This is something I see happen all too often, generally because if you haven’t been made aware of it you may not realise that just because you can see an image on Google or Social Media you can’t save it and share to your own updates or website – somebody owns it. Google images are not a ‘thing’ or free to use as I’ve heard many times, they’re visible on Google because whoever owns them put them there for their reasons.
Copyright is a complex area and can be an absolute minefield and but a general rule to stick with is if you didn’t write it, didn’t create the graphic, haven’t taken the photograph, didn’t play the music or have no idea where it came from it isn’t yours to use so don’t!!!
Sometimes you can arrange permission to use content, an example of this might be a manufacturer supplying retailers with product images and text, even then there may be rules you need to adhere to.
If your situation is different, you simply want to use a photo because you like it ask for permission – you might be pleasantly surprised by the response as I was when I requested a celebrity photo for a blog post some years back and was given permission to use the option I liked!
Think about everything you create in the course of your business from a blog post to a photo of your products, how would you feel if you saw that on somebody else’s website passed off as that business owner’s content? Frustrated? Ready for a rant online? Picking up the phone to your solicitor? Creating content of any type costs you either in cash or time, isn’t it only fair that the content is yours alone for use or at the very least have a say in how it might be used?
Now, think about a celebrity who is famous worldwide with thousands of photos of them available on the web. Their image is part of their business so frequently the images will be protected by a company who may then issue licences for an image to be used subject to strict conditions. Ignoring these conditions can cost you dearly – I’ve personally seen invoices for €150 and €20k for unauthorised use of images, do you really believe now it’s worth the risk of sharing a photo of your favourite celebrity as part of your marketing just for the sake of a few likes on a photo or a few clicks to your website?
On a local level it happens on an ongoing basis, yes the local radio station may have a great celebrity meme they’re sharing but remember they uploaded it and if they’re ordered to take it down it’s their problem not yours so share it if you must but keep their original post so there is a trail – not a guarantee you won’t have a problem but if it’s reported the original post is the source. If you’ve saved this celebrity meme to your phone and uploaded it directly to your social media pages it’s now your problem – and if you’ve got a great photo with a high profile celebrity you might just find yourself falling foul of one of the large corporations who make their money out of images like this.
Another thing that comes up often that people don’t think about relates to music, you might be sharing a video from your business with a little background music or a radio station playing but that may be picked up and result in a warning too – I’ve seen this happen months down the line.
In some instances a piece of music is licenced for use in certain countries not others, in these cases you may just get an alert to tell you it’s been switched off there and would you like to switch it off full-stop – does that mean your video is now not quite as effective as you might have planned for?
And, when it comes to music be mindful that it’s not just businesses that this rule applies to. Your children may have perfected their favourite band’s dance routine and you really want to share it but in sharing it to your own social media you may get a warning for unauthorised use of the music or you might find yourself suspended.
There is a myth that if you give somebody credit i.e. mention their name you’re fine, this is not correct. There are sites where you can arrange photos for free that require atribution such as Creative Commons but you will need to read the terms carefully because some may be fine for a blog post or editorial use but not for commercial use.
There are large numbers of websites available from which you can purchase photos or use some based on a subscription model, one of the most popular would be Canva which offers both a free and premium plan and access to photos, videos and music that will offer for something for just about every industry. More importantly, they’ve got rules and will protect you if something slips through the net on their side which shouldn’t have been included for general use.
Copyright is a hugely complex area and while those of us working in Marketing or Social Media should have an understanding we’re not the experts so in some instances it is worth making an appointment with a copyright law – particularly if you’re creating products such as images which might be reproduced as you would need to learn how to protect yourself. Copyright also varies across countries and with the legal complexities it’s no wonder there are many specialists in the field that you can refer but typically the associated costs might be beyond the budget of a small to medium sized business.
With that in mind I’m sharing a selection of the relevant sections from the main sites that share a lot of information on their policies and copyright because if you’re engaging in digital marketing especially (there are rules offline too, that’s for another day!) you do need to play fair and protect yourself.
All of the sites have policies, every single site will take down a post reported for breaching copyright and you could also lose your account permanently too – and they aren’t obliged to give you a warning either!
Depending on the type of content you create you will know which sites are relevant but as a guide here’s some of the main ones;
And, for those of you based here in Ireland this is an official government site
Copyright is a hugely complicated area, in over 30 years of business I’ve seen many examples of people being found out so I know nobody is too small to not be noticed, please don’t allow yourself to be held up as an example of how not to be caught out on breaching copyright because unfortunately businesses and individuals make this mistake every single day.
If you’re unsure on how to get started on creating content that you can use in your business, at The Marketing Shop we can assist in training, consultancy or creation. Pop an email to email@example.com or give us a call at 087-2785818 to find out more.
Debbie Ringwood is a Marketing Specialist with over 20 years of experience in B2B and B2C Marketing. She is a Graduate of the Marketing Institute of Ireland and the Digital Marketing Institute. She is a Linkedin Certified Marketing Insider, META Certified Community Manager, and Canva Champion.
Debbie supports, coaches, and trains businesses in Marketing, Social Media, Canva & WordPress along with her team, working with businesses at different stages of their journey.