Copyright Infringement Risks Associated with Social Media

Sharing photos and videos on social media is disrupting traditional copyright laws. It’s important to remember that the content on social media pages of celebrities/influencers isn’t necessarily public, even if a photo shared by a celebrity happened at your business.

The truth is that businesses of every size can face damaging lawsuits (starting at $150,000) when they use someone else’s images, videos, and assets without permission across their own social media platforms.

Looking back, early years of social media left the lines between sharing and ownership very blurry. Today, an alarming increase in Personal & Advertising Injury/Copyright Infringement lawsuits signals a change.

Because Personal & Advertising Injury coverage arising from social media accounts is oftentimes excluded on standard commercial policies, we’ve put together some helpful tips for auditing your social media accounts and protecting your business.

Copyright infringement is trending

Legal teams are now seeking out celebrity personalities and creators (models, actors, photographers) who are unaware that businesses have used their images or videos on social media without permission. Oftentimes without knowing they have infringed, businesses are then hit with costly Personal & Advertising Injury lawsuits that are not covered by insurance.

We know this can seem confusing, so here’s an example:

Aaron Rodgers visits your restaurant for dinner. Better yet, he takes a photo and posts it to his Instagram and Facebook pages with your logo prominently in the background. You download the photo and post it on your own social platforms. When you take his original work and use it without permission and without giving credit to the content author, you are liable for copyright infringement.

Permission and credit are key

Content shared from other people and brands can oftentimes be the most engaging for social media pages. There are two key ways a business can re-purpose other’s content legally.

1. Utilize the share functions on the specific social media platform. Without leaving the platform or needing to download an asset, a business page can select “share” to engage with the content while organically showing its source.

2. Ask for permission in a private message and then give credit in a social media post. Giving credit can take many forms, but it always involves the author’s social media profile handle or name.

What content works

If there’s any doubt, it’s smart to avoid sharing other’s content and risk a potential lawsuit. That complicates social media, though. It’s difficult to dedicate budget, team members, and time to hours of content creation and distribution. To help, we’ve compiled a few go-to sources for copyright-free assets:

  • Unsplash: A library of copyright free, high-quality images that can be used for commercial purposes. Companies do not need to ask for permission from any photographer.
  • Pexels: A series of high-resolution stock photo and video assets for use. See the license overview for any questions.

Creating content from scratch is a valid strategy, too. There are several apps you can use to make your own social media assets, and we’ve outlined a few to know here:

  • Canva: Useful desktop and mobile app that simplifies graphic design for all social platform layouts, while offering design templates.
  • iMovie: This app comes with all Apple products and is ideal for short video editing.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud: Comprehensive suite of design applications used for video, audio, and image edits. Professional graphic designers and marketing agencies utilize these tools.
  • Unfold: A mobile app ideal for editing and creating Instagram Stories layouts.