Today social media gives the user the amazing ability to share content instantly. Sharing other people’s photos is something a lot of us do frequently on social media. We see a beautiful, inspirational, thoughtful, or educational photo that we want to share with our friends, so we post it without much thought. But then it is considered copyright Infringement?

Is it ok to retweet?

Sure it is okay to repin images on Pinterest.? Maybe. Is it ok to repost on Instagram? Sometimes. It is important to remember that all social media platform have different rules and take big steps to protect themselves and their users. To know what is or isn’t acceptable for each platform find a comfortable spot and read each platform’s terms of service. With new social media platform and photo sharing apps becoming more and more popular, the risk of copyright infringement through the sharing of photos is more present now than ever before. Not to mention many social media platform give the ability to report, save or share the people’s content.

The first lesson that technology has always moved faster than the law, and that is especially true with the new social media platform and photo sharing apps coming out seemingly every week. In fact may 2016, it was estimated there were over two billion people worldwide that are now using social media, and sharing content is the lifeblood of most social media. As the courts and policymakers try to work through how to protect content shared through social media and photo sharing apps, while still fostering creativity, more authors now understand the protections available to them for their copyrights and are looking to enforce their rights.

Being able to share this content instantly often removes the deliberative process of considering such content before it gets posted. The copyright protects original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression, including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic work. Whereas offline photo and content sharing often go through several rounds of review, social media content can be posted with the click of a single button, which creates risk.


What are the legal implications of reposting, saving or sharing other people’s content on social?

Reposting, saving and sharing other person’s content on social media is far more impactful than the simple click of a button. In fact, infringing on an author’s copyright by reposting, saving or sharing content is no different than other forms of copyright violations. Infringers can be held liable for actual damages and their additional profits or statutory damages. If the infringement was willful, courts may increase damages up to six-figure awards. But, how the fair use defense applies to social media is an evolving issue as fair use protects uses of copyrighted material for, among other things, criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research.

Court reviewing fair use defense look at four primary factors

  1. The purpose and character of the use
  2. The nature of copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of portion taken
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market


If the user cannot determine the authorship of content, then he or she should not use it. If the user can identify the author then its necessary to contact them and ask for permission to share content.

The golden rule is simple: if the content was offline rather than online, would you seek out permission to use it? If so, you must do so online just as you would offline.”

The bottom line is that using images on social media and for online business these days is tricky. As is often the case, the law is behind and may take a while to catch up. But if you can keep Kay’s tips in mind as you use images on social media, you’ll be way ahead of the curve. Educating yourself about copyright, social media platform terms, and image licenses will go a long way in protecting yourself.