The Small-Business Owner's Guide to Advertising Injury

Chapter 2: What Counts As Advertising Injury?
Part 2: Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement refers to the use, distribution, display, or derivation of copyrighted work without the creator's permission. Copyrighted work usually includes…

  • Music.
  • Art.
  • Photography.
  • Film.
  • Writing.

So if you post someone else's graphic design and claim it as your own on your business's social media page, you could be sued for damages. The exception would be if the image exists in the public domain (i.e., is available to the whole public and is not subject to copyright laws).

For a copyright infringement claim to succeed in court, the following elements must be in play:

  • The plaintiff holds a valid copyright on the work in question. This doesn't necessarily mean that they must have the copyright registered — just that they can verify that they are the creator of the work.
  • The alleged infringer had access to the copyrighted material. If the work is available on the Internet, this is easy enough to prove. The plaintiff's attorneys would simply have to show the work could be found on a website.
  • The infringement doesn't meet any copyright exceptions. "Fair use" is the most common copyright exception. Fair use allows an unauthorized party to use someone's copyrighted work in certain circumstances. Examples of fair use may include commentary, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving, and scholarship.

Before posting images that aren't your own on your social media pages, make sure you aren't violating any copyright provisions! For more information on this topic, jump to Chapter 4: Copyright Laws & Social Media: A Small Business Guide.

Next: Part 3: Third-Party Disclosure

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