Social Media Marketing: Keeping it Legal

Social Media Marketing: Keeping it Legal

As more companies are seeing the benefit of social media, it is important that we talk about some social media laws. The two subject areas (relating to social media) that are the most common areas for laws to be broken are: copyright and privacy. Make sure to keep these topics in mind the next time your company uses social media.

Know the social media laws for your company

Know the social media laws for your company



Let us begin by explaining the social media law of copyright. When Congress passed the Copyright Act of 1976, it federally protected anyone’s creative “works” from being stolen and claimed as someone else’s automatically. While previous Copyright Acts had done this, the Copyright Act of 1976 allowed copyright laws to apply to all tangible mediums (e.g. writing, art, photography, movies, music, etc.) All published material is copyright-protected, using the symbol of a “c” inside of a circle as the sign of a copyrighted work. Now, people must abide by “fair use” in order to use a copyrighted piece of work. Social media applies to fair use as well. Continue Reading

What This Means for You

When someone takes a work and claims is as their own, without giving credit to the original source or abiding by fair use, they are breaking the law. This can also be defined as plagiarism. Fair use for copyright outlines how a copyrighted work can be used without doing the latter. The government allows for copyrighted work to be used legally depending on 1) if the work is used for educational/nonprofit purposes, 2) the nature of how the work is used and 3) how the use of a copyrighted work is portrayed. For example, if a professor at a university used a section of a textbook in his PowerPoint presentation, referenced where the section of text came from, and solely used it for educational purposes without changing the original meaning of the text, then he would have legally used a copyrighted work.

As you can see, the laws surrounding copyright are pretty ridged. Anything that does not fall under fair use requires permission from the owner of the copyrighted work in order to be used. Be aware that copyright is a federal offense, and use this information to make sure that people are not stealing the work of your company (or vice versa).


Social media opens millions of people up to their information becoming public. This must violate a privacy law out there right? Yes, but these laws are few and far between. Identity thieves, spammers, developers and cookies are just a few of the privacy threats still out there. It mainly becomes the job of the individual to protect themselves against such threats by increasing the privacy settings on each social network.

What This Means for You

Whether your company uses social networks to collect data or wants the information to remain a private issue, referring to privacy laws is beneficial. The California Online Privacy Act states that all websites that gather personal information of their users must also post an online privacy policy, visible to all. Many people and companies make the mistake of skimming over the privacy policy on social media sites, which should be read thoroughly (reading the privacy policy from the end to the beginning is key). Every person and company should know what information the social network is using.

Other laws include the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. More states are also enacting privacy laws for businesses and colleges, making employee username and password information private.

Being aware of copyright and privacy laws in today’s social networking world is a must-do for any company. Visit your local state or the federal government’s website for more information on laws about social media.

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Photo Credit: limaoscarjuliet

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