Copyright, trademark and patents were created to protect intellectual property. Even though many would argue that these establishments are an annoyance, they were actually implemented in order to encourage the production and creation of intellectual works. If an artist was not guaranteed that he would get credit or payment for his creations because anyone could steal it and claim it as his own, he wouldn’t have much motivation to create in the first place.
There is, however, a modern day issue that comes with these previously established institutions. They were put in place with the best of intentions, however, the writers of these laws did not have the knowledge of what technology and social sharing platforms were to come. In today’s society, an online presence is critical for a business to connect with it’s customer base and to reach new potential customers and so social media is a common platform in which businesses accomplish this. Many companies raise concerns however about the legality of the content they are sharing with their fans and whether this can be interpreted as copyright infringement. Another concern is what pictures can be displayed without the permission of all of those in the picture. These issues will be addressed and some clarity offered in the following reading.
What images can I use on Social Media?
When a work is copyright, it means the creator of that work, be it an image, a text, art, went through the registration through the U.S. Copyright Office and has had their work filed in the Library of Congress and have obtained a copyright certificate proving this process has been accomplished. We will go specifically into the example of images, as there have been over 350 billion images uploaded to Facebook and it is reported that users are uploaded an estimated 250 million new photos each day. So which images are you allowed to use online?
The laws for copyright infringement as we mentioned earlier have not quite caught up with the technology that consumers are using today. So there are gray areas and most people will say that it is based on a case by case basis. At the end of the day, what you as a business need to look at however in dealing with social media is that you are not the owner of your social media pages. The company Facebook is the owner of Facebook, Twitter owns Twitter, etc., so when you are uploading images, you are not inherently claiming the rights to the images.
Actually, if you read the different platform’s legal speak, most of them will include language to the effect of when a user publishes content or information using a public setting that the user is allowing everyone to access and use that information. When you as a business share posts and images on social media platform, the important thing to keep in mind is you are not claiming the rights to the photo.
The category in which this often falls under would be “Fair Use”. There are a couple different instances where a photo would fall under this category, including if you were using the image for personal, commenting, critiquing, non-profit, educational, research or scholarly purposes and if the image is going to be used sparingly and for limited purposes. Basically, when it comes to posting images on social media platforms, you are not claiming that you own those images. Or in the case of content in general, you are not saying that you are the creator, owner or anything because you do not own the page.
Can I post pictures with people in them?
So your business has an event and you snap a few shots to post online and as you’re uploading you think, I didn’t ask permission from these people to take their picture. Unless the event was taking place in a location that had a reasonable expectation of privacy, like a bathroom, you are allowed to post those pictures without concern.
A person can have their picture removed from online for three reasons: invasion of privacy, violation of right of publicity or defamation. If you are posting on your social media platforms images from an event or your store and there are customers in the photos, you are not in the wrong. If you want to protect their privacy, you can give your customers the option to tag themselves in the pictures and leave it at that. Two states are working on developing laws that would restrict the posting of photos of minors, except by their guardians, but those laws have not been developed yet.
At the end of the day, as a savvy business owner you want to stay up to date on these sort of laws as they change with the technology. Social media however was created to share content and ideas. If you, as a business, are doing just that, then you can relax and post in peace!
The contents of this website are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions. The contents of this website, and the posting and viewing of the information on this website, should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal or tax advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. The information presented on this website may not reflect the most current legal developments. Further, this website may contain technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. No action should be taken in reliance on the information contained on this website. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.
With a business degree from Florida Atlantic University, Julie has years of experience advertising and marketing for several businesses including real estate brokerages and photography companies. She brings her background in writing, graphic design and communications, as well as her experience in the field, when assisting clients with their internet marketing needs. She treats every client with the upmost level of professionalism and care, ensuring everyone who works with Digital Resource has a smile throughout the process!
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