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Social media legal tips: 5 things every social media user should know

By Joe Veenstra, La Crosse Social Media Lawyer on Sunday, February 28th 2016

Without a doubt, social media has introduced a whole new world of opportunity for citizen journalists, bloggers and others looking to share their stories and ideas in the public arena.  Unfortunately, it’s also introduced a host of ways to violate intellectual property laws.  From Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram to blogs, Facebook and Google+, social media makes it easy to unknowingly infringe on others’ copyrights.

If you want to participate in social media, here are five things you need to know.

1) Fair Use

If you participate in social media, it’s good to understand “fair use,” a tenet of copyright law.  Essentially, the fair use rule allows you to use other people’s material (e.g., photos, art, music, videos, ideas, articles, etc.) if you use only portions of it — as opposed to the entire copyrighted work — for criticism, comment, teaching, research or news purposes.  The idea is that using it for those purposes means you’re using it fairly rather than just getting ahead by coopting someone else’s hard work.

2) Transformative Use

It’s also best to use it in a “transformative” rather than derivative way, meaning that you somehow add to the original content.  With a recipe, for example, you can add to the ingredients or adjust the cooking process.  With a work of art, you may add praise, criticism or  comment on the message it conveys.

3) Attribution

If you are using someone else’s original material, give them credit.  Give attribution to the original author of a quote or passage, the composer and/or singer of a song, or the name of a photographer or visual artist.  If the material exists online, include a link to that original content.  Copyright laws are intended to protect creators’ markets.  If your use of their material affects their market, you could be infringing on their copyright.

4) Safest Bet

If you want to use other people’s material for any use — fair, transformative or otherwise — your safest bet is to get permission from the copyright owner.  It’s not always easy, but if the material is for something truly important, it’s the wisest step to take.

5) Learn More 

For more information on how to safely use others’ content online, see the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Legal Guide for Bloggers.

For a social media lawyer in La Crosse WI, contact Joe Veenstra at 608-784-5678.

 

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