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IP Quick Intellect

The relationship between copyright and social media: “it’s complicated”

Posted by on 30 Jun 2014

We know that it’s common practice to copy photos from Google Images, but just because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it right. Whether you are posting images to your blog, Facebook, or any other social media platform, you need to be certain that you are allowed to use that image or you may be infringing on someone else’s copyright. The best way to avoid copyright infringement is to obtain express consent from the copyright owner to use their image. Ideally this consent should be in the form of a properly documented license agreement.  However, this particular practice is almost never observed by the vast majority of social media users. To the contrary this unromantic legal formality just doesn’t sit well with the warm and fuzzy notion of image sharing that is the crux of many social media platforms.   For the increasing number of businesses who choose to engage in social media, there is a lot at stake if they don’t observe copyright laws.

Australian copyright laws provide that an exception to copyright infringement exists where the use of copyright material is regarded as ‘fair dealing.’ The Copyright Act does not define a fair dealing. However, specific fair dealing exceptions exist for the purposes of:

• research or study;
• criticism or review;
• parody or satire;
• reporting news; and
• the provision of professional advice by a legal practitioner, registered patent attorney or registered trade marks attorney.

The use must be for one of the specific purposes provided for in the Copyright Act. Secondly, the use must also be able to be regarded as fair. Whether a particular use is fair will depend on the circumstances of the case.

The fair dealing provisions for the purpose of criticism or review, and those for the purpose of, or associated with, the reporting of news in a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical contain an additional requirement for a ‘sufficient acknowledgment’ of the work or audio-visual item.  It is therefore critical for social media users to remember to include a link back to the original image (or at least the source where they obtained the image) to ensure that they are satisfying the requirement to acknowledge the author.

If you are unsure as to whether or not what you’re posting on your social media site complies with Australian copyright laws contact one of our experienced IP Lawyers.


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