With the ever-increasing reach of social media and the rise of ‘’influencers’’, it is unsurprising that there is also a large number of disputes about the ownership of content (written work, photography, images, graphics etc) and many people are unaware of copyright and/or trademark issues, including the possibility of being on the receiving end of an action for copyright or trademark infringement.
Therefore, it is important that you are aware of the possible legal implications if you are publishing content on social media or online.
The main legal issue which can arise in the area of social media relate to copyright. In the online space (including e-commerce and online business), there are also various issues which can arise including trade mark issues, defamation, moral rights issues and the right of publicity.
There is often some confusion as to how ‘copyright’ comes into existence, with many believing that there is a registration or application system in place and that it must be ‘applied’ for.
However, the legislation pertaining to copyright in Australia (the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)) provides automatic copyright protection for original works (including literary works, artistic works, dramatic works, musical works and films, sound recording, broadcasts and published editions and owners are automatically granted a number of exclusive rights in relation to the works, including protection for the life of the creator plus 70 years.
Social media content falls squarely within the bounds of the copyright legislation with content such as written blogs, articles or opinion pieces falling within the definition of ‘literary works’, while photography, drawings, graphics etc fall within the definition of artistic works.
As the owner, the author of the written content, photography or graphic work has the exclusive right to reproduce or communicate the work to the public, and save for some fair dealing exceptions to copyright infringement (such as criticism/review, parody/satire, research/study and reporting of news), then others are unable to use your copyrighted material without your authorisation.
Conversely, if you use other people’s copyrighted material on your social media profiles without authorisation, then you are potentially in breach of their copyright and may find yourself at the wrong end of a breach of copyright action.
As indicated above, social media content can include photos, images and written works, including quotes from others and links to external websites so you should be very careful when including content on your social pages which you have not created yourself.
The above information was very general in nature and does not constitute and should not be relied on as legal advice. Each particular matter turns on its own facts and circumstances and if you have any questions in relation to copyright, we would encourage you to contact our friendly Gold Coast legal team today on 07 5563 8970 to arrange a consultation.