Instagram Copyright & Reposting Guide for Business Accounts

Instagram has so far been the only platform that does not enable in-app post re-sharing functions but 2017 beta tests of a native regram button (regramming is a Instagram word for ‘reposting’ or ‘resharing’) indicate that this might change in the future. While it’s exciting for some, it’s worth noting that there has already been a lot of confusion about permission and copyright laws applying to Instagram. If you are a small business on Instagram one mistake on Instagram can hurt your reputation quickly. Are you wondering how to repost user posts to your Instagram business account without breaching someone’s copyright or violating Instagram policy? You can clear the confusion with my Instagram copyright and reposting guide now!

In this post you will learn once and for all everything that you need to know about:

  • what ‘regramming’ is
  • Instagram’s copyright policy and copyright in Austria
  • whether or not you need to ask permission to regram content
  • how to regram Instagram post legally and fairly
  • reporting accounts that stole your content

How regramming works on Instagram

Regramming is basically sharing someone else’s post on Instagram. The difference between regramming and resharing compared to other platforms is that on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Linkedin the original post and the original author’s info is embedded as you re-publish to your profile. So far Instagram allowed third-party applications, such as Reshare, Regram, Instant Repost to name a few, to take the post you like and publish to your profile. These often add a reshare icon and the username of the author to the re-shared post when you use free versions. My experience is that many apps ask you to upgrade to remove the author tag stepping into a dangerous territory.

There is also the screenshooting school – users taking screenshots of posts they liked and then cropping and posting them the regular way.

The new tool planned by Instagram (its release is not confirmed) would mean an additional function button added just underneath the post, which enables users to take someone’s post and immediately start editing it for share in-app.

Why reposting is a sensitive matter on Instagram?

The biggest issue faced by IG users is that many branded profiles (especially small businesses) repost photos without asking for permission and/or not making the author’s credentials obvious. It also isn’t rare for other users to modify a regram in terms of filters or features, which directly violates copyright law.

In addition, there is the element of unfair use of someone’s hard work. Instagram is a visual social media platform with highest engagement rate for branded content. Many users spend incredible resources creating stunning photos and graphics and it is no wonder that they do not want to see their photos republished or modified without their consent by an account that (directly or indirectly) financially benefits from the photo. Not to mention that Instagram does not seem to be proactive in fighting accounts that steal photos.

By the way, if you take a photo off Pinterest and credit it ‘Pinterest’, this also constitutes as copyright violation. The rule of ‘it’s online so it’s up for grabs’ is a lame excuse used by those, who are not aware how copyright works. Hopefully, a court notice won’t be your wake up call. You can read more about copyright and photo licenses in my post about it >> How to Source Stock Photos Legally? Photo Licenses Explained <<

Instagram’s copyright policy vs copyright in Austria

When it comes to defining copyright, you should always educate yourself about the intellectual property laws in the country of your residence. Why? Because while there is one universal definition of copyright, the specifics of selling, duration and penalties are subject to local legislation.

According to Instagram’s guidelines (and remember that Instagram is an American firm), copyright is defined as follows:

‘In most countries, copyright is a legal right that protects original works of authorship. Typically, if you create one of those works, you obtain a copyright from the moment you create it.

Copyright covers a wide variety of types of works, including:

Visual: videos, movies, TV shows and broadcasts, video games, paintings, photographs
Audio: songs, musical compositions, sound recordings, spoken word recordings
Written: books, plays, manuscripts, articles, musical scores’

Source: Instagram Help Center

Instagram is also pretty specific in terms of how it treats content published to its platform – it does not own the content uploaded to its platform and it does not facilitate processes for obtaining permission to use copyrighted content. It means that you cannot message Instagram to get permission to use posts from other users on their timeline but you can message the users directly via IG direct message.

What does the Austrian copyright say?

In Austria copyright (das Urheberrecht) is defined as follows:

‘The term copyright has a twofold meaning. On the one hand, it refers to the sum of all legal provisions that protect the intellectual property of the author and, on the other hand, the rights granted to the author on the basis of his intellectual property.’

Source: RechEasy

Austrian copyright law is much stricter than the US copyright law and protects the interest of the creator of work above everything else.

While Instagram’s copyright section quotes expiration of copyright protection, in Austria that does not apply. In fact, it is not possible to transfer copyright unless by inheritance. This is why any knowledgeable content creator will license his work for sharing. I have to add here that I have come across many businesses that demanded they are the copyright owners of the content they paid me to create so I strongly encourage you to make sure any work you commission has license and usage clauses specified in the contract you sign. Side note: In Austria content created by your employees is by default owned by you, the employer, as the work was created in the line of duty.

Austrian law goes further and quotes ‘moral interests’ as still applicable even after a right to reproduction had been granted:

The fact of having given his consent to alterations which are not specifically designated shall not prevent the author from opposing distortions, mutilations or other alterations of the work which seriously violate his moral interests in the work.

Wipo

Austrian copyright, therefore, gives the original content creators on Instagram more leverage against those, who reuse their photos without permission without prior agreement. To my knowledge, in Austria reposting product photos by branded accounts is a positive action and many users specifically tag branded accounts for a chance of a reshare. I have only heard about few instances when an account was taken to court for using a photo posted online to for their campaign without consulting the author first. This usually applies when the author is a professional content creator.

Do I need to ask for permission to regram on Instagram?

To keep the answer short: Yes, you should always ask permission when reposting user content to your business account.

Many branded accounts add a line in their bios ‘Add #brandedhashtag for a chance to be reposted’. (By the way, now Instagram makes the hashtags and @ tags active when in bio section. Yupeee!) I did it for a company in Vienna for which I used to manage social media accounts. It encouraged users to use your hashtag and assumed that those, who use the branded hashtag wanted you to report their content. That was a while back and somehow with how much Instagram is changing, I don’t think it is a suitable way of tackling this issue anymore.

There are people, who assume user’s permission and take without asking. This happened to me a lot including one branded account here in Vienna that not only took but also modified my photo to include new opening hours. I asked them to take it down in comments and direct messages but nothing happened until I went to the place and mentioned it to the shop assistant. The owner immediately apologised and sorted the situation out. (There’s a lesson here about monitoring your business account from time to time to respond to messages.)

Instagram Reposting Good Practice

My advice is: always ask first. Send a direct message or comment under the post. Obtain the written permission for reposting. If the author says yes, make sure to ask them if you can take a screenshot how they want their photo reposted: it can be through using the screenshot method or using one of the apps that tag the photo with the author’s credentials.

Regardless of whether the photo is tagged or not, always make sure the authorship is clearly indicated in the caption. The best is to use the line ‘Photo by @x’. I also encourage you not to modify it with filters or text unless you have been permitted to do so although in such cases I would expect the author to want to get reimbursed.

I also want to make you aware that a permission to repost does not equal a license to reuse or use for promotion. Be careful when treating user-generated content as anything else than a review owned by your customer. Be respectful and grateful as it’s a clear endorsement, but don’t rely on UGC. Create as much of your own content as possible.

How to report an account that stole your photos

If you are diligently creating your photos in-house, you also want to protect them from theft. If you noticed that your photo had been taken without your permission and used in a way that you think breaches your rights, the best way is to contact the person directly. This is encouraged by Instagram too as many people simply make mistakes due to the lack of knowledge. If they refuse you can use this Copyright Report Form on Instagram’s platform. You are required to supply these details together with your report.

Remember that even though these tools exist, Instagram is notoriously known for not giving a damn. You either accept that or gear up for a legal battle.

Related links:

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash