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Copyright and social media: A few things businesses should keep in mind

Sunday, 22 July, 2018

In Australia, the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) grants copyright owners the exclusive rights over the material they have copyrighted, which might include text, photos, images, icons, computing programs, video or audio.

Copyright laws exist to further the creative process by allowing authors, designers, photographers and filmmakers to exclusively profit from their work.heir copyright is also not breached.However, our brave new world of social media, new risks to businesses have developed. It’s essential for brands to maintain a good social media policy to ensure they do not breach copyright, and their copyright is also not breached.

What is copyright?

Australian copyright laws protect the exclusive right of an owner to reproduce, use or share material with the public, and profit from it. The owner is usually the author or creator of the material in question. The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) enables an owner to prevent unauthorised use of their protected material, and recover damages when they are used by someone else.

Unauthorised use

The use, reproduction or dissemination of copyrighted material by someone who is not authorised to do so is a breach of copyright. To avoid infringing copyright, the owner’s permission must be obtained.
 
In the case of unauthorised usage, the courts may award penalties or remedies for the damage caused. These include:
 
• Awarding damages for any losses suffered;
• An account of any profits made by the user;
• Delivery of any copyrighted material, including its destruction; and
• Injunctions to prevent further use of the material.

Copyright and social media

When a brand or individual posts original content on social media, the creator retains ownership. However, licensing terms for most popular social media allow the sites to publish user-generated content. For example, Facebook’s statement of rights specifies that while the user owns all content posted to the site, “[F]or content that is covered by intellectual property rights… you specifically give us… a non-exclusive, transferrable sub-licensable,  royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post.”
 
Original content, such as writing, photos and music, is protected by copyright; without obtaining permission from the owner, using the material outside of the social media space infringes copyright. Sharing music, photos and other material copyrighted by others without their permission is therefore unauthorised. It is important to keep in mind that allowing access to unauthorised materials, such as through a link, infringes copyright law; the page that is sharing or facilitating the sharing of this material is likely to be liable, not the person who shared it to the page.

Risk Minimisation

For a brand to minimise its risk, it can develop a solid social media strategy. It is critical to ensure employees charged with updating the brand’s social media are aware of the legal implications of sharing unauthorised content. Constant monitoring of social media pages to disallow others from sharing infringing content is also essential. A quick response to allegations of copyright breaches through removing the offending material is also a solid policy option.
 
Constant vigilance will stop copyright infringement on social media, and allow the people to profit from their original work.