Do you have concerns about the regulations of social media with regard to your copyright and privacy? Let’s see if I can take those concerns away.

Sharing is key to social media platforms. We all love sharing, right? The problem with sharing is that it might infringe on the copyright of the author of the work. Social media platforms don’t like to be liable for that and at the same time this content is critical if they want to generate income through advertising.

Social Media Terms of Service

Almost all of the social media platforms have some kind of Terms of Service. Whenever these platforms announce change, everybody seems to read these new terms, even though they didn’t read the terms when they first signed up. And since people don’t really understand these terms, they get scared. They don’t want the social media platform, which they use for free, to have any rights at all. Well, these platforms can’t exist if they are liable for everything and if they can’t generate sales with their business model. This is why they have those Terms of Service.

Not as Bad as They Seem

Most of the terms aren’t as bad as they seem. The terms state that:

  • the social media platform doesn’t have any copyright on your work,
  • that you as a user shouldn’t upload any copyrighted work without permission from the author,
  • and that you give the platform an unlimited and exclusive right to use your work.Copyright

They mostly do this so other users will be allowed to share your work and so they themselves can  use your work for promotions and advertisement within the platform. So yes, those rules are broad, but it makes the platform work for us all and gives the platform the opportunity to generate income so we can still use it for free.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest do NOT state in their terms that they will get the copyright or ownership of your work when you upload it. That is not even possible, because in most countries, you will need a written and signed contract for that. Terms of Service stating otherwise, cannot override those laws.

When you use apps (like Hootsuite) to upload your work to one of the social media platforms, make sure you have read the terms and conditions of that app. They might be (very) different from the one of the platform you are uploading to. In that case both, the terms and conditions of the app and of the social media platform apply. Make sure that this won’t get you in trouble. It most likely won’t, but you just don’t want to be faced with the consequences afterwards.

Permission to Share

Of course other people should have your permission before they post any of your work on social media platforms. There are several ways to handle this.

When you have a website of blog with your work online, and you like other people to share your work, you could add some of the social media buttons. With these buttons, you show people that you allow sharing. This also means that, in most countries, you won’t be able to tell people that, although you have social media buttons on your website, they should have asked permission first. Ah, well, you could tell them this, but it won’t get you any money for ‘damages’.
When you do not like people to share your online work, you could use several technical plugins or solutions, so people won’t be able to share, besides from print screens of course.

Other than this, it would be smart to draw up your own terms and publish those on your website. Make sure it is easy to find and easy to read. People are lazy, but when they immediately see they are not allowed to share your content and work, they will at least hesitate before they do so.

Of course, also a copyright notice © helps a lot!

This blog post is not a substitute for legal advice. It may not cover important issues that affect you. You should consult with your own lawyer if you have any questions with regard to copyright law pertaining to your situation. Of course you can also contact the author of this article for advice.

Charlotte Meindersma is an information law lawyer, based in The Hague, The Netherlands. She is a lawyer for creative and small businesses. She likes to ‘translate’ difficult issues into understandable words. You can read her Dutch law blogs here or follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Charlotte is writing a monthly series of blogs about legal issues small business owners run into when marketing their business online, internationally, and through social media.