Social Media Copyright Guidelines for Small Businesses

The advent of the internet and social media provided an opportunity to small businesses to market and advertise their products and services at drastically reduced costs. Social media involves the sharing of text, images, videos, and other forms of information with relative ease, and therein arise the complications. Social media sharing is a relatively grey area, and each platform has its own set of terms and conditions in accordance with the requisite intellectual property law of the country in question. Here is a list of guidelines each small business should strongly consider when utilizing social media.

Identify Possible Copyrighted Content

Copyright protected material includes music, writings, art, photography, and motion pictures. Using material from social media platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest can potentially result in copyright infringement and lawsuits depending on the action taken by the owner of the content in question. Furthermore, the content you posted may be taken down, and multiple instances of the same charge may result in account termination. It is best to obtain the permission of the original owner of the content for risk-free content usage. Intellectual property law is complicated, and seeking legal advice is preferred when facing a possible charge.

Fair Use of Content

Copyrighted content may be ‘fairly used’ without the prior permission of the owner of the content under the fair use doctrine. Small businesses could reproduce or utilize copyrighted content for the purpose of criticizing or commenting on the copyrighted content, reporting the content in a media outlet, and lastly, for the purpose of academic research or scholarship purpose (this includes teaching).

In the event of a lawsuit, a judge analyzes and determine the nature of the use of content, the purpose for its use, the extent to which it was used, and whether or not the usage affected the market value of the content in question. A small business using the content for commercial purposes cannot be considered ‘fair use’. Determining whether or not a use is a considered “fair use” can be complicated.

Credited Use of Content

There is a misconception among a few that simply crediting the source of the original content is enough protection against the charge of copyright infringement, however, that is not necessarily the case. Providing a ‘link’ to the original content still doesn’t safeguard you against the possibility of an incoming legal notice. Small businesses, for the purpose of marketing through the use of media, should rely on the content available on the public domain such as Creative Commons which allows you to use their content for free, in varying capacities.

Small businesses should seek the advice of intellectual property lawyers or agents in the event of a possible legal notice, as they are well versed in the workings of the intellectual property law.