Are You Violating Intellectual Property Rights on Social Media?
Social media is a brilliant way for people to communicate quickly and creatively. You can share your thoughts and ideas with emoticons or you can post photos you just took with your phone. You can even find images across the web and share them with your friends to express how you’re feeling at any given moment.
With instant access to just about any image ever uploaded to the web, it seems harmless to pass around images. Easy access to images makes it seem like all content on the web should be free to use. But the majority of images uploaded to the web are copyrighted and passing them around could get you in a lot of trouble.
Social media marketing for business requires caution
When you’re using your personal social media accounts to distribute content sourced from across the web, even if you’re sharing copyrighted material, you’re more likely to go unnoticed than when you’re sharing content while representing a business. This is because copyright holders don’t appreciate it when people use their images to make money.
When a business shares copyrighted material without permission, they’re likely to be sued by the person whose rights they’re violating.
Social media is entirely made for content distribution
Since social media is all about sharing content, you might be wondering how it can exist without violating copyright laws every minute. The simple answer is that when you signed up to use their services, you agreed to a set of terms and conditions that granted them rights to redistribute your content to other users.
While you have the right to share other people’s content within the same platform, you don’t have the right to take it and use it elsewhere. If you’re doing this for your business, you may end up in a huge lawsuit, like this one.
Fair Use doesn’t mean what you think it does
When freelance photographer Daniel Morel discovered that someone from Agence France-Presse had given a bunch of his photos to Getty Images and they redistributed them to other outlets, the AFP tried to sue him for making claims of copyright infringement. But Morel was in the right.
AFP claimed that Twitter allows for fair use of photographs, but the judge ruled that fair use only includes retweeting, and does not include using users’ photos for commercial purposes. Morel won $1.2 million in his lawsuit against Getty Images and AFP.
Even though the concept of fair use is coming under scrutiny, in order to determine whether it needs to be expanded, it’s a good idea to play it safe and get permission for the images you want to use when conducting business.
If you’re not sure whether or not you have permission to use someone’s images without asking, the best thing you can do is talk to an intellectual property lawyer to find out.
Marketing teams have a huge responsibility
When you’re in charge of putting together email blasts and posting on your company’s social media accounts, it’s easy to just do a quick Google search to find something fun to share. But if you’re using someone else’s image, photo, drawing, or other intellectual property without permission, you are probably violating the law.
You need a social media plan
When you’re on a marketing team and part of your job is to communicate and engage across social media platforms, you need a social media plan to outline and explain how your team is going to handle your company’s intellectual property like graphics, photos, and copy.
The entire marketing department should be on the same page regarding how your intellectual property will be stored, accessed, shared, and how licensing (if any) will be granted.
A social media plan should also include a protocol for how everyone should conduct themselves online to make sure nobody violates anyone else’s intellectual property rights.
Protect yourself and be smart
Because habits can sometimes be difficult to break, having a well-documented plan for how your marketing team will use social media can help mitigate the risk of being sued and keep your IP assets protected. And being diligent about your use of other people’s images just may save your company an expensive trip to court (and save your job).