Seven Tips to Avoid Copyright Infringement on Social Media

August 2, 2016

Good visual content is important on social media – users love to see great photos and images, and really fantastic content often ends up being shared so much that it’s seen by thousands. A lot of this content is easy to find on the web, but figuring out who owns it can be complicated.

Copyright laws in the United States have remained largely unchanged for decades, so when you apply them to the fairly new phenomenon of social media, things can be pretty confusing. In some cases, a site may claim they own all content that their users post, while others may make their users responsible for the content they post. The best thing social media users can do, especially for their business, is to play it safe by not directly posting any content they don’t own.

Here are a few tips to avoid copyright infringement on social media:

1. If you want to share something on social media that isn’t yours, find the original source and get permission first if you’re able to.
2. If you can’t reach the owner of a piece of content, rather than copying and pasting language or right-clicking to save the image, link to the original source or where you found it instead.
3. Check the terms on the social media networks you use to see how they pertain to content and ownership. Can you be held liable by sharing someone else’s post? It depends.
4. Avoid using images found through a quick online search unless you’re filtering your results by license type, which Google explains how to do here. Don’t use watermarked versions of stock images – the watermark makes it clear the image was not paid for.
5. If you want access to images or music that you can share without concern, consider buying them through a stock photo or music service. You can then be sure you are in the clear. Just make sure to read the terms of the stock site you’re using.
6. Don’t copy and paste portions of news stories – either simply link to these articles or summarize them in your own words. Consider providing commentary that’s related to the story instead, such as, “Check out these great tips for preparing your home for sale,” and then link to them.
7. When in doubt, don’t assume a piece of content is OK to use. Take the time to find something else to post or create your own content and you’ll avoid the risk of a copyright lawsuit.

Steering clear of copyright infringement may seem like a hassle when it comes to using social media for your business, but it’s well worth the effort to avoid a potential lawsuit. Feeling stuck? Check out these lists of free stock photo resources from Entrepreneur.com, Designmodo, BootstrapBay and Canva Design School.