This post is dedicated to all business Instagram owners, who do not ever want to receive this comment:
With the rise of the themed curated accounts, that usually take and reshare photos of other people without permission, it’s become more difficult for us to distinguish what photos are okay to be reshared and how to go about asking for permission on Instagram. Not to mention some photos are extremely difficult to be traced back to their authors.
This article tells you all about the proper and headache-free way of resharing user generated content (UGC) to your brand’s Instagram account.
How to reshare posts on Instagram?
Instagram is one of the few social media apps that do not have the in-app functionality to reshare posts feed-to-feed. You can share posts directly to your story or via direct message. Posts shared in your stories can be then shared as feed posts.
The problem with not having a dedicated button that allows for direct feed-to-feed resharing is that compared to other platforms where each reshare also retains the original post and the original author’s info, Instagram users were taught to forget about copyright.
Instagram is also a curious example of a platform that relies on the appearance of original content – many feeds are painstakingly curated, many feeds are the visual portfolio of creators’ photographic journey. Many users spend incredible resources creating stunning photos and graphics and it is no wonder that they do not want to see their photos republished or modified without their consent by an account that (directly or indirectly) financially benefits from the photo. As such, many users will avoid using third-party resharing applications that embed the author’s tag in the corner of a photo to avoid being recognised as someone, who cannot produce their own content.
Often a reshared/reposted post will be tagged with #repost hashtag in the caption by those, who want to notify their followers that the original photo belongs to someone else. This method is not enough to honour someone’s intellectual property and while it can be used by private accounts (until they get called out), it should definitely not be used by business accounts.
Another bad habit is crediting Pinterest. Pinterest, similarly to Instagram, does not own the copyright or license to the images uploaded to its website! “Source: Pinterest” is sloppy. If you are lucky, nobody will notice. If the photo belongs to a well-known content creator, prepare for their fans to descend upon your account like the hammer of Thor.
Instagram’s copyright policy vs copyright in Austria
When it comes to defining copyright, you should always educate yourself about the intellectual property laws in the country of your residence. Why? Because while there is one universal definition of copyright, the specifics of selling, duration and penalties are subject to local legislation.
According to Instagram’s guidelines (and remember that Instagram is an American firm), copyright is defined as follows:
In most countries, copyright is a legal right that protects original works of authorship. Typically, if you create an original work, you have a copyright from the moment you create it.
Copyright covers a wide variety of types of works, including:
Visual or audiovisual works: videos, movies, TV shows and broadcasts, video games, paintings, photographs
Audio works: songs, musical compositions, sound recordings, spoken word recordings
Written works: books, plays, manuscripts, articles, musical scores
Please note, only an original work is eligible for copyright protection. To be original enough for copyright protection, a work needs to be created by the author themselves and have some minimal amount of creativity.
Generally, names, titles, slogans or short phrases aren’t considered to be original enough to qualify for copyright protection. For example, the symbol “+” is likely not subject to copyright, but a painting full of shapes and colors arranged in a unique pattern is likely protected by copyright.
Copyright generally doesn’t protect facts or ideas, but it may protect the original words or images that express a fact or idea. This means that you may be able to express the same idea or fact as another author, as long as you don’t copy that author’s way of expressing that idea or fact. For example, a playwright may not be able to copyright the idea of a man waking up to repeat the same day over and over again, but the script for a play or movie expressing that idea could be subject to copyright.Instagram Copyright Definition, as of 9th of June 2020
Instagram is also pretty specific in terms of how it treats content published to its platform – it does not own the content uploaded to its platform and it does not facilitate processes for obtaining permission to use copyrighted content. It means that you cannot message Instagram to get permission to use posts from other users on their timeline but you can message the users directly via IG direct message.
What does the Austrian copyright say?
In Austria copyright (das Urheberrecht) is defined as follows:
‘The term copyright has a twofold meaning. On the one hand, it refers to the sum of all legal provisions that protect the intellectual property of the author and, on the other hand, the rights granted to the author on the basis of his intellectual property.’ (Source: RechEasy)
Austrian copyright law is much stricter than the US copyright law and protects the interest of the creator of work above everything else.
While Instagram’s copyright section quotes expiration of copyright protection, in Austria that does not apply. In fact, it is not possible to transfer copyright unless by inheritance. (For the sake of clarity, there are rules that apply when the last known author dies, but I am not going to go into public domain and transfer of ownership because we are not talking about books or paintings)
On top of that, under Austrian copyright law, copyright can only belong to a natural person, i.e. a human being, and not a legal entity (company or an institution), (Source: SMartAT). Commissioned work by a business can only be licensed and utilised with a copyright notice specified by the creator.
I have to add here that I have come across many businesses that demanded they are the copyright owners of the content they paid me to create so I strongly encourage you to make sure any work you commission has license and usage clauses specified in the contract you sign. Side note: In Austria content created by your employees is by default owned by you, the employer, as the work was created in the line of duty.
Austrian copyright, therefore, gives the original content creators on Instagram more leverage against those, who reuse their photos without permission and without prior agreement.
How to repost content from other users to my business Instagram account – a Step by Step Guide
Step 1: Ask permission
This is the first step to make sure that you are doing this right. Even if you have a branded hashtag that you encourage people to use in your bio (“Use #hashtag to get featured on our account!), or even if you were tagged by a user, you should still proactively ask.
You can simply DM that person. Make sure to comment under the original post telling them that you have sent them a DM – otherwise, the message might be disregarded as messages from accounts that do not follow each other end up in random DM compartments.
You can also ask in comments directly – here’s an example from Dr Martens Official (although I do not know why they think a regular user would painstakingly go to their computer, copy the link and open the URL in a new browser to read T&Cs):
Step 2: Agree on the method of crediting
If you are going to the trouble to ask someone permission, make sure you tell the user how you will credit them. I would always use a reposting app, that did not add a tiny white rectangle with the name of the author, so I would make sure to say, “I will tag you as the author in the caption and tag you in the photo itself too”. This way they will know they are getting mentions and links to their account.
This also gives them an opportunity to disagree and tell you their rules. Which is fair enough – after all, it’s their photo.
Step 3: Document consent
One thing that GDPR has made clear to a lot of business owners is that documenting consent is key. This rule applies here too: screenshot the conversation, save the image in a dedicated folder with a date. Ideally, screenshot all DMs on your desktop with the date and time visible in the image. This way, if some dispute arises, you have proof that you have done the resharing properly. Fingers crossed that you never have to deal with any issues like that.
One more thing…
I also want to make you aware that permission to repost does not equal a license to reuse or use for promotion. It definitely doesn’t allow you to modify the photo!
I will give you a real life example: a popular third-wave cafe in Vienna saw a photo I took at their place on Instagram. They reposted it with a text overlay communicating new holiday opening times. They had not asked me for permission to repost and they definitely had not asked me to reuse my photo in such way. I couldn’t get through to them on their social media account but I did ask them about it in person when I was visiting the store on unrelated business. The cafe owner spoke to me and was extremely apologetic about the situation – she understood the issue here, while their social media person did not. I wasn’t an a**hole about it and was happy to hear her explanation and see my photo removed from their feed. I know for a fact that it was uncomfortable for them to deal with – even though I did not come form a place of anger but wanting to resolve the weird situation.
Be careful when treating user-generated content as anything else than a review owned by your customer. Be respectful and grateful as it’s a clear endorsement, but don’t rely on UGC. Create as much of your own content as possible.
Clueless how to dress that request to repost into words? Here’s my template – adjust to your service/product accordingly:
I hope that this article expresses the need to respect content generated by users and your obligation to not violate the copyright in Austria.