Instagram is abundant with amazing imagery, but it’s not all fair game for your own use!
Let’s tackle this tricky topic that is copyright! Specifically, image copyright and how it pertains to Instagram. We’ll discuss image copyright and how to avoid running into any potential legal issues.
What is image copyright?
In short, image copyright is the legal term for image ownership. The creator of an image is automatically assigned the copyright. The creator can then decide how the image is used and distributed. In Canada, photographs are considered “artistic works” under the current federal law that governs copyright.
If you want to get into the real nitty-gritty, you can check out the government of Canada’s website which lays out the basics of copyright. And for Instagram, you can read their rules and regulations around image copyright here.
To sum up, the misuse of an image can lead to a lawsuit, a cease and desist order, fines, or other legal issues.
So before you just use an image you found on the internet, first consider what you’re using it for.
There are some exceptions which might come under the ‘Fair Use’ act.
What is ‘Fair Use’?
Fair use is the exception to the rule in copyright law. It allows people to use copyright-protected images or works for free/without permission under certain conditions.
Exceptions often include the work being used for news reporting, commentary, educational purposes, research and even parody.
In determining fair use, the following factors are to be taking into consideration:
- The purpose of use of works (such as commercial, educational or non-profit)
- The nature of the copyrighted work (the more creative and original the work is, the harder it is to claim under fair use)
- The amount of copyrighted work use (is it just a portion of the original work you’re showing/using?)
- The effect of the use upon the potential market (are you depriving a copyright owner of income or a new potential market?)
However, when it comes to social media and “reposting” a photo, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll meet the criteria for fair use and you could land yourself in trouble if you use an image without consent.
Now that you know what image copyright is, it’s important to connect this idea with Instagram – every image you see in your feed has an image owner!
Reposting an image without permission could be considered copyright infringement.
How can I legally use someone else’s image on Instagram?
You have to ask for permission from the original image owner! It’s that simple.
If you ask to use an image, and the owner grants you the right to use it, keep a record of this communication.
It’s a common misconception that you can get around asking, by simply crediting the original owner or “regramming” their original post. This only informs them of the use of their image.
You have to consider that the original owner of the image might not want to be associated with you or your brand. They might not share your views or ideologies, for example.
Sharing photos on social media
Instagram doesn’t have a native repost function, however, there are apps like ‘Repost for Instagram’ that you can download – these allow you to repost other users’ Instagram posts to your own account. This makes it easy to reshare images, but it doesn’t make it legal!
Depending on user settings and permissions, you can share posts to Instagram Stories that automatically link back and credit the creator.
You can ask permission by leaving a comment on their post, sending them a DM or even an email if that information is available on their account.
We understand that for brands, UGC (user-generated content) adds a lot of value to your marketing by giving it authenticity from a real person. Later has written an awesome blog on this and how to navigate it properly.
- If you’re the creator of an image, then the copyright belongs to you
- ‘Fair use’ only comes into play if it benefits society or is educational
- If you want to re-share or use an image from Instagram- ask for permission!
- There is no easy way around asking for consent
Please note that this is just a guideline and is in no way, formal legal advice.
Check out this previous post we did for some killer Instagram feed inspo!