Creator’s Tips for Avoiding Copyright Infringement


Title on top of the green background reads, Creator's Tips for Avoiding Copyright Infringement.
Title on top of the green background reads, Creator’s Tips for Avoiding Copyright Infringement.

Content creators often wear many hats. Whether creating social media content for your company or working on your own to create content for your blog, YouTube channel, or website- it’s challenging to supplement the text with visual elements that enhance your content. Arguably, visual elements are the most important ingredient for content creation because they immediately grab the reader’s attention and can drive engagement. The perfect visual to enhance content takes time to find, and once you do, the last thing you want to think about is whether or not you have permission to use it. I mean, if it’s available on the internet and you give credit to the creator then that should be enough, right? Wrong!

Unfortunately, some of us still hold this type of mindset which has led some into legal hot water. If you’d like to avoid the possibility of getting sued for using someone else’s work without permission then continue reading for some tips.

Pen and notebook for writing tips
Pen and notebook for writing tips

What Counts As Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement is when someone uses someone else’s original works of authorship without their permission. Photographs, music, video, programming languages, and even choreography count as works of art and can be legally protected. It’s important to note that even if you give the original creator credit, you can still be held liable for infringing.

Avoiding Copyright Infringement

The easiest way to avoid this is to take your photos, make your songs, write your code, and create your choreography. If you weren’t one of the chosen ones blessed with such a diverse skillset, then you can resort to using other people’s work with their permission. When it comes to original works you can always use sites like Creative Commons (CC) which provide users with licensing ability to access music, photos, video, research articles, and more. As long as the work you gained permission for is attributed correctly, you should be in the clear on your website, blog, or other digital spaces. (Here’s a guide that covers best practices for CC attributions).

Blog page
Blog page

Embedding Posts on Your Site

Another neat trick is to others’ embed social media posts on your website or blog. Embedding posts are great because it showcases the original post inside an article. Although there are some pros to embedding I would tread lightly with this tactic. According to this article, lawmakers are still weighing in on whether or not embedding posts could count as copyright infringement.

Asking for Permission on Social Media

Navigating the utilization of others’ work on social media can be tricky. Some people still rely on screenshot images of others’ work to post on their feeds and stories. Whether or not they give credit to the creator can still lead to copyright infringement. If you have deep pockets or are affiliated with brands that do, then you both can be held liable.

If you come across work that is not on CC that you wish to use, you can always ask for permission from the original creator.  Some advise going a step further and having a “formal agreement signed by both parties.

An Instagram message asking for permission for photo use.
An Instagram message asking for permission for photo use.

Influencers Beware

Influencers of various audience sizes secure the opportunity to work with brands in many ways. Whether through affiliate marketing, promotional work, or sponsorship this is a mutually beneficial partnership. Did you know that as an influencer you can be held accountable for the infringement committed by a brand? According to a U.S. federal court ruling in 2021, supermodel Molly Sims was paid by Rodan & Fields to promote one of their products on her blog. Later, the brand was sued for copyright infringement by another brand that claimed they owned the right to that product’s name. Both parties (Rodan & Feilds and Sims) were held liable for copyright infringement (since Sims blogged about the product) which was unheard of until recently. This course of legal action is impacting how influencers and brands negotiate partnerships today.

Here are some tips on how some brands are switching up their partnerships with influencers.

Copyright on YouTube

A lot of copyright issues come from the music used on YouTube. Here are some in-depth tips on how to avoid copyright infringement as a creator on YouTube.

If you work at a company that can afford licensing fees for popular music then that makes things easier. On the other hand, if you do not have the budget for these fees then it’s important to keep in mind monetized vs. non-monetized videos. If your videos aren’t monetized, you can use any song that is approved on YouTube’s copyright system. If you wish to use the song, the system will notify you of what will happen (some songs require ad placements throughout the video). If your video is monetized then it’s best to use royalty-free music that you have acquired a license.

All of these tips are what have served others well in the past but, please be aware that laws constantly change. It’s your responsibility as a creator to be in the know about what is okay and not. Please take these tips with a grain of salt (as I am not a legal professional) and do your research to abide by your practices.


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