Warning To Social Media Managers: Reuploading With Credit is Still Stealing

One of the most powerful features on any social platform is the ability to “share” content. If I come across a great post while surfing Facebook, I can, with the click of a button, share that content with all of my friends. Unfortunately, this fantastic feature can have a nasty side effect—we start to believe that we have the right to share any content, anywhere, without restriction, and we can end up ignoring some of the basic rules of copyright law.

The Basic Rules of Copyright

Copyright: The exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.Dictionary.com

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you come across a stunning photo blog with a series of images relevant to your business. You’d love to make a Facebook post sharing the image. The photographer doesn’t seem to be posting his work on Facebook, so you decide to help him out. You download the photo, reupload it to your page, then add a credit identifying the photographer. You might even feel good after this since you are giving more exposure to this artist’s work, but actually what you have done is break the law. When you downloaded and reuploaded the photo, you made an illegal copy (hence the phrase copyright).

I know this comes as a surprise to many people. Didn’t they give up copyright to the photo by posting it in a public place? No. Creators by default reserve all rights to anything they create unless they specify otherwise. By uploading it to a blog all they have consented to is having people see it by visiting the page and share it with a link. They have not given you consent to download and reupload it to your page.

Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.Copyright.gov

The Correct Way To Share

Still want to help them out and give them some exposure? Great! Post a link. That’s the correct and legal way to share their work in this scenario. Linking is very different than reuploading with credit. This isn’t just a legal issue. Content creators often have reasons for wanting to keep control of their work. For example, they may only post work to their blog in order to drive traffic to those pages and make money from ads. If you post their work to your page, your audience may be less likely to seek out the original post.

This Is Becoming Important on Instagram

I thought this was important to bring up now because I have seen a rash of this happening on Instagram. Since their is no native way to share images or post links on that platform, many people use apps to automatically download, reupload, and credit the original user. Just like my example above, this is violation of the photographer’s copyright (it’s also a violation of Instagram’s terms of service.) There does seem to be a growing acceptance of this practice among users, but as social media managers, we need to be extra careful to respect copyright laws.

As always, you own the content you post on Instagram. Remember to post authentic content, and don’t post anything you’ve copied or collected from the Internet that you don’t have the right to post. Instagram Community Guidelines

The Correct Way To Reupload

If you still feel that reuploading is the only way to go. There are a couple things you can try. First, send a message to the content creator and ask for permission to repost their work. This is a fast and simple way to make sure you are respecting their wishes. Second, look into using Creative Commons work. Creative Commons is a method for creators to waive some of the rights to their content. Instead of “all rights reserved” it’s “some rights reserved.” You will want to search for images that are marked available for commercial use. You can learn more about Creative Commons in this excellent blog post.

My name is Josh Schweigert. I graduated in May 2012 with an M.A. in Digital Storytelling from Ball State University, and I am the Social Media Manager at Roosevelt University.

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