Use Images in Your Social Media Marketing – LEGALLY!

Sharing, retweeting, reposting – we all do it but are we fully aware of the legalities surrounding it?

While we may have gotten the hang of handles and hashtags, do we really understand our obligations when it comes to copyright?

While the simple act of sharing or using someone else’s image may seem harmless enough, it may have more severe consequences than we know. Here is the how-to for legally using images on your social media.

What is Copyright?

First and foremost, it is imperative that we understand the basics of copyright. Not only will this ensure that we are using material legally but that we know our rights when it comes to original content.

Copyright as discussed by the Australian Copyright Council ‘provides creators with an incentive to create new works and a legal framework for the control of their creations… Unless a special exception applies, people who use copyright material in any of the ways exclusively controlled by the copyright owner without permission infringes copyright.’

What is Fair Dealing?

Under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), Fair Dealing exempts the use of copyrighted material, but only in certain situations.

The reason we have included Fair Dealing in this article is that it is essential to recognise that Australia’s Fair Dealing laws are very different from the Fair Use rules in the U.S.. Fair Use is far less rigid and much more documented in the marketing sphere, and therefore it’s imperative that we be fully aware of our rights as Aussie-operated businesses.

Fair dealing only exempts the use of copyright material if the use is for one of the prescribed purposes. These are;

  • Research or study
  • Criticism or review
  • Reporting the news
  • Parody or satire

Use beyond these purposes must obtain permission from the creator.

Have you read the terms and conditions?

Each social media platform has its own rules, and therefore it is necessary to read the terms and conditions to understand your rights and obligations before signing up and using these services.

What images can you use?

Original material

This one may seem obvious but think of it more as a reminder. Creating original content ensures full ownership of your creation. Plus, create something worth sharing and get credit where credits due.

Images with permission

If you’re not sure whether it’s OK to use an image then just ask. However, make sure to credit the owner correctly.

Creative Commons Licensed material

CC Licensed images can be shared, used, and built upon with no legal implications. While these licenses vary, here are the four standard conditions;

  • Attribution (BY): The original author must be credited.
  • Non-Commercial (NC): Commercial use is not allowed.
  • Share-Alike (SA): Alteration of material is permitted without permission but remains under the same Creative Commons licence as the original material.
  • No-Derivatives (ND): Modified variations are not allowed.


Check out these sites to find CC Licensed material:

At the end of the day, if you are still concerned about whether to use an image, then stick to the old saying – “if in doubt, don’t.”

For more information check out the Australian Copyright Council.

Claire is currently studying a double degree in Internet Communications and Marketing with a minor in Advertising. She drinks her coffee black, has a weird affinity for Aussie hip-hop and has never had a speeding fine.