Copyright uncovered: What should I be aware of when sharing my work on social media?

    Every quarter, our Legal team answers your questions about copyright. This quarter, they highlight what to be aware of when sharing your artistic work on social media.

    What should I be aware of when sharing my work on social media?

    Read the terms and conditions

    When you sign up to a social media platform, you will be asked to agree to its terms and conditions. It’s worthwhile taking the time to read them as they will govern the relationship you have with the platform and its users. The terms and conditions create new contractual rights and obligations for you, so you should be aware of what you are signing up to.
    Unlike a contract between individuals, social media terms and conditions can’t be negotiated. If you don’t agree with them, you may have to consider whether you want to use the platform.

    By accepting the terms and conditions, you are granting a licence

    Social media platforms require you to grant a licence. This allows them to display your content and to make it accessible by users anywhere in the world.
    In general, you retain the copyright in your work when you upload it to social media platforms, but usually the following requirements will apply:

    • Anything you publish on the platform is sub-licensable, meaning the platform can authorise another company to use your work
    • Your content is usually available for free, meaning you won’t receive any royalties for the content you publish on the platform
    • Licences are usually non-exclusive, so you can still use the same work elsewhere
    Some platforms give their other users permission to access or display your work, which means they can replicate it in their personalised dashboards, or share it on other social media platforms and web applications.

    Unauthorised uses of your work

    Although some platforms encourage image sharing, the way someone uses your work may be an unauthorised use, for instance, if someone uploads your content onto their own account without your permission.
    So whilst social media platforms can be a cost-effective way of promoting your work, in making your images accessible you are increasing opportunities for it to copied and used by others without your permission – also known as copyright infringement. Read more about how to deal with infringements here.

    Different country, different laws

    When you accept the terms and conditions, a valid contract will take effect. The governing law clause will tell you under which country’s laws the contract has been made. This is important as copyright laws can be substantially different from one country to another.
    Often the terms and conditions of social media platforms are governed by US law - usually Californian state law as a lot of platforms are headquartered there.

    Requesting to remove your work

    One benefit of US law is the ‘notice and takedown procedure’. This allows you to request the platform to remove unauthorised uses of your work. A new factsheet on the notice and takedown procedure will be available on our Knowledge Base soon.

    Your images may still appear online even after you delete your account

    Many social media platforms state that their terms and conditions continue to apply even after you deactivate your account, so your images and links to your content might remain accessible.

    Keep an eye on updates to the terms and conditions

    Social media platforms may change their terms and conditions at any time and continued use of the service might signify your acceptance of the changes. Usually the social media platform will notify you by email in advance, so it’s a good idea to check these updates for any changes to the terms and conditions that may affect your rights.

    How can I protect my work on social media?

    If you decide to post images of your work on social media, we have some useful tips to help you protect it:

    • Use the copyright symbol with your name and the year of creation next to your work. This informs people that you are the copyright holder and encourages them to seek permission if they wish to reproduce it.
    • Consider adding watermarks to your images. Many digital image editing programmes can help you do this.
    • Share only low resolution images. This limits the range of infringements that can occur.
    • Only post what’s necessary to promote your style and range of work and link your images back to your website where you control the terms and conditions.
    • Keep track of the images you publish and on what social media platforms you have published them on. This may help you in the event of an infringement.

    Free copyright advice for DACS members

    Need advice about copyright? If you are a Copyright Licensing or Artist’s Resale Right member, you can get free guidance from our Legal team – use our Copyright Advice Service.
    Not a member? Sign up now:


    Image: Minerals, 2011, Alison Turnbull © Alison Turnbull. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2017. Photo: Peter White. License this image.


    Posted on 12/06/2017 by Laura Ward-Ure