Have you heard the one about the artist whose work was claimed by someone else? This story of copyright infringement on social media is all too familiar.
Your actions might be an honest mistake or something a little bit more sinister. Unfortunately, copyright infringement has become a stressful part of sharing your art, writing or content online. With unrestricted online access to content comes a whole range of copyright issues.
This is the first of a series of posts where I will help you navigate, the sometimes misunderstood, world of digital copyright law and intellectual property infringement.
Please note that a majority of the information provided in this post originates from Australia and is meant as an overview only.
I am not a lawyer and do not represent any legal entity. Make sure you confirm your legal rights with your legal team.
Each country can have slight variations to their copyright and intellectual property laws.
Make sure you follow up with your own countries laws to avoid any wrong doing on your part.
What is Copyright Law?
The Australian Copyright Council has come a long way in recent years and now provide reasonably easy to understand documents that cover all areas of copyright law.
Copyright is a system designed to protect creative works from being copied by others and to motivate creators to produce new content.
Good news! Your work will be automatically protected by copyright in Australia as soon as it is created. In Australia you are not charged a fee to protect your work under copyright. There are also no forms or process you need to follow to have your content protected. Have you written a blog post? Then that blog post is already protected. How fantastic!
However, whilst your blog post, social media post and images are protected under copyright in Australia, there are some things are not. If you have an idea for a social media post and someone else uses that idea, then sorry you are not protected under Copyright. Style, concepts, information and ideas are not protected under copyright. What you may be looking for is Patent law…a whole other basket of information and rules!
The Australian Copyright Council has a full list of what you can and can’t protect under copyright.
How do I know what I can copy, share, remix or use online?
In short? Try not to copy or share someone else’s content if you can help it. If you have created a post for your Instagram or blog and the content is more than 10% similar to another creator’s work, then you are in breach of copyright and should remove the post or re-write the content till it becomes your own work.
If you are truly inspired by someone’s content then make sure you share the content the correct way.
You should always attempt to contact the creator direct to ask if you can share or reuse their work. However, at the very least, make sure that you tag the creator on both your image and your post. This way your audience will be aware that the content is not an original work. With handy apps that allow you to tag content with the authors account, there is no excuse for not recognising the creator in your post!
If you aren’t very good at creating images you might want to look into using Creative Commons images. These wonderful libraries of stock images can help you create the inspiring content you desire without falling too far into problems. However, note that there is no 100% way of knowing that the image came from the person that has posted it into Flickr or Pixabay. You could still come unstuck, though you are a lot safer using certain Creative Commons licenced images than outright ripping off someone else’s content.
Familiarise yourself with the different Creative Commons licenses to make sure you understand what you are allowed to do with each image. I will break these down in a different post.
What is the best content to share on your website, blog or social media platform?
Your own. Even if you aren’t a wordsmith or can’t quite work out how to make your photo’s pop like other creators, you can still create engaging content that your clients and audience would love to see. Find what you can do well and focus on that type of content and platform.
Still stuck? There are wonderful people and businesses who love to help you create magical content for your website or social media platforms. Whether you need a blog post written, or copywriting for your social media channels there is a business out there that can help you thrive without breaking any laws or stepping on someone’s toes.
Why is it important to obey copyright law?
What if you were told by your employer that they will not be paying you for any of the work you have completed?
Or that another employee will be credited and paid for all the work you have delivered?
I bet you would be furious with your employer. How unfair that someone would do this to you?
I am continually outraged by the number of people who seem to think copyright infringement on social media is acceptable. We all deserve recognition and financial reward for our hard work. By avoiding giving credit where credit is due you are falsely claiming another persons hard work as your own. You did not put in the hours and emotion into creating the image or writing such that falsely claiming the work as your own is unethical and morally wrong. The ripple effect can have a devastating impact on small businesses. The author may loose valuable income that they require to continue their business.
You might think that it is ok to share another person’s content on your social media because you will not get caught. However, there are still honest people that will find out and report your crime to the creator. If you are caught ripping off another creator’s work, you might be lucky and let off with a stern warning by the content creator. However, you could also (and more likely) be drawn into a lengthy and costly legal battle.
At the end of the day, no one wants to do business with an unethical company. Avoid copyright infringement on social media and your website by obeying the law! Treat other content creators how you would want to be treated.
By all means get inspired by their work, just don’t go claiming it as your own. Your audience wants to see original content from you, not someone else’s creation.
Be kind to other content creators. If you like their work, then why not just tell them. Inspiration is one thing, but imitation could lead to a legal nightmare that your business may never recover from.