Social Media & ­­­­­Copyright

In the past several years, social-media websites and their everyday use have been rapidly evolving. Through it all, copyright protection has been a constant concern for creatives of all types, but particularly photographers. In my prior article "Social-Media Marketing Essentials," I covered a variety of topics surrounding social-media marketing, including strategy, best practices and site comparisons, but copyright was left off to focus as a topic unto itself.

Over the past 10 years, the Internet revolution has transitioned into the social-media and mobile-application revolutions. These technology booms, in conjunction with the parallel technology revolution of digital photography, have created a dynamic culture shift in how people communicate with each other. Now more than ever, people rely on visual imagery, both still and video, in their everyday communication with friends, family and coworkers. This perfect storm of technology revolutions has created a tumultuous environment for creatives mindful of protecting their work, whether it be photos, videos, music, books, etc., via copyright law.

Copyright Vs. The Internet

Unequivocally, copyright protection has been an important element of U.S. law and culture to the extent that the founders of the United States included it in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, stating that Congress has the authorization "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Where the English Statute of Anne provided authors exclusive right to copy and distribute their work for 14 years, U.S. founders in 1790 initially extended this provision to a 14-year term, plus the possibility of a 14-year renewal. Since then, U.S. copyright law has undergone two major revisions, the last being in 1998, resulting in an extension of the term of protection to the life of the author, plus 70 years.

The Internet is a newcomer, on the other hand, having come into being, close to how we know it, in the 1980s and 1990s. It may be hard to believe given that we rely on it so much, but the Internet was only opened to commercial ventures and traffic in 1995. Since 1995, the Internet has become a staple of everyday use thanks to infrastructure improvements that make in-home and mobile Internet access fast and affordable.

Two things should stand out to you at this point:

1. The last revision to U.S. copyright law was made three years after the Internet was opened to commercialization.

2. No major copyright revisions have been made since 1998 to address new developments surrounding the Internet.

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