Copyright and Social Media For Businesses – How To Avoid Copyright infringement Claims

Copyright Computer KeyboardTime to blog about one of the less exciting parts of social media and discuss how copyright and social media interact. This is a complicated topic that is important to understand for businesses, social media marketers and social media managers when posting on behalf of a business.

Before reading any further we would like to state that this post is our interpretation of copyright and social media. It does not constitute legal advice and we do not accept liability for any consequences of implementing policies discussed within this blog.

We would strongly recommend you seek independent legal advice before implementing or changing your content creation policy.

An Introduction to Copyright and Social Media

Social media is a great way to share fun, interesting or educational information you find from sources across the globe. However if you simply Google the image you want and share it on your website or social media without attributing credit and/or asking permission you could be breaking the law and liable for lawsuits and expensive restitution.

Yet by sharing on social media you become a content publisher and need to be aware of the implications of copyright and social media.

One problem we have found with copyright and social media are that there are no hard and fast rules. Even some of the lawyers we have spoken to on the topic will say “it depends”.

The reason for this uncertainty can be caused by the geographic fluidity of social media (which nations laws apply) and the context in which fair use applies (in the UK) particularly when work is being use by a commercial entity.

So What is Copyright

What is social media copyright

Copyright is the legal protection given to creators of content including text, pictures, video and audio. The creator of the content is automatically given copyright protection which controls the rights of people to copy, change or sell your work without your permission.

Copyright is important as it ensures that once ideas are codified and created that they have a value and the creator is rewarded when these are used.

The internet though has made copyright a difficult area to enforce, leading to the perception it does not apply. The vast availability of information and a culture of the internet being “free” means that protecting copyright can be difficult, but where it is abused the creator does have the right to seek compensation and damages.

How Copyright and Social Media Can Affect Businesses

This is where copyright can become an issue for businesses. Whilst individuals are largely left alone for the abuse of copyright (even of codified works such as music albums or DVDs) businesses are much more likely to be chased when they break the rules.

If a copyright holder finds that a business has been using their content without permission and for commercial gain then they may decide to contact you and ask you to remove the content and let that be the end of it.

However they also have the option to take you to court and seek payment for the use of the material and compensation for having to enforce their copyright. This can lead to costly legal bills and compensation payments.

Crediting Someone Does Not Negate Copyright

One misconception is that crediting a copyright creator and even linking to the original content will automatically override the copyright. Whilst crediting the creator is important and good practice it does not absolve the copyright.

We recommend you ask permission before posting other peoples content particularly when using with a commercial purpose.

Fair Use and Realistic Expectations

Copyright All rights reservedFor example if something is published on social media then it is a reasonable expectation and in fact encouraged for the content to be shared.

Therefore if you  retweet (twitter), repin (Pinterest) or share  (Facebook) there is a reasonable expectation that this would fall within the bounds of fair use. However if you were to save the image to your desktop and then upload it to your website, this expectation may not exist.

If you are in doubt always ask permission. (also remember this post does not constitute legal advice).

Stock Photography

Stock image sites are a great way to get access to copyrighted material and pay for the right to share it. This is how we acquired the image featured in this piece and allows us to work without fear that we are breaking the law. Stock photos are relatively inexpensive and can help you bring your social media posting to life. The images featured in this blog have all been acquired legally from

When you use stock photography or obtain the rights to share content it is important you consider any rules from the content creator to how they wish to credited and that you use the content in line with the license you purchase.

Example of Copyright and Social Media Goes Wrong

Stock photography websites make their money by giving people access to the copyright of images, therefore they are the most likely to pursue a business that is not obeying the rules.

Getty Images hit the news for their heavy handed enforcement of their copyright, this involved sending out letters demanding payment of hundreds of pounds for breaches of copyright law or not having the right licenses.

Best Practice

Here are some best practices to ensure that you can navigate copyright and social media effectively.

  1. Create your own original content wherever possible
  2. Share, repin or retweet content shared by the original rights owner
  3. Ask permission to use content
  4. Make sure you have the appropriate licenses for purchased content
  5. If in doubt ask permission or seek legal advice.

The essence of the article is common sense creating original content takes time and should be respected. In many industries what is created is the product and the way in which businesses make their money so the exploitation of copyright laws can have a profound effect on a business.

To put this into perspective if you create content you would not want others, particularly competitors stealing your content, copying it and distributing it without paying you or at least asking permission.

We know this blog has been quite daunting, we hope you are not too worried and does not deter you from using social media for your business.

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