5 Tips for Avoiding Copyright Infringement on Social Media

Monday, July 15, 2019

We’ve all been there. You find a really great photo online and you want to share it with your followers. You think the original owner won’t find my post, and taking someone else’s content isn’t that serious. While we understand that it can be hard to consistently create great unique content, DON’T take content without permission! Taking someone else’s work can lead to copyright infringement which is a form of theft and can have very serious consequences.  According to the United States Department of Justice (https://www.justice.gov/jm/criminal-resource-manual-1852-copyright-infringement-penalties-17-usc-506a-and-18-usc-2319), using someone else's work without permission can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. (That fine is no pocket change!) Here’s a couple of tips to help avoid copyright infringement.


Ask Permission First 

Let’s say you own a restaurant and you find a great photo of a recent customer enjoying a meal at your restaurant. You may be thinking, that would make a great post on our business page! Posting about a customer’s authentic experience could create some great credibility for your business.  If you decide you would like to use someone else’s photo, reach out to the owner through messaging or commenting on the photo to ask for permission. Many people feel honored to have their content shared, so it could be a win for both parties. 

If they decline, don’t use the photo anywhere to avoid copyright infringement. If the owner allows you to use it, don’t forget to give them credit in the post by tagging them and mentioning their name, username or handle in the caption. While getting permission online does allow you to use the content, consider creating a formal agreement to further protect yourself. 

Get a Subscription

If you want to post consistently, but don’t have enough of original content to do so, considering getting a subscription to a stock photo website. These subscriptions include access to millions of downloadable professional photos. There are many package choices including: plans for individuals, businesses and prepaid image packs. If your budget doesn’t have room for a subscription plan right now, there are also stock image sites with photos that are free to download. If you decide to go down this route, be aware that this cuts down on the amount of images that are available to download. To avoid any possible copyright infringement issues, make sure that the site states that the images are copyright free and free to download.

Share Posts When Appropriate 

You may be thinking, what if I post a link back to the original post or page? Even if you include a link to the photo’s original site or post, if you don’t get their permission before, it’s still considered as copyright infringement. Your best course of action is to “Share” the content.  If you want to share someone else’s content, you can use features on the social media platforms to do so. On Facebook and LinkedIn, you can share a post and add your own commentary to the shared post. On Twitter, you can retweet and add commentary also. Unfortunately on Instagram, there is not a share feature within the app yet.  

If you want to create your own content around a blog or website that you found, you can link it in a post. Make sure that the link populates so that there is a preview of the linked site within the post. If it the link isn’t populated, you could use one of your own images and include a link to the site or blog within the text of the post. 


Create Original Content 

You don’t have to be a professional photographer or writer to create your own content! Technology is so advanced today that many people have a great camera built into their phones. If you want to amp up your social media presence, consider taking some time to shoot some photos of your business or products. Pair these photos with some information about your business and you have a post! People love to see behind the scenes in businesses, so give them a sneak peek by including photos of employees hard at work. 

If you love the idea of creating your own content, but don’t have the time or resources to do so, consider hiring a business that specializes in social media.  Doing so is a great way to save time and it is much more affordable than hiring an in-house social media specialist. Social media is a great way to reach potential clients and create an online presence for you and your business.

Stay Informed

The best way to avoid copyright infringement is to stay informed on copyright laws. You cannot use pieces of work with the copyright symbol without permission. If content has a copyright symbol, you cannot use it without permission. This isn't the only protected material though. As mentioned earlier, when someone creates content, they own it and it becomes copyrighted. Next time you see some content that you would like to use, ask yourself, who created this? Who owns the copyright? How can I get in contact with them to ask for permission? Going through this process will help prevent from copyright infringement. To stay up to date on copyright laws, visit copyright.gov for more information. 


When posting on social media, it’s very important to keep copyright rules in mind. By being aware of the copyright rules and regulations, you can protect yourself from committing copyright infringement and from people stealing your content. If you’re looking for a way to amp up your social media presence, but you don’t have the time or resources, give us a call at MSW Interactive Designs. We can help you get found online with robust social media campaigns. 



Phone: 877-211-5492

Info@MSWInteractiveDesigns.com

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