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The Importance of Asking Permission: Copyright Law & Social Media

The internet is tricky when it comes to what you can and can’t post. While making a post comparing one of your products to a competitor’s product, using images of both, may seem okay, it’s actually a HUGE no no! Most things on the internet, whether it be a photo, video, or idea, is copyright protected or protected as “intellectual property”. This means you can’t simply post whatever you want without giving credit, especially when you’re operating a business or professional account. If you want to use someone else’s copyrighted material or intellectual property on your page, you should ALWAYS ask permission first to protect yourself from copyright infringement.

People tend to think that if something has been posted online, it falls under fair use. You’ve probably heard this term thrown around a lot if you’ve ever looked into copyright law. While many people are familiar with the concept of fair use, most do not know what exactly it constitutes and what it protects you from. Fair use is trickier than it seems, and it’s important to know the specifics.

What is Fair Use?

According to Stanford University, fair use is “any copying of copyrighted material for limited or transformative purposes.” Sounds pretty complicated, right? Let’s break it down…

Fair use is a rule that protects people and companies from being sued for using copyrighted material, such as music, photos, or video, without explicit permission from the copyright owner.

The trickiest part about fair use is that there’s no real definition. It’s designed to be fairly open to interpretation, which can get you into hot water if you aren’t careful! When in doubt, ask permission.

*It’s important to note that simply posting something online is NOT fair use, because it is not considered “transformative”.

Determining Fair Use

The two main umbrellas of fair use are commentary/criticism and parody. While most people are familiar with a parody, commentary/criticism is a little more confusing. Some examples of this include summarizing an article in a report or critiquing a celebrity’s outfit at a red carpet event.

The rationale here is that the readers benefit from your work (i.e., a review or critique), and your work is enhanced by the use of copyrighted material, such as photos or quotes.

What is NOT Fair Use?

Here are a few examples of things that would NOT fall under fair use:

● Reposting a photograph of a product without the company’s permission.

● Posting someone else’s photo on social media without asking permission.

● Using a copyrighted song in the background of your video.

● Using an image with a quote without permission (using a quote in your caption is fine, but when it’s attached to an image or video, you MUST ask permission).

● Comparing another brand’s product to the product you are advertising.

● Posting an altered version of copyrighted work.

Remember - to be considered fair use, it must be for limited (a small portion of a whole work) or transformative (making a change in someone or something). If you’re ever confused or on the fence about whether or not something constitutes fair use, ask the copyright owner for permission, just to be safe.

Asking Permission

You should ALWAYS ask permission from the copyright owner before using their work to protect yourself from copyright infringement. Just send a DM or email to the copyright owner, whether that is a person or a business, and ask if you can post their work. Most of the time, they’ll give you permission as long as you post with credit!

How to Properly Give Credit

After getting permission to post their work, make sure you credit the copyright owner. Most of the time, all you’ll have to do is post a link to their page in your caption, or write © [Copyright Owner’s Name]! For example, if you used an artist’s painting, you could write something like:

Painting by @ArtistsProfile


Painting © Artist’s Name

Make sure you thank the copyright owner for letting you use their work. Keep in mind that, even when you get permission to post a copyrighted work, you should not alter it in any way.

The Advantages of Reposting

When you repost someone’s Instagram post, retweet their tweet, or share from a Facebook page, you already give credit without any extra steps! Patrons are usually excited when their favorite companies repost their posts because they like to know that the brand appreciates the use of their products.

Here’s how to repost someone’s Instagram post onto your story:

  1. When you’re viewing someone’s post, press the paper airplane icon.

2. Press “Add to Your Story”. (This may not always be available, depending on the user’s privacy settings.)

3. A new story post will come up with the image or video, along with a tag crediting the original poster! Just finish posting like you would a normal story, and you’re done!

Remember, copyrighted material is tricky! To be safe, you should ALWAYS ask permission to use someone else’s content. Do not alter the content in any way, and be sure to give credit when you use it!

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