Can You Be Sued For Sharing A Photo To Instagram?

We live in a strange world. Each of us has access to everything someone else has shared or posted to social media. That’s the point, right? …To feel more connected to peers, friends, family, and even those who we’ve never met? And why shouldn’t we share the posts we like? For the most part, it’s all perfectly legal. Sharing a photo to social media — like Instagram — rarely lands someone in legal hot water. But one time in a million, it does.

There are a few things to keep in mind. What types of content are copyright or trademark protected under the law, where you share these photos, what country you live in, etc.

In Israel, there was an interesting case wherein a plaintiff uploaded a photo personally taken to the aforementioned social media. The eventual defendant shared the photo to Instagram and Facebook. Eventually the plaintiff launched the suit. Is there a legal basis for the action?

The court decided that the defendant had the right to report the picture. But here’s the rub: the plaintiff had tagged the defendant in the picture before it was reposted. The court ruled that “tagging” someone in a photo might as well be permission. And the plaintiff’s case was even weaker because the defendant tagged the plaintiff in the picture after reposting — which means the defendant gave credit where credit was due. 

Our friends at in Massachusetts have experienced a recent barrage of similar cases. The more content people put out there, the more legal action is taken to defend its fair use.

One of the most important sticking points is that reposting someone else’s media on Instagram is a legal gray area and laws do not clearly define what can and cannot be done. One of the biggest questions asked in court in recent years is whether or not it should be done at all — because many influences make their living posting unique content. Why should you get to share it for free and potentially reduce their earning potential?

One huge concern is what happens when a brand or company shares content created and posted by another brand or company. This is assuredly illegal. Don’t do it without permission. And if you own a brand or company and would like to use an individual’s content, then ask. Permission will set you free from the legal restraints you might find yourself bound by later if you don’t ask for it.

Some studies show that around 65 percent of users who are asked whether or not content can be shared will say yes — and within 24 hours. In other words, it never hurts to ask. Just do it.

If you are the creator of certain content and prefer to keep it out of anyone else’s feed, then you should add a postscript to any update describing it as the sole property of the creator (you) and copyrighted material under federal law. Let people know that there could be legal consequences for the theft of such content. It’s not legally binding, but it should dissuade others from content pilfering!

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