Legalities of Content Use in Digital Entertainment

Part
01
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Part
01

Laws Prohibiting The Use of Other People's Content

According to our research, the laws that prohibit the use of someone else's content in the context of creation, curation, and syndication include copyright laws, as well as regulations under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Violation of these laws can result in the violator having to pay fines ranging from $200-$150,000 for every infringed work. They could also be given jail time and be forced to pay court costs and attorneys fees. Additionally, violators could be ordered to pay the actual dollar amount of profits and damages.

LAWS/REGULATIONS THAT PROHIBIT THE USE OF CONTENT IN THE CONTEXT OF CREATION, CURATION, AND SYNDICATION

Original content crafted on a website is guarded by copyright law including creative works like written articles, designs, and photographs among others. By default, original content is copyrighted, but it is simpler to receive compensation and safeguard one's work through a registered copyright. Whether it is distributed in pixels or ink, everything that has copyright protection may not be published or reproduced somewhere else without the author's express authorization, which is usually written. Since copyright protection begins the moment an author produces unique work and "fixes it in a tangible medium", the content does not have to contain a copyright symbol or notice to be copyrighted.

The Digital Millennium Copyright (DMCA) ensures that content published on the web are guarded by copyright legislation. It does provide a few exceptions specific to Internet law. Service providers (Internet) can avoid accountability for violating the copyright of materials that simply pass through their networks. If the provider eliminates infringing content immediately upon demand, they can also bypass liability. Copyright legislation permits "fair use" of sections of copyrighted content without the consent of its originator. If the duplication is for research, criticism, teaching, or news reporting, it is more inclined to be regarded as fair use than if it is reproduced for commercial reasons.

Additionally, non-digital material that is shielded under copyright legislation is automatically guarded in its digital form as well. For instance, a copyrighted book issued as a paperback will endure equivalent security if it is distributed as an e-book. Furthermore, "publishing or use of creative work" or trademarks of others without the consent of the owner can lead to legal accountability for infringements of the law. This law also applies to the use of specific private business data without permission.

Unless it is deemed "fair use," adapting, re-using, or building upon another's content without their authorization is a violation of the law. It is recommended that one obtains the originator's approval, declares who authored the content ("attribution"), and provides links to the author's website. However, a post could still risk violating the originator's rights even by performing those actions. Nonetheless, the producer of the original work can choose whether to enforce them. As a result of an infringement, the following actions can occur:


Part
02
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Part
02

Media Companies Using Other People's Content

Huffington Post, Virgin Mobile, ASOS, and Birchbox are four examples of media companies successfully using other people's content across their website, blog, and/or social media. The key practices to use other people's content include using third party monitor companies, copyright waivers, and seeking content approval from original creators.

Media Companies Using Other People's Content

1. HUFFINGTON POST
Huffington Post uses other people's content, mainly linking back to different blogs. This led to a blogger Matthew Inman from the blog called Oatmeal to publicly call out the website for not actually helping the original creators. Oatmeal posted a comic that compared having a baby to having a cat. The comic ended up going viral, racking up more than 300,000 shares on Facebook alone. The massive traffic led Huffington Post to repost the entire comic and the full body of the article. As the company was profiting off Inman's work, the creator switched the image connected to the link, with this message:
Please don't hotlink images without permission.
It costs me money to host these.
Here is my monthly bill."
This is an example of a practice for Huffington Post in 2016. The company has since learned about the proper conduct in the social media and websites reposting of other people's content in order to avoid scandals and breaking the law. First, the company apologized and removed the post, and then implemented a practice where they are not linking to full posts anymore and are not using links to photos hosted on other websites when using other people's content on their website. Secondly, their practice now involves seeking written consent from the original content owner before using anyone's content on the website.

2. VIRGIN MOBILE
Virgin Mobile was one of the early adopters of content marketing. Virgin founded a company called Virgin Mobile Live which became one of the top content marketing brands. It is a newsroom that shares and publishes content several times a day, every day. Virgin raised their level of using other people's content by working with Buzzfeed and posting nearly 200 pieces of Buzzfeed's content on the site which led to more than 9 million views.

3. ASOS
ASOS is one of the most widely known retail companies and has built its marketing mainly on using other people's content. The company showcases its customers' purchases with the hashtag #AsSeenOnMe. ASOS has the practice of reposting images from customers who show off their outfits of garments purchased on ASOS.

4. BIRCHBOX
Birchbox is a Beauty Box‎ company that is using its Instagram account to heavily repost its customers and their beauty box deliveries. The company, much like ASOS, encourages its customers to use the #BirchboxIRE and post their beauty boxes once delivered. By using the hashtag, the consumers are giving their consent to be featured on the brand's page.

Best ways to use other people's content

The best ways to use other people's content can be summed up in a number of key guidelines that can be followed across all social media and websites the brand owns and uses. These guidelines are as follows:
  • When it comes to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook — anything can be reposted under one condition: The brand that is reposting has the permission from the original content creator or image owner.
  • Simply crediting the original source is not considered to be legally sufficient. The brand must get "prior consent from both the creator and anyone depicted within the photos" before it gets shared on the brand account.
  • An excerpt from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter's 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, modify the work or add your original material to it, find such content available on the internet, record that content into your recording device, or see that other people are also sending the same content."
  • The permission to share other people's content must be obtained from the person who created or owns the rights to it.
  • On social media and in any blog or website content, it is highly recommended to crediting the original owner in the caption or the description. On social media, it is expected that the original owner is also tagged in the image.
  • If the brand doesn't have the resources to monitor and get permission to use their customers content, there exist numerous companies that manage the rights to use UGC for brands. These companies include Pixlee and CrowdRiff.
  • If the company plans on using other people's content frequently, it is recommended to start using copyright waivers when working with influencers, bloggers or brand ambassadors that are expected to create branded content.

Conclusion

The three best practices that outline the best ways to use other people's content without breaking the law are using third party monitor companies, copyright waivers, and seeking content approval from original creators which have been successfully implemented by Huffington Post and ASOS, among others.
Sources
Sources

From Part 01
Quotes
  • "If someone has NOT put their work on a social media, it’s probably not OK to do it for them."
Quotes
  • "U.S. copyright law provides statutory damages up to $150,000 per image for willful infringement. "
Quotes
  • "The legal penalties for copyright infringement are: 1.Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits. 2.The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed. 3.Infringer pays for all attorneys fees and court costs. 4.The Court can issue an injunction to stop the infringing acts. 5.The Court can impound the illegal works. 6.The infringer can go to jail."
Quotes
  • "Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress express authority to grant authors and inventors exclusive rights to their creations."