Social media has helped countless artists here in New York and elsewhere promote themselves and their work for very little cost. However, there are still certain legal details that the judicial system is attempting to work through, since this area of the Internet and corresponding case law are very new. One question posed by a recent case is whether companies need to license user-created, public content in order to repost it to their own social media accounts and whether doing so is a violation of copyright law.
The case stems from an incident in which a model and photographer publicly posted photos to Instagram of the model next to a Volvo. The car maker was tagged in the post and decided to repost the images to its Instagram story feed. This is a feed of images and videos posted by an Instagram account owner that eventually disappear, though they can also be saved by that user.
The model and photographer have filed a civil suit, saying that Volvo violated copyright by using the photos without permission or proper licensing. Volvo has moved to dismiss the claim on the grounds that the photos were posted publicly and that the company was tagged in the posts. It feels that doing so is a direct implication of licensing. There also may be a legal difference between reposting content and embedding it, as found in other similar cases. A representative for Instagram says that third parties have to secure proper rights from any rights holders to post content outside of Instagram, though matters within the social media platform may depend on a user’s privacy settings.
Artists of any medium may want to pay close attention to these types of copyright law cases, as many issues are still being worked out in the legal system. The best course of action may be to work with an attorney who knows the ins and outs of copyright law here in New York. It is important that creators of all kinds have protection for and control of their creations and any usage by other entities.