Advertising on Social Platforms Like a Pro: Pay Attention to Copyright Rules

You may be following hundreds of SEO guidelines, but is your brand breaking the law with some of the content you share?

Social media is the golden goose in content marketing – it is a platform where you meet customers, share your content, engage with prospects, and convert customers. As more businesses turn to social media, so many social media users do not pay attention to content ownership rules.

Every business must understand copyright laws on content use to stay safe from expensive litigation or the embarrassment that might come if another brand calls you out for “stealing” content. To be safe, create original content every time. If you are to use an image or text uploaded by someone, get permission from them.

What is Copyrighted on Social Media?

Any content that is not your creation is copyrighted, and you shouldn’t use it to market your business.

Immediately someone uploads text or photos, social media copyrights the photo or text. Copying or posting the same image or text exposes your business to significant legal risks. Copyright exists when you create an original work of authorship. Twitter and Facebook are not an exception.

Breaking copyright rules is as simple as retweeting someone’s statement with the intent of boosting your business. In 2018, a New York judge ruled that reporters who embedded a photo of Tom Brady in their tweets violated copyright laws. Tom Brady’s photographer first posted the photo on Snapchat, where it went viral and finally found its way to Twitter. 

Even when you give attribution and link to the original work, you are still breaking copyright laws. You need to understand that until you have permission from the original content creator, you are violating copyright laws.

Copyright Infringement Instances

The idea behind copyright laws is to protect content creators from “theft” of their work. The law offer protection from brands that might want to use their content without paying them or at least seeking permission to use the content.

The moment you download an image and publish it on any platform, be it your blog or social media pages, you are already committing copyright infringement. Even if the original creator does not sue you, you are still breaking the law.

If you take a picture from a large company, say Google or Getty, there is an assumption that the giant company will not be concerned with your action. However, unless you directly work with such businesses or have a subscription with them, do not assume that it is safe to use their images. Getty sends bills to companies that use their images, yet they do not have a subscription with them.

Liability on Breaking Copyright Laws

Unless the original creator sues you for copyright infringement, you are safe. The reason why most people do not take copyright infringement seriously is that most content creators decide not to sue. In most other cases, the content creators do not even notice that brands use their images or text, especially is there is no link back to their work.

You could pay up to $150,000 for every piece of content you “steal.” When you add attorney and legal fees, small brands can go out of business for a single image. Because the litigation process stresses everyone, the creator can send you a bill for your work, ask you to cease and desist letter or ask you to take the content down using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [1].

How to Protect Your Business

It would help if you were smart with the content you post online. Today, it is easy to share a meme or a gif without thinking about what it might do to your business. The best way to ensure your business is safe is to ask for permission from creators – it doesn’t matter how funny or minor you think the image or meme is, some creators might decide to earn from you. Once you have permission, it is essential to have a formal agreement between you and the creator or some form of evidence that you have permission to post the image or test.

There are so many free to use images on the internet, on Flickr, Unsplash, and CreativeCommons. Instead of stealing an image, why not use those images to market your business. Better yet, if you can take your photos and make your illustrations, you will be safer. In such a case, you can even sue or bill people who use your images without your consent.

[1] https://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf