Social media images: Know your copyright laws

Social media images: Know your copyright laws

If you're using social media, whether for yourself or for a business, you will be affected by copyright law. It's important to avoid using other people's work without permission online - especially if you are posting on behalf of your business.

Not adhering to copyright rules and regulations can result in social media pages being shut down, advertising being binned and even legal action.

In this blog we hope to help you and your brand stay from legal issues with social media content.

What is copyright?

You don’t need a law degree to grasp the basics of copyright. Copyright exists in all channels of creative work. As a rule of thumb, if someone has taken the time to make it, someone owns it.

The point of copyright is to protect people’s creative work from theft. The same laws that you must be careful of when running a social media campaign are also protecting your hard work. The moment you create that Instagram image, or write that blog, you are protected. This protection is automatic. You no longer even have to use the © symbol. Your work is just presumed to be yours. As Twitter’s Terms of Service page states:

"You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. What’s yours is yours — you own your Content (and your photos and videos are part of the Content)." 1

Copyright covers a range of different categories, from literary works, photographs and motion pictures. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the different categories and your country's specific laws.

Social Media Ts & Cs

All social media platforms will have their own unique set of terms and conditions. These are generally pretty easy to find from the home page - even if they aren’t that easy to fully understand. Platforms like Twitter and Pinterest want to encourage users to share (Retweet/ Repin) content as easily as possible. It’s part of the appeal of those platforms after all. However, both state clearly in their Terms pages that each user is individually responsible for the content being shared, rather than the platform itself.

Using legal images

As we know, social media is becoming more and more visually dependent. Text is out, images and video are in. As a result, a whole new realm of potential copyright issues are opened up. Here are some potential solutions to this problem:

Do It Yourself

One clear and reliable solution is to create all of your images and videos in house. Making your own graphics and memes, and taking your own photos is a great way to avoid any sort of copyright issues down the line. However, this can be expensive and is often not feasible.

Stock Images

There are plenty of images sites where you can go to download quality stock images for a small fee. Be sure to check the licensing with each purchase as it may result in paying for something you still can't use!

Be careful with stock photos. Some of the results from purchasing images for your social media or website is that they just end up looking too stock-photo-y. Anonymous images of people in suits and ties might not be quite what your brand needs on their social media.

Get us to do it

We know our stuff. We have a team of designers, photographers and terms-and-conditions-readers to ensure that all of our clients stay well away from content that might be problematic. Contact the Bigg experts today.

Free stock images (that don't suck)

As an added bonus for reading our blog, here are a few Bigg-approved free image sites:


Twitter's Terms of Service


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