22 November
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Check your socials: legal issues for artists on social media

Most artists these days use social medias like Instagram and YouTube to promote their work. These platforms can help you reach a much wider audience – but there are also risks when you upload your content.

Social media platforms have ‘terms of use’ or ‘terms and conditions’ that you agree to when using the platform. These terms are a legal contract between the platform and you as a user, so it is important to understand what you are agreeing to.

You usually must own or have permission to post copyright material (like artworks, photographs, songs, or poems). You will normally have to give the platform a licence to reproduce and communicate your work, and these licences can often be quite broad. You should always look carefully at the licence the platform is taking from you. What are they allowed to do with your work? For example, are they allowed to use it for purposes that aren’t related to the platform?

Even though you might end your licence if you delete your account on a platform, it is very hard to totally remove content that you have posted on the internet. Search engines like Google and internet pages like the Wayback Machine use web crawlers to archive old versions of web pages and store them. This means you have to be very careful what you post on the internet, and where you post it.

Here are some of our key tips when using social media:

  • Think carefully about the social media site you choose to showcase your content.
  • Read the terms and conditions carefully.
  • Don’t post any content in respect of which you might want to claim some sort of exclusivity.
  • Don’t use the site as a de facto back-up library.
  • Don’t post content which isn’t yours unless you are confident that the owner has given you permission.
  • Remember that social media is all about social dialogue and communication and engagement but it can carry with it real legal consequences and penalties.

Want more information on this topic? We recently updated our Information Sheet on Social Media for Artists, which you can read in full here.