26 May 2013

By Jake Laban, Chris Hall and Eric Fredricksen esq.

Recently, we noticed that LegalZoom was doing something on their Facebook page that we would NEVER recommend one of our own clients to do:

Copyright‘Borrowing’ images of celebrities and other copyrighted images.

While it is quite possible that LegalZoom may be claiming that they are operating under the doctrine of fair use; we wrote about the dangers of misuse of copyrighted images on social media last year in response to our detailed review of the Terms and Conditions of Facebook and other popular social media sites.

On the LegalZoom Facebook page, you can clearly see images of celebrities like the John Glenn, The Beatles, and Abraham Lincoln.  The list goes on of images that are clearly NOT the property of LegalZoom’s including copyrighted images from Charles Schultz’ Peanuts, Walt Disney, and even images posted by other Facebook users!

“If LegalZoom can do it, why can’t I?”

Simply put, because it is bad for your business.

Enforcement of copyright is serious business, and can come at a serious cost.  On the low end, it would be very easy for the copyright holder of any of those images to report a copyright violation directly to Facebook using THIS tool.  In our experience, Facebook is very quick to shut down an account in violation of their T&C’s or other governing copyright laws.  What this means is that if your business were to ‘borrow’ an image the same way that LegalZoom does, you run the risk of waking up one morning to see that your account has been shut down, much like THESE businesses did.

The fact is, unless LegalZoom has a written authorization for the use of each and every one of these ‘borrowed’ images for use within a marketing campaign, they are in violation of the copyright holder’s rights.  Facebook does take copyright law very seriously, as they outline in their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.  The similar terms and conditions for the other major social media sites fall in line with Facebook’s.  One possible reason that LegalZoom has not been pinched for this yet is answered in this question:

“How quick would YOU be to sue a big, powerful legal services firm?”

Nonetheless, no matter how big they are, it does not make this action right.  Copyright law is a serious matter, and one that we look out for carefully here at Total Social Solutions on our clients’ behalf.

As our client, you have our pledge to keep you on top of all of the latest changes in the world of social and interactive media to ensure that your business stays in good standing, and above-board.

If your brand needs assistance in putting together a compliant, ROI-focused social media program, contact Total Social Solutions today.  We’d be happy to help!

TSS

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