Knowing when you can use certain images, videos, and text, and how, is key to not being sued for copyright infringement, or being accused of plagiarizing. So here’s the deal about what content you can use, and what content you cannot.
You are usually in the clear when you share, reblog, or retweet someone else’s content. The reason is the content is traceable back to the source. In this case, it’s the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery:
However, on platforms such as Facebook, you’ll probably notice that you get less reach when you share someone else’s post. Because of that, you may be tempted to just take the post itself and recreate it. Whether or not you can do this under copyright law is a bit muddled, so stick with me.
Reposting is a viable strategy if you are trying to extend your outreach, but not always. If it’s an image, or a text, you will most likely be infringing on copyright as you are taking content that you did not create and using it as your own.
However, if it’s a link, feel free to share it on your own (though I’m sure the original source would frown on this, because they aren’t able to track how well that link is doing through your repost). The reason why it’s okay to share a link on your page is because the link goes to the original content, which is on the platform owned by the original content creators.
Fair Use is basically an exception to the exclusive rights one usually owns for their own creation. You probably know it as what Weird Al Yankovic uses in order to sing “Like a Surgeon”, and what academics use in order to quote other academics at length. Both are covered under fair use; one because it is a parody/satire, and the other because it is a commentary.
What it comes down to is that when you post something on the Internet, it is your intellectual property. But if someone wants to comment on it, and use minimal/quoted sections of it with attribution, that fits under fair use. This, of course, means you can do the same thing.
It should be noted that under Fair Use, attribution is not required, but we would strongly recommend it as it protects someone from claiming you are plagiarizing their content.
You can read the criteria for Fair Use here:
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. § 106 and 17 U.S.C. § 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:
- the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
- the nature of the copyrighted work;
- the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
- the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.
Say you own a health food company, and you see an ad from McDonald’s claiming its salads are healthy. You can absolutely use that ad, and comment on it saying that there is still a high amount of sodium compared to a home made salad, and that the dressing is basically made of plastics (disclaimer: we made this up, and have no idea if that’s true). If you were to do that, that would be considered fair use. This is because it is covered under the commentary clause.
Or, say you read an incredible book that you think your customers would be interested in. You can use snippets of the text and the cover of the book to show people what you are talking about without worrying about copyright infringement.
If you’re worried you’re not in Fair-Use territory, ask yourself these few questions about the content you want to use:
Creative Commons License:
Creative Commons License is the most common license that people use on the Internet. What it means is that you can use (and usually modify) an image, as long as you attribute the photo to the original source. For sites such as Flickr and Wikimedia Commons, it will tell you exactly what the terms for the image are, much like this:
As you can see, you can take the picture and use it how you like, but you must note if you modify it in the case of these terms (ie., add text, crop it, etc.)
If this seems like too much trouble, have no fear, there are public domain images.
Public Domain License:
Public domain is a bit of a Catch-22. It’s free, and you can do whatever you want with it without the bother of attribution. The caveat is that it may not seem like the most original work to your audience. Because public domain is free to use however you want without having any fear of copyright restrictions, it means a lot more people are going to use that, which will make it harder for you to stand out.
For clients, Howdy Neighbor Marketing often uses a mix of our own photos, for-pay stock photos, Creative Commons licenses, and public domain licenses depending on the content. After all, if stock images aren’t used well, they make your otherwise awesome content seem undesirable to your audience. Random or fake looking stock images that take a lot of thinking power to figure out why they are there, such as this photo here, are generally a bad idea:
The general rule of thumb for whether we pay for images or use Creative Commons or public domain is based on priority of the content. If it’s for a website design, sliders on a website, a big promotion, ad, or book cover, we will generally pay for stock images as they are high quality, have a lot more angles to choose from, and we don’t have to waste space or distract the reader with an attribution. If it’s a product, we will usually design it in house or pay for stock photos, as we want to own every aspect of the product.
We use Creative Commons images most often for blogs and social media posts, as there is a lot more variety to choose from, and it’s not necessarily productized.
We use public domain photos for low-priority information where the effort and the space it takes to attribute the image doesn’t seem worth it.
It comes down to personal style and what you think is best. However, there is merit to owning or creating all of your own content. If you want to talk about the furniture you make, use photos you have taken of it. If you own a coffee shop, use images around your coffee shop and of your customers to promote it (ask permission first, of course!). The more personalized photos you can use for everything you post, the more control you have over your own branding, and the more people will be able to connect with it.
Places to Go
- This is a great site to use for anything with Creative Commons licenses, from photos to music. When you go there, you’ll see that you have a lot of search engines (anything from Flickr, to Google Images) to choose from. Experiment, and see what gets you the best results.
- Deviantart.com is usually a place for people to place their copyrighted work and show it off to the world. However, it is also a place for people practicing their photography skills to post stock photos, most of which only ask that you attribute their work.
- Absolutely gorgeous public domain images to be used on anything.
- Also great stock photos that are free to use.
Need help getting your social media on track? Contact Howdy Neighbor Marketing today to see how we can help!