Something has come up a lot lately, and we would like to share it with you. In small businesses, many companies simply do not have the budget to pay for images, articles or even design. They do not have the budget to hire a reputable marketing company so they have their friend, a non-marketing employee or family member do it. After all, free is always better right? WRONG! Remember, when someone posts on social media on behalf of your company it is not only a reflection of the company, but the owner of the company is legally responsible for what is said.
There are many rules, regulations and laws that must be observed. Here are just a few:
- Photos: If you do not have the rights to the photo then you are infringing on copyright laws. These copyright laws could get you in big trouble with the creator of the image. You could even get sued or serve jail time if it went that far. Small businesses are not immune to these laws just because they don’t have big budgets. There are a many free sites out there that give you the ability to use the photo and by downloading it you have authorization from the artist. There are also some great sites that by buying the image at reasonable price you also have the rights from the artist. Paying for a perfect photo for your advertisement could cost $1 or $10; however, either way, it will not cost you your business or livelihood.
- Celebrities: Just because a celebrity photo is on the internet does not mean you can use it and attach your logo or design to it. Celebrities are paid endorsers of products. By taking a photo off of the internet and customizing it to you, you are using their likeness for financial gain and you must pay them to do so. Legally and technically you are required by law to have what is called “modeling rights or releases” from anybody that you use for advertisement purposes and, yes, this includes employees.
- Movie stills: At the beginning of every movie you see the FBI warning on piracy. We all love that blue screen that we see, and in today’s digital age we skip past or ignore it. Well, let me tell you, it is REAL. As a matter of fact the law was updated many years ago to include films, audio recordings, electronic media, software, books, and photographs. For this alone you can be heavily fined and you can also go to jail. You can not use these for monetary gain and, yes, social media is considered monetary gain as it is a form of advertisement.
- Music: Music almost has the same rules as movies. You must obtain permission from the artist or creator prior to using that in your advertisements and videos. Again, there are sites that you can purchase the rights. However, no matter what you use, please get permission. You can not just grab a mainstream song done by a large named singer and attach your logo or advertisements to it.
Now all of this sounds scary and it was meant to be that way. We as a marketing agency take these laws and rules very seriously. We specialize in working with small businesses and we definitely take copyright laws very seriously and so should you. We will not risk our livelihood by reproducing any illegal item and we will not take that risk for a client. Our suggestion would be that you as a small business owner take the time to understand the laws or hire a reputable marketing agency that specializes in small business marketing. Either way, you will be covered from a legal standpoint. By the way even this photo on this blog has a copyright, it was downloaded from Pixabay so now we know we are legally covered to use it.