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Copyright and Online Content: 4 Myths You Need to Stop Believing

We at ARTY LAW spend a lot of time demystifying the law on our social media platforms, but the application of copyright law to online content seems to be so deeply misunderstood that we decided to write a blog post about it!

Of course, please take this as legal information and not legal advice. If you have any questions regarding copyright law and its application to online content, send us an email at info@artylaw.ca.

 

Myth #1: “As long as the author is credited, I can use their content.”

This is one of the biggest myths about copyright law. Of course, crediting is the least you can do, especially if you didn’t ask the rightful copyright owner for their permission to use their content, but doing so does not make the use any less illegal. Copyright law provides creators with exclusive rights such as reproduction, distribution, publication, etc. The minute you use their work without permission, you are infringing on these exclusive rights. If you want to use someone’s content, ask for their permission (and yes, they have the right to ask you to pay a license for its use).

 

Myth #2: “Copyright law does not apply to content posted on social media.”

This myth seems to stem from a misunderstanding of some social media platforms’ terms of use. For instance, Instagram’s terms of use say “you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service.” This license allows Instagram to use the content you post on the platform without granting you any royalties. However, this license is only granted to Instagram and not to everyone who stumbles upon your work online. And to refer back to myth #1, crediting the Instagram account does not make it any less illegal.

 

Myth #3: “I can use royalty free images however I want.”

A very clear distinction should be made between whether or not you have to pay to use a picture and how you can use it. Some licences will not allow you to use the content for commercial purposes, some will require attribution, others will let you use their work however you want as long as you do not modify the content. Whenever you stumble upon royalty-free images (whether on a royalty-free images website or by using the right filter in Google Images), you should take the time to look into the terms of the license.

 

Myth #4: “It’s okay because everyone else does it.”

Unfortunately for those who believe this myth, that is not how the law works. If someone files a complaint against you, whether it is through a social media platform or your website hosting service, action will be taken, regardless of whether or not other people have also used that image before you without getting caught.

 

Ultimately, while some exceptions do exist, here’s a rule that is safe to follow when it comes to using other people’s work online: unless it’s a royalty free image (and then again, please read the terms of the license carefully), you need to ask for the creator’s permission. If you don’t, you are infringing on their rights.

If you have any additional questions you would like to ask us regarding copyright law and online content, do not hesitate to send us an email at info@artylaw.ca or click the link below to schedule a consultation.

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