Using images on social media and copyright
No-one can deny the power of social media platforms; at both a personal and business level. More and more law firms are taking to social media every year and whether you like it or not, it’s here to stay for now. Getting the text right for your posts is one thing but the use of images is a whole new ball game; particularly when we talk about the ‘legal use of images’ and breaching copyright.
This is not specifically the images that you take and share, but ones that are more business-related, generic, and are used to support your content. The images that you may not have taken, but found on the internet, for example.
This is where you enter into a world of copyright, and it can be daunting if you have little or no knowledge of what you can or can’t share and more specifically, how you should be sharing the images and crediting where it is needed.
Posts with images get more clicks
There is no denying that content with an image gets more views. Most people respond to something visually and are more likely to interact and read the content shared if it is supported by an eye-catching image.
This is especially important for businesses who are wanting to stand out. Social media is now a saturated market with everyone wanting to get a piece of the action and have their posts liked, shared, and engaged with.
Sharing a piece of content that includes your offers, services and products only in text format is less likely to be read than the content with an added image. Further, using images which support the text component is also more likely to encourage or entice people to read the content. This is ultimately what you want as a business.
Considering the content, intent and style of your image is also essential. You want something that is a little unique, a bit different, that draws the attention of the reader, which leads to clicking, message, comment, share etc.
Can images help your brand to be more visible in social media feeds?
You only have to think about how inundated your own personal social media feeds are to understand that people are presented with a lot of content to consume.
An image, and one that is eye-catching and relevant to your content, is what will make someone “stop scrolling” and consume that content. This is especially important for platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter when we’re talking about law firms. This is because the content you share on these platforms can easily be served up with text as opposed to primarily image-based platforms like Instagram or Pinterest.
Sharing an image to support your content also breaks up your social media feed and again, means your viewers can see your various posts more clearly and decipher the content faster which leads to more clicks, shares, engagements etc.
What is image copyright?
You may think it’s all relatively straightforward. Share an image with your content and you’re good to go. But this is where it gets a little blurred in terms of what you can or can’t share, legally.
The general rule is that any image you share that you have taken, such as product images or images of your business or your brand is yours to use how you like.
Then there are times where you may not have a suitable image that supports the content that you want to share; so what now?
Everyone knows you can access a whole host of images online. However, you can’t necessarily just share that image.
You need to consider copyright.
In a nutshell, photographs, illustrations, and other images will be protected by copyright. This is because that image or photograph is owned by someone and if you want to share that image, use it or post it online, you will need to seek the permission of the owner before doing so.
The person who owns the copyright of the image is usually the person that takes it. So, any images you take, you are the owner of the copyright to that image.
Some people make their images available for use for free and many make their images available for use by way of licences.
What types of image licences are there?
There are literally millions of images that can be used with your content, under licence. These are often images that have been created purely for that purpose. There are several different types of image licences available; some free and some paid.
Here are some of the options available to you to use images without breaching copyright.
A creative commons license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the image to be used and distributed with attribution.
A creative commons license is used when the owner of the image wants to give others the opportunity to use the image and share it on their social media or website. The user must then credit the source and make note that it is a creative commons image. Credit attribution comes in many forms and you should check how you have to attribute at the time of downloading the image.
Editorial use only (fair use)
The "editorial use only" image is a publishing term based on the fair use exception of copyright law where copyrighted work can be used without the need to gain permission and authorisation.
But it can only be used for purposes of news reporting, criticism, and even things like education. However, it cannot be used for commercial use and gain and cannot be adjusted (re-sized, text or logos added etc). This is where things can get confusing.
When it comes to attribution, the basics are that it is the act of giving the original author of the content, credit for their work.
So if you are to want to share an image and it has an attribution required license, it generally means that as long as you give the owner and author credit, you can then use that image for yourself. This is very similar to the creative commons licence requirements.
There are a number of paid image subscription platforms like Adobe, iStock, Shutterstock and many more.
Using these paid platforms can be one of the easiest and safest ways to ensure you do not breach image copyright laws.
Can I use images from Google?
You can use images from Google but there is a process to ensure that you do it legally.
When you search for an image on Google you will be presented with thousands of potential options but not all of them will be free for you to use.
Within the ‘image search’ section of Google, there is an advanced search option (immediately before all the images are displayed). Here, you can specify to only present results that are “free to use, share or modify, even commercially” (amongst other selections like minimum size). Using only these images will protect you and your business from infringing copyright laws and not gaming the relevant permissions.
What happens if I use an image that I shouldn’t have?
What you have to remember is that there is a level of effort, creativity and time that goes into people creating their images. You may know yourself the time it takes to edit and curate an image that you want to then share.
But sometimes accidents happen. You may end up sharing an image that you shouldn’t have. This is when you could be infringing copyright laws.
You may find that you are asked to remove the image and you also may be subject to law enforcement where damages and compensation may be owed to the author and copyright owner. This is particularly so if it is proven that you have previously (and regularly) breached copyright laws.
It isn’t that you can’t share an image you feel is perfect to support the content you want to share online. An image will always be more powerful in terms of engaging with your potential audience.
But it is always best to be responsible.
In many cases, if you’re not sharing an image that you own, then it is still best to have the right copyright license in place or to search out “free to use” images or that you subscribe to a paid image licencing platform.
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