Digital marketing can be a litigious minefield with laws struggling to keep up with ongoing platform changes and unpredictable regulatory needs. Some laws, however, are longstanding and fully applicable to internet marketing as-is, like copyright infringement laws. And you might be surprised to learn that even if you've hired a "social media expert" to manage your business' online marketing, it's you and your business could be on the hook if your marketer lacks scruples or basic understanding of copyright laws and uses copyrighted imagery or music.
You're not here to read through paragraphs of copyright laws, so let's skip to the bullet points:
If you aren't able to verify a specific image is free for commercial use, do not use it. This is an entirely too common mistake made by novice marketers, low-cost marketers (particularly sourced from outside the US) and unwitting business owners or employees. The most common mistake is pulling an image from an image search or another social media channel and posting it without credit to the original source to your business' website or social media channel.
You get what you pay for. This is especially true when hiring an inexperienced or uneducated marketer or someone from a foreign market like Pakistan or India, where you might pay as little as $7 an hour, but with zero assurances of legal practices or protection, and a very real risk to your business.
Be wary of stock photos provided by online photo editing programs. Canva is a popular example of one such service. Don't get me wrong, online design programs like Canva and Snappa are great for non-designer types, business owners on the go and even experienced marketers, but the stock photos provided are not all free for commercial use.
Oh no! What have I done? If you're realizing that you may have already used copyrighted material for your business page or website, don't panic. You may consider going through your past posts and scrub any potential photos that could qualify as copyright infringement. If you're currently working with someone on your website or social media content, take some time to review their practices and their past work. If you're wondering if something someone else posted on your business' behalf, you can do a reverse image search on Google and ensure the image is free for commercial use. (Click here for instructions on reverse image searching on your phone).
So where do you find royalty free imagery? There are actually quite a few websites that provide free for use stock photos and several are free. While I pay for a stock photo account through Adobe, I also source photos from Pixabay and Pexels, although those are just two of several free stock photo sites.
It may seem like a lot of pages post copyrighted images, seemingly without repercussions, but thousands of cases of copyright infringement happen every year in the US. Copyright infringement fines can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, so it pays to verify each and every image, video and music file you utilize in your business is free for commercial use.
Not sure how to navigate the world of copyrighted materials?
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