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Are Instagram Photos Copyrighted? Is it Okay to Use Them?

Welcome to The Social Lab! This blog will not only help you navigate your personal social media, but also investigate marketing trends and examples of great social media work. Do you have something we should talk about? Make sure to send us an email or contact us on social media.

Social media can appear free and open. Like a vast field where anything goes, a place where you can give and take without any repercussions whatsoever. Spoiler alert, the internet and social media are real. This isn't Westworld, there are consequences to what you type, post, or comment on. Social media is booming, and Instagram is one of the fastest growers. As a result, a lot of people are using photos from other people's accounts. Is this okay?

Instagram actually has something to say about that. The photos you post are yours and yours alone. They are your creative property and you have copyright over them. If an individual takes your photo and posts it on their accounts, or uses it on the internet as a whole, they are committing copyright infringement. There is no other way of saying it, Instagram photos are the property of the individual that created them. Now if an individual takes a photo from someone else, and posts it, it is the property of the original creator. So what do you do if someone steals your photo? What do you do if you want to share someone's photo?

If someone uses your photo and doesn't credit you in any way, it can be very difficult to even know that it was used. Imagine if someone takes the picture you posted of your dinner. If they don't even have the courtesy to tag you or give you credit, how are you suppose to even know it was reposted? For more famous individuals, this won't be as big of an issue because many people will comment on the illegal post and make you aware of what exactly happened. Sadly, most of us are not Instagram famous, so it can be nearly impossible to stay in the loop. If you do happen to see it, then you can claim copyright infringement through Instagram. It is a long form, but it will result in Instagram deleting that particular post. Basically, if you are aware that copyright infringement took place, it isn't difficult to get the post taken down.

What are some other options? You can ask the individual that posted it to give you photo credit. Tagging you, and adding your handle to the copy of the post, could result in traffic going your way, which would be nice and appreciated. So what about when you are on the other side of the coin? What about when you see an amazing photo and want to share it with your peeps? The safest thing to do is simply ask the creator if you could share their photo on your Instagram (or website), and you will give them complete credit for the photo. Many individuals will be fine with this, and you will be able to post that image in the way you stated you would. Keep in mind though, just because someone says yes once, doesn't mean you now own the image.

All of this can seem a little boring, but it is actually really important as social media continues to grow. There has to be boundaries with content, and making sure that you are receiving credit or not being stolen from is important. Many artists, or influential individuals, will watermark their image. This is a great way to prevent theft without credit, but your image could still be cropped and adjusted.

Should you avoid posting photos from other people all together? Not necessarily. If you are a social media manager, there is nothing wrong with creating "user-generated content". Posts created by your target audience or friends can resemble the exact message you are trying to share with everyone. Just remember, ask for credit, and use responsibly. Furthermore, if your friend posts something amazing, all you have to do is communicate and ask if it's okay. Don't assume they will be okay with you taking a photo, or maybe even adding filters to it.

What do you think? Have you ever had an image stolen from Instagram or social media in general? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us.

Social Media Management


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