This blog sets out a series of Q&As that I ran on LinkedIn, answering common questions that companies and freelancers might have over social media law and how to protect yourself and your business when using these platforms. Q. Does my business own the content we post on social media platforms? 🤷♂️ A. The content you create, as long as you have not formally agreed to assign over the copyright, belongs to you. This includes any original work you post on facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and other social media platforms. As such, you may pursue legal action against anyone who infringes on your copyrighted material, especially if it is being used for commercial purposes. 💼📄 However, due to the large volume of content and how fast it travels, you always take a risk when you post online that your content will be copied. 📱
Want to know more about the legalities of using social media for your business? Q. How do I know if content on social media is under copyright? A. All content created belongs to the creator and is therefore under copyright. That doesn't always mean you can't use it, but you must seek (and be granted) permission. 🔄 Reposting, although commonplace, can also be IP infringement. However, as long as it is made clear you did not create the content and give credit to the person/business who did, then reposting is usually seen as positive by/for the originator. 🙌 However, to be on the safe side you can obtain permission by simply adding a comment to their post asking if they are ok with you re-posting it to your page. Alternatively you could simply link to their content, rather than re-posting it. Don't forget that copyright infringement doesn't apply if you are using the content for the purposes of criticism/review or for reporting current events. Q: Should I use a watermark, disclaimer, or © on photographs/designs posted to social media? 📸 A. If you have created the work, you own it. You have automatic copyright, so you don't need to use a watermark, disclaimer, or ©. However, if you're posting work that is available to buy, then you might consider it. Watermarks and the use of the copyright symbol help to remind people that the work is protected and may make social media users think twice about using your photographs/designs. A watermark makes it particularly difficult for them to do so. 🚫🔒 📄 A disclaimer can reinforce that the use of your work without your written permission is copyright infringement. Furthermore, it can also be used to direct those who might be interested in using the work on how they might go about doing so and the terms of this (usually includes a fee). 💰 Q: Can I repost copyrighted content on social media? 🔄 A. Technically, reposting copyrighted material can still be an infringement of copyright, so you should ensure you are granted written permission before doing so. 🚫📃
🗣️ Of course, many content creators want their work to be reposted and shared - so long as it is clear they were the originator, but to protect yourself, it is still wise to check with them. 🧐👤 📰💡 Although, if you are using the content for news reporting or are passing comment, critique, or using it for teaching purposes, then this may fall under fair use, which means you will not be breaching copyright. ✍️📚 #Copyright #Reposting #FairUse #CopyrightCompliance #ContentSharing #CopyrightInfringement
Q. Who owns a photo posted on social media - the photographer, the subject or the publisher? 📸 A. The owner of a photograph is the photographer. As they have created the image, they hold the copyright. However, they may grant others rights of use or license the image to a business or person. 🖋 🤝 Photographers may be pleased for their images to be posted on social media but you must seek permission before doing so, even if the image is of you. You must also attribute the image to the creator and make this known. It can be safer to link to the image rather than repost it. 🤳 If you are a business that has hired a photographer to create images for promotional use on social media, ensure the contract confirms that the copyright of the images will be signed over to you. 📜 Q. If I outsource my social media, who is responsible for staying legally compliant? 🤔
This is quite the grey area in law. ⚖️
A. Technically, it is dependent on your contract/service agreement with your social media agency or freelancer. In terms of data protection, you will always be ultimately responsible for keeping your customers’ data protected. However, in terms of issues such as copyright infringement, the legal responsibility may lie with either party. 📜
What businesses should not do is outsource their social media management without at least knowing what it is they need to comply with to operate legally and responsibly on social media. Ultimately, even if a social media agency or freelancer is legally culpable, with social media it’s often the damage to brand reputation that is the bigger threat and this will likely land at your door. 😬🚪
So, work closely with social media services and ensure that everything posted undergoes scrutiny from someone who understands what you can and cannot do on social media. 👩💻👨💻
Q. Does a social media influencer have to label paid promotions as ads? 🏷
A. Absolutely. Labelling paid promotions as Ads, keeps social media influencers and those hiring them, compliant with the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority). 👍
Paid promotions should be immediately clear, whether the promotion is in the form of a blog post, a social media post or any other medium. Partnerships should also be stated clearly in posts labelled as paid promotions or adverts. The general guidance is that any individual post should be recognisable as an advert without the viewer needing to search the related content or scroll through the ‘small print.’ 🔍
This is very important for your business reputation and it is also something the ASA is serious about clamping down on. 🚫
Q. How can I protect my intellectual property on social media? 🚫 A. Even when you share your content, under UK law, the copyright still belongs to you. That means no one has the right to share your work without your permission. However, many content creators want their work shared, so long as they get the credit. 👩🎨📚 You can protect your content further with watermarks, disclaimers, or the © symbol. These serve to remind people that the work belongs to you. However, if you are open to licensing your work for a fee, then a disclaimer may work best because it offers you the opportunity to let other social media users and brands know that your content is available for purchase. When doing this, you should state how you wish interested persons to get in touch with you. 💬
Q. What can I advertise on social media and who can I advertise to? 📢🎯 A. Social media can be used to promote brands, products, and services, whether a company chooses to do that through paid advertising or not. Yet, advertising standards have to be adhered to. In the UK, that means complying with the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority).
There are particular restrictions on what you advertise to children, and even if you aren't targeting children you need to consider they may have access to social media platforms. You will also need to ensure that you label advertisements as 'Ads', especially when working with influencers on paid promotions. 👶🚫
Q. How do I get permission to use someone else’s intellectual property on social media? 📲 A. If you would like to use someone else’s content on social media, then you need to get their written permission to do so. ✍️🔒
You can contact them directly through social media if that’s where you discovered the work you wish to share. This is usually the best route if you would only like to share the work and give the creator credit. Yet, if you wish to own the work and use it for your business, then you need to obtain a license. This may involve paying the creator a fee. Therefore, you’ll need to open up a negotiation and, once an agreement is reached, you’ll need a contract that licenses the content to you. 💰 It’s important to have a proper contract in place, especially if you are likely to profit from using their content. 📝 What can you do if you don’t hear back? Unfortunately, not a lot. You can contact the content creator through several means, but if you do not obtain written consent, then you cannot use the content. 🚫 Q. How do you stay legally compliant when running competitions on social media? 📱 A. Running competitions on social media platforms can be a great way to engage your audience, but it's important to ensure legal compliance to avoid potential issues.
You’ll want to make your competition fun and enticing, but it’s also essential to include terms and conditions. These should include eligibility criteria, transparent details regarding prizes, deadlines for entry, and details on how to enter. 📜
Social media platforms also have their own terms and conditions for running competitions, so you should read through these and ensure your competition meets with their rules.
Furthermore, it's important to lay out and follow a process for winner selection that is fair and transparent. As well as any restrictions for entry, including minimum age requirements. 👶
You may also want to check the ASA’s code on competitions to ensure your competition meets UK advertising standards.
Q. Does my business need a social media policy? 🤔
A. It's not a legal requirement to have a social media policy, but it's advisable, especially if you have employees tasked with representing your business on social media platforms.
A social media policy can ensure your team aligns with your brand voice and messaging. Furthermore, by laying out guidelines as to best practices, you can mitigate risks and protect those in your business from making mistakes that could harm your company's reputation online. 🌐
A clear policy will align those in your business towards common goals for your social media presence and ensure you all know what is needed to stay compliant with relevant regulations when using social media in a professional capacity. ✅