September 30


Music Marketer Suggests Possible Copyright Violations

By Keith Livingston

September 30, 2016

copyright, facebook, instagram, music licensing

I bought a program on how to use Facebook to promote music. The author of the program has apparently been quite successful with her strategy. However, I have a serious problem with it.

Her strategy involves finding Instagram pictures your fans would identify with, and posting them to Facebook. But she doesn’t share them from Instagram to Facebook. Instead, she advocates downloading the pictures to your own computer, and then uploading them to Facebook.

Is It Legal?

I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice, but I’m pretty sure that’s not legal. I asked her this question. . .

“Can you comment on the legality of downloading an image from Pinterest, and using it in your Facebook feed?” She responded that it was legal (except for rare, special circumstances), and it’s essentially the same as when you share someone else’s post on Facebook. That’s not correct. Here’s why.

Here’s what Wired says about Instagram and rights. “When you post a photo to Instagram, you retain the rights, Instagram gets to use it, and that’s that — legally, your photo isn’t supposed to appear anywhere else. ” (Emphasis mine)

Instagram doesn’t own the copyrights to the photos that are posted there. Neither does Facebook own the rights to the photos posted on Facebook. Both sites require that you have the right to upload any photos that you post. That way, if it turns out you don’t legitimately have the rights to post something, they have less legal exposure.

After all, you checked a box that said you had the rights, right? Where did you get them? Who gave them to you?

How Come They Can Share & I can’t?

By virtue of you uploading and agreeing to their terms, both sites are granted limited rights. Basically, they say, “If you upload the pictures here, you grant us the right to display them.” But you still own the rights to your pictures. Facebook even went so far as to get the rights to use your pictures in their advertising, at one point (not sure if they still do that). They do it with their terms of service.

But that doesn’t mean you can necessarily share, or use photos found on Facebook, or Instagram.

Sharing & Downloading/Uploading Are Different

People can ‘share’ a post, or an image. That’s generally OK, especially within the same social network. But most shares are more in the nature of excerpts, that link back to the original article, or picture. But unless the copyright holder grants you permission, you don’t have the right to download a photo, and then upload it to another web site.

There’s a possible exception. Some Instagram users grant creative commons licenses that would allow folks to share. But if they aren’t CC, you probably can’t use them.

YouTube, Facebook & Covers

This is the same reason that, when I do a video of a cover song, I don’t post it directly to Facebook — I use YouTube. Why? Because YouTube has negotiated to obtain rights to many songs (update — Facebook now has deals in place and it’s possible to post some covers there). YouTube puts ads on the videos and splits the revenue with the songwriters (or whoever owns the rights). In exchange, YouTube is granted a license to play the songs.

At any rate, this music marketing teacher is advocating something I don’t think is a good idea. In my non legally qualified opinion — I doubt it’s legal. You might not ever get caught, but there’s also the moral issue. If you take someone’s work without paying for it, and use it to build your fan base, don’t you deserve the same treatment with your music?



Keith Livingston

About the author

Keith Livingston started recording his own music in the late '70s, on a 4-track. He worked his way into live sound and studio work as an engineer -- mixing in arenas, working on projects in many major studios as a producer/engineer, and working in conjunction with an independent label.

He taught audio engineering at the Art Institute of Seattle, from 1990-1993, and in '96, contributing to authoring several college-level courses there.

He was General Manager of Радио один (Radio 1) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Now he spends his time recording his own songs wherever he roams, and teaching others to do the same.

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