Could You Run into Copyright Trouble from Social Media Shares?

copyright Oct 04, 2018

In 2012 a shocked Bill Tikos found the Facebook page for his pop culture website The Cool Hunter was shut down. Facebook deleted the page, with nearly 800,000 followers, for copyright infringement.

As a major part of The Cool Hunter business strategy, the Facebook page was generating over 10,000 clicks to the website per day.

What did Tikos do to incur such Facebook fury? The page contained multiple shares of images without Tikos asking permission. He also did not credit the copyright owners of many of the images.

Copyright and Social Media

Wasn’t The Cool Hunter was doing what everyone does on social media?

After all with often just one click, it’s easy to find and share photographs, drawings, videos, songs or lines from a movie or book from other social media pages, profiles and even Google.

When someone creates any of the above copyright applies automatically in most countries.

Copyright protects the rights of creators and these rights protect original content from being copied, shared, reproduced, redistributed or published without the copyright owner’s consent.

It is a commonly held belief that when copyright owners post content on the internet it voids those rights, but it is not the case. For example, the  Facebook policy on IP states:

Facebook is committed to helping people and organizations protect their intellectual property rights. The Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities does not allow posting content that violates someone else’s intellectual property (IP) rights, including copyright and trademark.

That means you cannot share any item that is the IP of another without (a) asking permission (and paying a fee if required) and (b) crediting the copyright creator.

Implied Consent

Sometimes you may have implied consent to share a post.

A great example of implied consent is when you write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine. You give them implied permission to publish that letter.

What is implied consent on Social Media?

There are two types of implied consent: your activities and other’s activities.

As a business or creator if I put up posts on my business page and asked people to share them, then it’s plain I have given implied consent. I WANT you to share.

I might also post

  • Events
  • My latest blog article
  • A link to my most recent newsletter
  • A competition where you have to undertake an activity
  • A promotional or sales post
  • An educational video that promotes my business

Each of these is an item I am HOPING people will share. So my followers can safely assume that they have implied consent to do so.

It’s the same if a media or blog site has share buttons on their articles. They WANT you to share.

There may also be times where you are giving consent for someone to share YOUR content.

For example, a fashion business may ask on their Facebook or Instagram page for customers to share a photo of themselves dressed in the businesses clothing in return for a chance to win prizes and be featured in the businesses next ad campaign. If you take part you have likely given that business implied permission to use your content (Hint: I’d still want to see a signed contract in this scenario).

Using Content of Others

For any other use of content that falls under IP (if it contains people’s creative work, like a painting or photo), you can’t use without permission.

What do you need to do to share the content of others? Simple - ask and gain permission - or explicit consent.

It need not be formal, it can be as simple as making a request in a Private Message or even commenting on the post you wish to share. Or email a request if you can source the copyright owner’s email.

If the copyright owner grants permission you can post the item, but make sure you screenshot and file the conversation.

Once you have your permission, you are free to share - but make sure you credit the copyright owner.

Final Thoughts

The rules around copyright and other IP are confusing and the myths that perpetuate online make it even worse.

Educating yourself on copyright can save your reputation and even your business - and make sure you don’t lose your Facebook page like Bill Tikos!

Article written by Andrea Smith

Andrea is a member of our Take10 Social Social Media Success Circle. If you would like to learn more about copyright, why not kick-start your education by following her on Facebook and Instagram.

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