Everything You Need to Know About Intellectual Property Rights on Social Media

February 9, 2021

Social media is a powerful marketing tool. But, like any tool, it’s easy to misuse.

When managed correctly, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok can help your brand connect with huge audiences of hungry customers. More than a brand’s best friend, social media is a proven tool to grow your business.

But it doesn’t take much for social media to become your brand’s worst nightmare too. In the worst cases, the wrong use of content can land you in hot water when it comes to intellectual property rights. More than an embarrassing faux pas, there are serious legal consequences that come with intellectual property issues on social media.

At The Influencers Agency, we believe knowledge is power. So here’s how you can keep your brand out of trouble and share content the right way.

How is new content copyrighted?

When it comes to IP laws in Australia, there is no copyright registration system. 

What does that mean? It means copyright is automatically given to creative works once they’re published on tangible media. That could be an image on social media, a video on YouTube or a podcast recorded online. If you’re a creator and you publish your creative work, congrats, you just received copyright protection for your works.

Can I use someone else’s content if I’m not the creator?

Yes and no.

Here’s where the intellectual property rules become a little more challenging. It’s tempting to repost content that you find online. After all, it’s already been published and made public, and you’re not trying to pass the work off as your own - just use it to boost your latest branded content or campaign. In some situations you can use copyrighted material...and other times it’s a big no-no (confused yet?).

Australian law sets out exceptions to copyright infringement known as “fair dealing”. This principle of fair use allows for copyrighted work to be used by your brand in certain situations - without permission. These situations include:

➢ For research or study purposes

➢ As part of criticism or review

➢ Parody or satire

➢ Reporting of news

➢ Provision of legal advice

Put simply, there are instances where you can use content without worrying about copyright infringements. As a brand, knowing when you can and can’t use content is crucial, so let’s focus on a more specific example.

Can I use someone else’s content on social media?

Now that you know the exceptions to copyright infringement law, it’s clear that most branded social media campaigns don’t fall into the category of “fair use”.

Whether it’s a social media business page, organic post, or paid advertisement, you’d need to have licensed use of content to avoid running into legal trouble. For example, you might come across the perfect image from Shutterstock to capture the spirit of your latest brand campaign and feel like it would suit a Facebook Ad idea you’ve got in your head.

But the use of that copyrighted photo would be a violation as it doesn’t fall under any of the acceptable usage scenarios listed above. So that photo has got to go (sorry). Although the chance of receiving a ‘take down’ request may be slim, it’s best to stay on the right side of intellectual property legislation and opt for content you can legally use.

Does sharing memes violate copyright law?

Ah, memes, the internet’s favourite pastime (and a powerful way to maximise engagement on social media). Memes occupy a grey legal area as their viral nature and humorous intent are often seen as satisfying the “Parody or Satire’ requirement of fair use. But you’ll still need to be careful when creating and sharing memes.

For example, taking a still image from your favourite film and giving it the meme treatment creates a new expression of an idea that’s no longer related to the film. If you sent that meme to your friend, you wouldn’t be using the image for economic benefit, and you’re unlikely to infringe any copyright laws.

But post that meme on your brand’s Facebook page as a creative ad that’s designed to generate interest, clicks, and customers, and that IS copyright infringement. In short, sharing memes typically falls under fair use when shared by individuals, but not when shared by brands. As a brand, the meme is likely to benefit your business in *some* way, and that’s going to get you in trouble.

How to avoid being sued for copyright infringement

This is easy. 

Don’t share anything that’s owned by someone else if it doesn’t fall into the acceptable categories we listed earlier. If the sharing of content benefits your brand, then you’re likely to run into usage trouble. Preventing intellectual property infringements comes down to developing a solid social media marketing strategy.

Does that mean you can never share anything that was ever created by someone else without explicit permission from the copyright holder? Not necessarily. But let’s be honest, no one enjoys going through the legal t’s and c’s in their spare time.

If you’re looking for branded content that’s yours (and yours alone), get in touch to learn about our flat-rate influencer marketing packages. As Australia’sonly flat rate influencer marketing agency, you can enjoy branded content created specifically for you, without worrying about intellectual property limitations.

Interested in professional branded content that’s legally yours? Chat to our team today to find out how easy it is to get started

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