Regram rules: Is it ok for brands to share other people’s content on Instagram?

 Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

There is an art to curating the perfect looking Instagram feed and it is not unusual for brands and marketers to supplement their own content library with a variety of complementary images from external sources.

On Instagram, the act of sharing someone else’s image is colloquially referred to as a ‘regram’ and on the surface this seems to be a harmless and widely accepted practice. However, while this is tolerated and some users are ok with their content being shared by brands and corporations, many are not.

When it comes to sharing content that isn’t your own, all businesses need to know what is acceptable and how to do it in a safe, legal and respectful way.

First things first, make sure you are familiar with Instagram’s terms of service

Did you ever wonder why there was no ‘share’ button on Instagram? The platform wasn’t designed for regrams and in a previous statement the platform outlined that it was actually a violation of their terms and service to post anything that wasn’t your own original content.

Since then they have relaxed their terms and now hold you personally responsible for your use of the platform and obtaining the correct rights or permissions for any content you post. The basic terms of service are quick and easy to read over and if you don’t  comply with these you can risk the safety of your account or possible legal action.

When is it is ok to publish someone else’s photo?

You can regram anything you like on Instagram under one condition - you have permission from the original content creator or image owner.

Simply crediting the original source is not sufficient and you must get prior consent from both the creator and anyone depicted within the photos before you share them on your account. While some people might be honoured that their favourite brand wants to share their photo, others may have only intended it for their own personal audience.

An excerpt from Instagrams Copyright FAQ outlines that even if unintentional, using someone else’s work without permission will still infringe on their copyright, even if you:

  • Give credit to the copyright owner

  • Include a disclaimer that you do not intend to infringe on copyright

  • State that it is fair use

  • Did not mean to benefit from it

  • Buy or download content (for example, a copy of a DVD or song from the internet)

  • Modify the work or add your original material to it

  • Find such content available on the internet

  • Record that content into your recording device (for example, from movies, concerts, sporting events, etc.)

  • See that other people are also sending the same content

 Photo by  Le Buzz  on  Unsplash

Photo by Le Buzz on Unsplash

How to get permission to share other people’s photos online

If you find an image you want to share you’ll need to find the person who created or owns the rights to it. Tracing the original source is vital and just because another account has shared the image doesn’t mean that they were the creator of that photograph.

The easiest way to get consent to use a photo is to ask the poster via leaving comment or sending them a direct message. To ensure they know exactly which image image you’re asking to use, you’ll need to include the image in your message.

Once the content creator has responded to your direct message and given you permission to share their image, you’re free to regram it to your account. Unfortunately not all accounts will see all their comment notifications and if they aren’t following your account they may not see your request at first. If you do not get a response you may wish to also try contacting them via email if they have it listed on their account.

How to credit other people’s content correctly

When you do obtain permission to use someone else’s content it is important that you acknowledge the original source correctly. This means giving the photographer full credit within your caption and also tagging them in the image.

Sharing User Generated Content

People who tag your account or use your branded hashtag may be implying that they give permission for your brand to repurpose their content, but this does not constitute consent. Even if it depicts your products or brand, this image is still copyrighted by the owner or creator of that photograph. When it comes to regramming content of any type it is best to play it safe and always ask for permission to ensure you avoid any legal issues down the track, especially if you are using the content for commercial purposes.

If you don’t have the resources to monitor and obtain permission to use your customers content there are lots of companies that help source and manage the rights to use UGC for you such as Pixlee, and CrowdRiff who have found that 65% of people provide permission to their photos within 24 hours.

Include Copyright Waivers in your Contracts

When working with influencers, bloggers or brand ambassadors to create branded content you will need to clearly articulate your licensing and copyright terms in your original contract.

Although it is implied through hiring or collaborating with them that you will be repurposing the content on your own account you will need to have this specified in a copyright waiver. This can also include terms that allow you to reuse the content on your website and marketing materials to avoid any further licensing fees or negotiations down the track.

What are the risks?

Having your Instagram account disabled: Users can report your account for sharing their content without permission and Instagram can shut your account down if you are reported as a frequent violator of other people’s intellectual property rights.

Infringing on Copyright Law: Depending on what country you are in you may also infringe on copyright law which differs according where the images are reproduced or shared. There are some ‘fair use/dealing’ situations which allow businesses to use other people’s images under certain circumstances such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, education, and research. This is outlined in the Copyright section of Instagram’s Help Centre so if you need more information about what constitutes a copyright infringement it is worth the read.

In summary

It is vital to take the necessary steps to understand and comply with the best practices both legally and morally. For the most effective marketing communications brands should always share original content and create images specifically for your audience. Regramming content can be a convenient way to share your brand personality but just because something is published online doesn’t mean it is there to be used freely.

Always trace the original source of a photo you wish to share and obtain the correct permissions to use it. Content creators spend a lot of time honing their craft and brands who take advantage of this by repurposing images for their own marketing run the serious risk of having their account shut down or copyright infringement.