Who owns my content on social media?
In 2017, an estimated 2.5 billion people will use social media, uploading around 300 million photos per day to Facebook alone. The volume of user-generated content posted to social media is unprecedented, and many are unaware of the legal implications of online activity on their intellectual property rights.
What people don’t realize is that while they can technically retain ownership of their uploaded content, social media platforms are widely allowed to do whatever they want with content uploaded to their sites, including understood to use, share and sell the work of their users.
In Australia, original material such as text, photos, images, video and audio are protected by the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The law defines the legally enforceable rights of creators of artistic and creative works and applies nationally. Typically, the author or creator of a work is the copyright owner, with the exclusive rights to control the reproduction or display of the work, and the exclusive right to profit from the work.
Copyright holders can of course grant licenses to allow others to use or profit from their work. Normally, copyright owners license business associates for commercial profit or gain. The granting of a license is usually a carefully negotiated and thought out transaction. In contrast, users of social media platforms are often completely unaware that by signing up for a social media account, they are granting broad licenses to the platforms to allow them to use their work, thus losing their exclusive rights of control and profit from their work. Read on to find out how.
The use of a social networking platform is ultimately a contractual relationship between the user and the platform. When a user creates an account on a social platform, they must agree to a policy of “Terms of Service”, which represent the terms of the contract.
While variations exist, popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn all follow a common framework. While the Terms of Service generally state that users remain the owners of the content they share, by agreeing to the terms, users generally grant the Platform a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-license. licenseable and global to use the content shared on the platform. .
In effect, this means that once a user’s content is uploaded to social media, the user loses exclusive control over their content.
Mine or theirs?
So after agreeing to the Terms of Service, who has the rights to a social media post – you, the media platform, or the general public?
My rights – Users of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and Snapchat technically retain ownership of the content they share, even though, as we have seen, they no longer have exclusive control over their content.
Their rights – Social media platforms typically receive extended licenses to use, share changes, and profit from user content shared on the platform. This means, for example, that they are free to reuse your vacation photos in their advertisements, repost your opinions, or even sell your content or sublicense the use of your content to third parties.
Usually, deleting your post or account will effectively revoke this license, however, if the content has already been shared by the platform or other users, it becomes difficult to enforce your rights.
It is also important to consider the realities of using social media. Once your content is available, it’s extremely easy for others to upload, edit, and share your work. Other users of the platform do not have any license rights to your work, so the taking of user content by other users is technically copyright infringement. However, the difficulty of identifying perpetrators, coupled with the sheer volume of “violations” in the form of sharing, reposting and reuse that take place on a daily basis, means that it is difficult to effectively enforce your rights.
What can you do?
Ultimately, posting content on social media platforms inevitably results in the compromise of your exclusive rights and poses a risk of copyright infringement by other social media users. Users who choose to share content such as audio, images, and video should be aware of ways in which their rights may be limited, and ensure that they take steps to protect their work where appropriate.
Top tips for protecting your online content:
- Make sure your account’s privacy settings are right for your needs – limiting the number of people who can view your profile can help protect your content, while a public profile carries more risk of copyright infringement. ;
- Use watermarks to let other platform users know that you own the rights to your work;
- If you are concerned that your content will be shared or reused, removing that content may be sufficient to terminate the license; and
- Social media isn’t suitable for sharing any sensitive or valuable content you’ve created – there are plenty of other, less risky ways to promote and share your work.
Generally, social media is a powerful tool that can be used to promote business ventures, advertise, or just keep in touch. However, businesses and individuals should be aware of the risks of intellectual property infringement when posting content on social media platforms.