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Social Media Sharing and Copyright Infringement: Where's the Line?

Social media has become such a major part of our lives that it’s hard to remember a time when we weren’t plugged into it. For my fellow virtual entrepreneurs out there, it can be an especially powerful business tool. With millions of users visiting social media sites every minute, it is a must for anyone who wants to ramp up their marketing. You can easily share the latest news about your business, promote events, educate your customers, and get your ideas and services out into the world with minimal hassle.

But what about copyright laws? How do you know when it is safe to circulate something, and when it is considered an infringement? Currently, this is a pretty gray area. While lawmakers are still in the process of figuring out how to better regulate social media sharing, here are some helpful tips to remember:

  • Posting on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest CAN violate copyright laws. When sharing content through social media, keep in mind that copyright holders have exclusive rights to their work, which includes the right to reproduce, distribute, and publicly display it. But this doesn't necessarily mean that everyone who shares on social media is infringing.
  • Social media sharing may qualify for fair use exceptions. However, this really all depends on the work. Generally, creative works have greater protection under copyright laws, while informational works are more likely to fall under Fair Use. The Fair Use Doctrine allows for the use and reproduction of copyrighted materials “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news, reporting, teaching, scholarships, or research.”

Remember these four factors when it comes to fair use: 1) the nature of the use; 2) the nature of the work used; 3) the amount of work used; and 4) the effect of the use on the market. Infringement will all depend on what the social media user does with the work. This is especially true if monetary gain or publishing are in play. If social media sharing causes issues with the marketability of an owner’s work, an infringement will likely be valid. Until the laws clarify issues in social media use, the courts will have to decide these things on a case-by-case basis.

Copyright & Trademark Legal Services

If you need the assistance of a copyright and trademark lawyer in Largo, Hyattsville, or Bowie, talk to our team at Gray Legal, P.C. Your original work should be protected and we are prepared to help you with any aspect of a copyright/trademark dispute or claim. Whether you simply need professional legal advice or you are seeking aggressive representation, we are prepared to help.

Call (301) 281-4817 or contact us online for a free consultation.