What you post on Facebook may be putting your business in legal jeopardy if you don't follow the rules.

Lately, I have been seeing a very disturbing trend of illegal image and photo usage with some pet businesses on the internet. This 'trend' isn't exclusive to pet business, other businesses, including media outlets, are occasionally guilty of this as well.

A recent PBS.org article, "Who Really Owns Your Photos in Social Media? (Updated 2013 Edition)" explains this situation very well...

"A recent U.S. court decision clarified that media organizations cannot assume that photos shared via Twitter are rights-free, to be used as though they were in the public domain. In the case of Agence France-Presse (AFP) v. Morel, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan ruled in favor of freelance photographer Daniel Morel. Her judgment: Both AFP and the Washington Post had infringed on Morel's copyright." You may think that since you are not be considered 'media,' these rules may not apply to you and your business, but they do. When it's other people's work (whether that be the written word, a photo, an image, likeness, logo, or similar) they own it, whether it's on the internet or not.

The PBS article goes on to say...

"The newly common practice of finding an image on the internet (that does not have a free to use creative commons license attached), downloading it to your computer, then reuploading it to a social site is against the law and you and your business will certainly be at risk for legal action." The bottom line? If you didn't take the photo or create the image, you don't own it.

It is allowable to share photos that you find on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, etc., but you are only allowed to re-post them if you provide a link back to the image, either directly, through sharing on Facebook, re-tweeting on Twitter, re-blogging on Tumbler, or similar.

As a marketer, as well as an amateur photographer, there isn't much that rubs me wrong more than to see a wonderfully funny pet cartoon or photo (owned by the photographer or illustrator) appear in a pet business news feed on Facebook or Twitter, and then shared by 1,000's of FB fans, when it's obvious the original poster used that image (to get attention, increase their business and sales, and get more 'likers') when they did not have the legal rights to use it.

There is a big difference between finding an image (that legally belongs to someone else) on the internet, saving it to your computer then uploading it to Facebook; than finding an image in a Facebook feed and pressing the "share" link to share that image with a fan base.

Not only is downloading and re-uploading illegal, it's also putting your pet business at great risk for legal action.

Here is the correct way to utilize and share images and photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites:

1. If you find an image you like that you'd like to share, find out who the original owner of that image is. You can do a Google image search, find the creators FB, Twitter or other social media sites, and then find that image on their website or social media. Then, instead of saving that image on your computer (which is a copyright violation), grab the url of the page that the image appears and share that page url on your social media, or press the 'retweet' or 'share link' on social media (which credits the image back to it's owner).

2. Another way to share photos and image on social media sites and on your blog is to ask for and receive written usage permission from the originator of the image or photo. Then, when posting that image on social media sites, provide usage approval credit to the originator and link back to their website (or wherever they prefer you provide credit).

3. One other way to find wonderful images that you can use, distribute and even alter for use to promote your pet business is by visiting some of the free image and photo usage sites, review the specific terms of service for the specific image you want to use and follow the instructions provided. You can read a blog post we have provided in the past of how to find free use and creative commons images to promote your pet business.

4. And the final way to find great images to use for your pet business, on your website, blog or in social media, is to purchase an image from sites like Getty, iStockphoto and more.

Here is a great example of allowable and legal use of images....we all love the "Off The Mark" series of cartoons by Mark Parisi. Mark's cartoons are very popular, but many times 'stolen' on the internet because of their popularity.

To properly share one of Mark's wonderful cartoons, you can visit his Facebook page, find the cartoon you like and then press the 'share' button right underneath the image. Yes, the watermark that Mark has dutifully added to his image will remain in the image that you shared with your FB likers, but you have properly and legally shared one of his images.

The illegal and wrong way would be to find one of Mark's cartoons on the internet without or without the watermark, download it to your computer, then upload it to Facebook and not provide any credit whatsoever to Mark's image and work. That is illegal and that is against copyright laws putting your pet business at risk for legal action.

Furthermore, to protect your own images and photos that you utilize on social media, on your website or blog, mark your images with a watermark, or if you want to encourage more shares of your image you can add your website address to the image before sharing, like I did here on my Raise A Green Dog Facebook page, when I shared my recipe for Homemade Sweet Potato Chews for Dogs (which you will see was shared over 1500 times).

And please, if your business is in the practice of sharing images on social media sites, don't perpetuate the practice of copyright infringement, investigate whether the image has been shared legally before pressing the 'share' and 'retweet' button.


  1. Very very good information. Thanks for sharing this and I am going to , of course, share this, too.

  2. As a photographer, I really appreciate you educating your audience about photo copyright. Thank you!



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