What Community Managers Need to Know About Copyrights
*This wouldn’t be a proper blog post about legal “watchouts” if I didn’t include a disclaimer. The following post includes best practices, suggestions and my own interpretation of the laws. I am not an attorney – just a cautious social media marketer. Consult your brand’s legal team for specific guidelines and processes for your online communities.*Pumping out quality content for your communities is one of the most rewarding, creative and fun activities in the life of a community manager. It’s natural, and even a best practice – to take inspiration from the things happening around you – trending topics, pop culture, breaking news, industry news and events, and even other brands.But, there are “rules” for brands using social media that do not apply to the average citizen, media outlets and bloggers. One treacherous area for social media marketers is the use of third-party copyrights without permission.
Freedom of Speech?For US-based businesses, this liberty doesn’t apply. Everything you say as a brand is a commercial. You wouldn’t say something, if it didn’t in some way help you meet a goal. The FTC further enforced this notion in March 2013 when it updated the .com disclosure document to apply to forms of social media.
Common Third-Party CopyrightsAs a savvy marketer, you’re probably already familiar with copyrights. But, it can’t hurt to refresh your memory. Some examples of the most common third-party copyrights are:
- Images of People
- Images owned by other people & brands
- Music, Songs, Lyrics
- Books, Literary Works
- Videos, Movies
- Songs, Movies and Show Titles
- Anything that is trademarked
What is NOT a Copyright?
- Works in the public domain, which would include intellectual property whose rights are expired, such as a sonnet by Shakespeare.
- Words, names, slogans or short phrases, blank forms, works that are not original, and government works. Examples include the popular expression, “attagirl!” or a government building code.
What’s Copyright Infringement Exactly?Copying or displaying copyrighted material without owner’s permission – Ex: sharing a copyrighted photo. Think of it as the business version of plagiarism.It also includes:
- the knowledge of infringement
- the distribution of a product used to infringe
Who’s At Risk?
- The brand uploading the material
- In some cases, those who facilitate the upload/download
- Agencies or vendors who provide the material
- Those that have the ability to supervise direct infringement and receives direct financial interest from infringement