Category : Social Media

Social Media copyright

Copyright Online and Fair Use in Social Media

With the online world being dominated by images, what do you need to know as a business owner when it comes to social media copyright laws?

Sharing Images on Social

Visuals are huge in the social media world, particularly for businesses. Here’s a quick run-down.

  1. On average, content with relevant images has 94% more total views than content without (Jeff Bullas)
  2. Compared to other types of content, visual content is 40x more likely to be shared on social media (Ethos3)
  3. Facebook posts with images can receive 2.3x more engagement than text posts (BuzzSumo)

A couple things can be seen here. First, using images in your social media communications is critical to its success. Second, social media is the driving force behind the huge amount of photos being shared online every second. The world is on track to share over 2.5 trillion photos online by the end of this year!

Social Media Copyright Risks

Because online culture evolves so quickly, the laws of the land are constantly shifting to the most recent trends in online activity.

This is especially true regarding copyright online and fair use on social media. Both of these have yet to become clearly defined for the digital age. Fortunately, even online, by sticking to the basic foundations of copyright law you will be protected in most cases

💡 This post focuses on copyright laws as they pertain to Canada and the United States.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is: “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work).” Its purpose is to strike a balance between protecting the author of a work, and serving the public interest.

It offers the owner exclusive rights over their work. Copyright owners can:

  • Reproduce the copyrighted work
  • Create derivative works based on the copyrighted work
  • Distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale, transfer of ownership, rental, lease, or lending
  • Perform and/or display the copyrighted work publicly (copyright.gov)

Copyright is determined on a case-by-case basis, which makes it difficult to identify any clear-cut examples of infringement that could be applied to other cases seen in social media.

Creative Commons and Free Use

On the other end of the spectrum, “creative commons” work is always free to use. This dedication means that an author has dedicated their original work to the public domain, waiving all rights to their work worldwide under copyright law.

This work is free to “copy, modify, distribute and perform, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission” (Creative Commons). Sites like Pixabay or Flickr find photos that are released under Creative Commons! These photos require no attribution (credit to the author/source) and they are free to use. Large networks of people volunteer their photos to be put into sources like that, for the benefit of everyone.

Internet Memes and Copyright Online

There are so many kinds of memes that may or may not infringe copyright online. Lumping them all into one category and stamping them with “approved” or “rejected” ink just doesn’t work. If you are curious about the memes you’re sharing, and how they fall under copyright law, here is a quick guide.

Types of Memes

Memes can range from the popular “image macros,” to silly sentences repeated across the web. Obviously, catch phrases, hashtags and other word-based memes have no real copyright risk. It’s the visual and image macro memes that may pose a problem. Specifically, image macros that depict copyrighted characters and productions.

Pop Culture Memes

Let’s say, for simplicity’s sake, that most memes are fair use. I mean, no one is going to come after you for throwing a “damn, Daniel!” into one of your Facebook posts. The memes that may pose an issue are those that pull images from pop culture, like Futurama Fry or Boromir’s “one does not simply” meme. These character stills are pulled from pop culture media and turned into memes, yet the characters depicted are owned by a specific brand or company.

 

Could using a pop culture meme that depicts a copyrighted work or character result in a lawsuit? Yes.

copyright infringement meme

Is it likely to? No.

But when it comes to commercial use of memes, it’s good to err on the side of caution, and avoid posting pop culture memes that clearly depict copyrighted works.

 

Memes in Social Advertising

Using memes for social advertising is the surest way to cause problems with copyright when it comes to sharing memes. Posting a meme is relatively harmless, but using it in advertising is a whole different story.

Advertising is not protected by fair use, and so any direct promotion of your company/brand with the use of memes, or using memes for profit, can get you legal heat.

If you’re thinking “that’s silly, who would punish me for selling a t-shirt with a picture of a particularly grumpy cat?” I understand where you’re coming from, but Grumpy Cat has a company that’s ready to protect its property (which is, weirdly enough, a mean looking cat).

General Rule for Copyright Online

Just keep in mind that the rules of fair use and copyright online are often left up to interpretation. Still, assume that all images and videos found online are protected by copyright. Always check if the image is explicitly labeled as being free to use by the owner. Ultimately, it’s up to the author of the work to enforce copyright law if they find that their work is being used without permission.

The next time you decide to use any content that isn’t yours, ask yourself:

  1. Do I have permission to use this image (or is it free to use)?
  2. If not, does my usage fall under “fair use”?
  3. Is using this content worth the potential legal consequences?

Inevitably, copyright laws and content sharing practices will change with the evolution of social media trends.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it may cost you a lot more if used without permission.

7 Tactics for Social Media Marketing

A strong social media marketing plan is one of the best ways to be heard, and businesses are no exception to this rule. Forget the doorstep; there’s a whole world of potential customers and fans at your fingertips who are actively looking for brands that they can identify and engage with on a personal level.

However, social media skills have to be learned, and many businesses struggle to find an audience and connect with them online. If yours is one of them, what can you do to make the best use of social media and all its benefits? How can you create content that gets people to stop scrolling and start reading, liking and sharing?

These 7 social media strategies for marketing will help your business build a presence and a following in the most crowded rooms online by creating content that entertains, educates, inspires and engages.


1. Make a plan

Before you rethink your entire social strategy, ask the tough questions. What are your goals as a business, and how will a strong social media presence help you to achieve them? What actions are you going to take to build presence, and how will you measure your success? Establish achievable and quantifiable objectives that are informed by your marketing and business goals, and put a time-frame on how long they should take to achieve. Find the right KPIs and tools to evaluate your progress, and don’t be afraid to change your tactics if something isn’t working.

And remember: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! If you’ve done something in the past that worked well, think about how and why it worked, and let it inform your strategy as you go forward. Similarly, look to past failures and learn from them: how have your past social efforts missed the mark, and how can you avoid these mistakes going forward?

With a roadmap to social success in place, your business can begin to make guided changes to its social strategy that work toward definite goals.


2. Know your audience

There are so many eyes and ears out there on the web, but do you know who is going to listen to your brand’s voice? Identifying and empathizing with your demographic and how they spend their time online makes a huge difference in making your voice heard. Picture your ideal customer. What interests them? Their passions? What do they read, watch, and talk about with their friends? Consider their goals, and how can the things you do help to achieve them?

The better an understanding you have of your ideal customer, the easier it will be to find people like them online and speak to them with your content while marketing a business.

Listen to your audience and their conversations online about your industry in general and your brand in particular. Find the keywords and phrases in these conversations, learn how they’re used, and put them into practice in your own content. These keywords, which can include anything from industry jargon to misspellings of your company’s name, make up the language that your customers speak – to walk the walk, your business needs to talk the talk.

Finally, knowing the social media influencers your audience follows and engaging with the things that interest them can put you straight into your audience’s line of sight. Learn from what influencers do to engage your audience, and put it into practice in your own social media strategy.


3. Tell your story

Just like every person, every business has a story; no two are alike. Use your social media channels to build a narrative around your business that shows how it got to where it is today. Invite your audience to think about where they enter into that narrative: how are your followers involved and invested in your success? How can the things your business does change a person’s day, or change the way they live their lives?

One way to nail a narrative is to find your niche and own it. If your service or product fits into a certain lifestyle, build a story around it, and highlight your place in it. You know the unique value of your business – tell the world about it, and appeal to an audience that will benefit from it.


4. Get conversational

Social media is a two-way street, and driving engagement with your brand means taking hold of the reins and engaging with your audience. Make your business part of the conversation online by asking and answering questions, making friends, and following back. Things don’t always have to be about sales: sharing holiday greetings, discussing local events, and starting a dialogue about current news stories are all ways a business can drive engagement from their audience and learn more about their demographic.

Most importantly, share with your audience and encourage them to share with you!

Ask your audience about what they want to see, take the feedback and deliver on it. If you see someone doing something cool with your product or sharing a success story, give a shout out! When your audience is engaged with your brand, you become a part of their network. Everyone in your network gets to see how your business fits into the lives of people just like them. This widens your audience and compounds your chances of generating engagement.


5. Go live!

Facebook Live has quickly become a powerhouse marketing tool for the biggest brands. Your followers are notified the moment you go live. They can join at any time to watch you broadcast the things that matter to the both of you.

Is your company reaching a milestone, or releasing a brand new product? Has your warehouse just received a long-awaited and much anticipated shipment? Go live, and share the moment with your fans! Hold a live Q&A session, give fans a sneak peek at exciting things in the works. You can also simply broadcast a day in the life of an employee.

When your fans see the real people behind your products or services, it lays the foundation for a fanbase that is engaged, loyal, and eager to see more!


6. Call to action

Make your statements short and sweet, and provide a way for your audience to follow up and learn more. Succinctness is a virtue and brevity is the soul of wit, especially in the fast-paced world of social media.

Many social media platforms have embraced this philosophy to the point of integrating it into the very nature of user interaction. Twitter’s 140-character limit is an obvious example. Snapchat’s ephemeral photos and videos and Instagram’s bite-sized Boomerang and Stories features are more recent examples.

These limitations allow you to create captivating copy and striking visuals that inspire interest and are digested at a glance. Once you have their attention, encourage users to follow up! Invite them to engage by clicking a link, signing up for a newsletter, or looking through a product line. Always let them get more of the content that hooked them!


7. Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3…

Finally, always be improving. Don’t focus on a single successful formula and stick to it. Variety is the spice of life. Keep an eye out for new trends, new conversations, and new mediums to get your message out there.

But, remember to be scientific about it. Keep your eyes on the KPIs. Put your strategies to the test by comparing their results and learn from your failures as well as your successes.  Keep evolving along with your audience and your social media networks as they grow.


To wrap things up

The world of social media is constantly evolving.

So, you should take stock of how far you’ve come. Set clear and measurable objectives that correspond to your business goals.

You should get to know your audience, tell them your story, and listen to what they have to say.

Go live, give your followers a taste of what you have to offer. Provide the means for them to learn more about what you can do for them. Always pay attention to what works, learn from what doesn’t, and test out new ideas to keep improving your reach.

Most importantly, remember the point of social media: to connect people! Use your social media channels as a platform to connect to and grow your audience. Don’t just use it as a megaphone to talk AT them.

Now go get out there and give the people something to talk about!


 

If you liked this article, check out our other articles on business tips for marketing, advertising, and social media. You can also reach out to us here or on Facebook for questions or project ideas.