepted as fair use.
When a business page shares the image it can be interpreted that they are looking to build a followers’ base and convert them to customers – thus, they have a commercial interest.
DO: Embed Links
Embedding a link that contains the copyrighted material you want to share is the safe way to go. This goes for everything from blog posts, to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts.
DON’T: Assume Content Is Free to Use
If you cannot find any copyright claim or statement, it does not mean that it does not exist. The author of the work does not have to do anything to assert their copyright. The act of creating the work generates copyright. If you cannot identify the author to ask for permission, don’t use the work.
Special Warning concerning Live Streams
Live streaming an event is considered creating your own work. However, if the background audio is copyrighted music, then you are actually committing copyright infringement. Always be aware of ambient music and video streaming during the event you are live streaming and inquire whether you are allowed to do it before you start broadcasting to your Facebook followers.