3 Ways You May Be Breaking the Law on Facebook

3 Ways You May Be Breaking the Law on Facebook

Photo by Jenn Hethcoat

For the casual user, Facebook is just a fun way to share interesting content with friends. But as a casual user, it’s sometimes hard to spot content that’s been stolen or used without permission.

I’ve been a blogger (aka “content creator”) for the past 5 years. I know what it takes to constantly come up with new ideas, write three drafts, pour over photoshop, and study until 3:00 a.m. trying to figure out what MySQL means (OK, I still don’t know that last one). And I’ve seen friends and strangers alike have that content taken by big brands or individuals without their permission. I see that content being shared every day on my Facebook News Feed by well-meaning people who have no idea they are perpetuating intellectual or digital property theft.

Those who know me realize that my moral compass is slightly overdeveloped – annoyingly so – and I feel the need to educate people about appropriate content sharing etiquette. If his helps you, please share it with friends so hardworking people can have the credit they deserve.

NOTE: in the following examples, I am in no way accusing the user of committing a crime. Of course, I don’t know the situations or what permissions may have been obtained privately. I am pointing out the warning signs to look for before sharing. If appropriate permission have been obtained, you may see a statement that the content is “Copyright www.originalwebsite.com. Used with permission.” 

Look for these warning signs before sharing content from friends and pages.  And by all means don’t employ these techniques to get buzz for your business.

1. The original watermark has been scrubbed out.

I didn’t get a screen capture of this when I saw it the other day. A photo posted by a page had used Photoshop to try to remove the watermark on an image. However, the guilty party didn’t have the skills to remove the part of the mark that appeared on the subject’s legs. Last year, in a well-publicized battle with NickMom.com , many bloggers found their images being used without permission or attribution by NickMom. One of the photos even had bold text slapped over the watermark.  If you see remnants of a watermark, move on without clicking “share.” Or better yet, unlike the page and don’t support the company.

2. An entire recipe, craft or blog post is used as a status update or photo description.

3 Ways You May Be Breaking the Law on Facebook

WARNING: Do not re-post or share entire recipes pasted from another website.

I found a Facebook page today by following a friend’s share. The page has 198,000 Likes. How much original content does it have? Zero. Goose Egg. Nada. Every post is an entire recipe scraped from another site, a quote (sometimes attributed) with a “borrowed” photo. Apparently, they’ve received some complaints, because the “About” section consists of instructions on how to submit a DMCA take down notice. In my opinion, that is like saying, “We know we are (allegedly) stealing your content, but we won’t do anything about it until you complain.” The website affiliated with this Facebook page is exclusively sharing recipes that belong to others. If they don’t have express permission to republish, this statement at the top of their website does NOT make it OK: “I do not own any of the recipes and pictures posted here. This blog is simply a compilation of some amazing recipes that I come across and am sharing them with you. Enjoy….”   Of course, she has a Google ad right their in the top right corner!

It is illegal to repost an entire recipe or blog post without express permission, even with attribution. That’s right. Even if you say, “original source: originalwebsite.com” the administrators of the website/blog/Facebook page are stealing content. If you want to be in compliance with intellectual property law, post the first paragraph and then link to the original source so users can read the rest. Unfortunately, 2,000+ people liked this possibly stolen recipe/photo, and 10,000+ people shared it.

3. A photo has been downloaded from another page or website and uploaded to another page.

Have you ever seen a funny photo on Facebook or Instagram that you wanted to share? Be sure you’re doing it the right way. Depending on the terms of use of the site where you found the meme/image, it may be unethical to download the photo on your computer, phone or other device, and then upload it to your own account. Stay safe by using the native sharing feature of the platform or website, in order to properly share content. It’s hard to spot this behavior in others in your News Feed. With the growth in popularity of memes, the widely held belief is that “if it’s on the internet, it’s free to use in whatever way one wants.” This, of course, is not true. Instagram makes it a little tricky to share, so stick to original content there. You can usually find the link to the web version of the intagram photo by looking at the user’s page on instagram.com.

Here’s how to make sure you’re sharing the right way:

  • Never remove a watermark or identifying feature. If you suspect this has been done, don’t share!
  • Repost only the first paragraph of content (recipe, blog post, etc) and link to the original location. There is a fine line between curation and stealing.
  •  When sharing website content, use the social sharing buttons that appear on the original webpage. If there are none (that’s a crime right there!), simply copy the webpage url and share that. Never copy/paste or download photos to share.
  • If you want to share a recipe or craft you made, take your own picture and share it with a link to the original recipe, like I do in my Weekly Meal Plan posts.
  • If you change a recipe or craft pattern enough for it to be considered original, include a courtesy link back to the post that provided the inspiration.

Have you seen content that violates intellectual property law and/or ethics? Have you shared this type of content without realizing it? There is no condemnation from me, but now that you are educated, you can spread the word and help honor the people who spend endless hours creating awesome internet posts for the rest of us to enjoy.

 

About Sarah Pinnix

Sarah Pinnix is a blogger, vlogger, new media marketing coach, and mom of three. She plots her world domination schemes from a small town in the NC Mountains. She is now full-time Social Media Marketing Specialist for an international non-profit organization.

Comments

  1. Good to know. I have seen a lot of recipe shares lately where it looks like it was cut from the site. As far as photos if I see a funny photo or a photo I like I don’t upload to another site. I usually share with the buttons provided. Thanks for the tips.

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  2. Yes, there are SEVERAL Pampered Chef consultants stealing content from bloggers, it is not only rude, it is illegal.

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    Sarah Pinnix Reply:

    I’ve seen that too! Most of the people have no idea what they’re doing is wrong!

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  3. My biggest pet peeve is Business and Organizations parading as ‘Friends’.

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    Sarah Pinnix Reply:

    Yes, Aaron, me too!

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  4. Thanks so much for writing this! It is a great post with lots of great info!

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    Sarah Pinnix Reply:

    Thanks for the encouragement, Melissa!

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  5. I copied this from some website:

    MySQL, pronounced either “My S-Q-L” or “My Sequel,” is an open source relational database management system. It is based on the structure query language (SQL), which is used for adding, removing, and modifying information in the database.

    http://www.techterms.com/definition/mysql

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    Sarah Pinnix Reply:

    :)

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  6. This is a terrific post! Thanks for putting this together. I’ll direct my readers over to this.

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  7. Great tips! Thank you! I’ve been scouring the terms of use for promotional stuff and cover photo guidelines….Facebook Violation Paranoia is a certifiable blogger illness, I think. :)

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  8. Cathy Cole says:

    You never cease to amaze, Sarah. Great info; thanks!

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  9. Great post, Sarah!

    (oh, and you should totally buy my new book to teach you what MySQL is :-) )

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  10. So, what you’re saying is, I shouldn’t just copy the text from this and put it on my blog with a link at the bottom saying you wrote it?

    There goes MY new blog strategy….

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    kellywhalen818 Reply:

    HA!

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  11. Sarah I have noticed a lot of people in my profession using music that’s most likely has a copyright. It bugs me that they would be mad if someone borrowed their work for their site. Same as stealing in my book!!

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  12. Great post Sarah! Thank you for writing this. Now excuse me as I go shout it from the mountaintops of Facebook.

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    Sarah Pinnix Reply:

    Thanks Kelly!

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  13. if it’s on the internet….it’s public domain. (period). end of issue.

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    Lou Lange Reply:

    Not true in all cases. If you are sharing music from youtube, for example, you should include the details from the link in your post. Otherwise, you can be slapped with a DCMA or copyright violation.
    Also, I have gotten in the habit of including something like “Courtesy /fill web site in here/” if I take a segment of a news story from a TV station or news organization. That avoids the whole “plagarism” thing.
    You have to be very careful with what you share – attribution is the key. If you got it from someone, acknowledge that.

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    Sarah Pinnix Reply:

    Attribution is important, but you still cannot copy word-for-word what someone else creates and justify it with an attribution. You can only say “courtesy” if they have actually given express permission for that content to be republished. If the work was not created by you, then you do not own the rights to distribute it unless clearly indicated by the owner.

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    becky Reply:

    Um, no. The internet is ABSOLUTELY NOT public domain. You are so very wrong, Jacki. Please don’t perpetuate that myth. The copyright STILL remains with the person that created the original photo, blog post, recipe, or whatever. I will repeat:
    THE INTERNET IS NOT PUBLIC DOMAIN. That’s your PSA of the day.

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  14. This is a fantastic post, and I am definitely sharing it. (Properly, of course!)

    Funny that you specifically mention recipe-sharing. It is totally out of control in my Facebook newsfeed right now and driving me up the wall!

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  15. And I just noticed that your photo was taken by SuperJenn- so funny! I know her! ;)

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  16. Jenstew75 says:

    On reading this I was definitely educated. Thanks! I don’t think I have improperly shared things – much easier to use the share button than to copy paste entire pages. But then, I’m not a blogger or fake page or anything. What i had always thought was to give proper credit, and also if you weren’t personally making any money off of it, then you were okay. But I learned something – I was wrong. Thanks for clearing up my misunderstandings!

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  17. I have a few friends who see a funny image on Pinterest of Facebook, then they upload that as a Timeline/Wall photo. Is that illegal too? (they don’t give any photo credit whatsoever)

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    Sarah Pinnix Reply:

    Micaela, that’s not the correct way to share, and in most cases it does break copyright law. They definitely should click “share” on the actual FB post or copy paste the Pinterest link when they share on fb. Better yet, connect FB to Pinterest and it will appear on their wall when they repin. Thanks for asking and wanting to share the right way!

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  18. Well, mine is putting the names, addresses and places of employment of animal abusers because animal abuse laws aren’t tough enough. One guy had his attorney contact me. I found a story about another attorney of the same name being arrested for corruption. Back to the first attorney’s firm’s FaceBook page with doctored news stories and a P/M. “Your client abuses animals. I abuse people who abuse animals. I don’t get my mail where I really live and I don’t log on to the internet without going through proxies. For all you and your client know, I’m in Outer F-ing Mongolia, on 10 minutes’ drive from where your wife gets her hair done.”

    But you were saying something about recipes? How cute.

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  19. I don’t appreciate there not being an edit feature: Minus the typos, I meant

    “Well, mine is publishing the names, addresses and places of employment of animal abusers because animal abuse laws aren’t tough enough. One guy had his attorney contact me. I found a story about another attorney of the same name being arrested for corruption. Back to the first attorney’s firm’s FaceBook page with doctored news stories and a P/M. “Your client abuses animals. I abuse people who abuse animals. I don’t get my mail where I really live and I don’t log on to the internet without going through proxies. For all you and your client know, I’m in Outer F-ing Mongolia, or 10 minutes’ drive from where your wife gets her hair done.”

    But you were saying something about recipes? How cute.”

    [Reply]

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I swear, every time a blogger or brand blatantly violates Facebook’s terms of service a fairy loses its wings. Its a virtual fairy, but still. While the terms of service are of course important to follow, it’s also crucial to be in compliance with the law. Sarah at SarahPinnix.net talked about three ways you may be breaking the law on Facebook.  [...]

  2. [...] offers great advice on following Facebook’s terms and the law in this post 3 Ways You May Be Breaking the Law on Facebook. This is a great post for social media managers, but also the rest of us too! If you share anything [...]

  3. [...] legality of tools like aggregators and there are many apparent contradictions—posting photos on Facebook without attribution is not legal, but embedding videos [...]

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