It's not just good Instagram etiquette, it is essential to stay on the right side of the law.

This is an issue very close to my heart as an intellectual property lawyer - the requirement, under federal legislation and good conscience, to correctly credit the image creator on social media and other platforms.

In this post I want to share with you a small part the legal framework in Australia that benefits creative innovation and, most importantly, keeps things fair to all of the creatives working hard, day in and day night, preparing new work for us all to enjoy. I won't overwhelm you with every copyright topic in this one post, instead I will talk to a single issue that is currently rife across social media - the use of images without crediting the image maker.

#createorcredit artwork created by Jasmine Dowling specifically for my initiative.

#createorcredit artwork created by Jasmine Dowling specifically for my initiative.

For the most part, I believe the practice of not crediting the image creator is done either unintentionally or at least without malice. There are exceptions, of course. Some use other people's images, claiming these images as their own or using these images without permission to promote their own business. Not only is this unacceptable, it can be a breach of Australian law, and the laws of many other countries, and can result in significant penalties. It is also a topic for another post.

Business insights by CATHERINEGHRACE INC, copyright Hannah Blackmore - 01.jpg

I want to focus

on the simple act of posting an image, be it to Instagram, Pinterest or your own blog without crediting the image maker. You may think this is a harmless act, that it is perfectly legal and that you are doing nothing wrong. This is not correct.

For the purposes of today's topic the following is important to know:

  • In Australia, copyright protection is automatic - there is no registration process, there is no need to place a © on your work or to watermark your images. When a work that qualifies for copyright protection (such as a drawing, painting or photograph) comes into existence - it it protected, right then at its very moment of creation.

  • Generally, copyright in an image is owned by the creator of that image.

Content creators, like myself, don't like it when people take an image that is not their own, post it on their Instagram feed, blog or website and neglect to credit the image maker or, worse still, claim the image as their own. This breaches one of the rights of the image creator under Australia's copyright laws - the right of attribution. This right is very simple - it is the right to be credited as the creator of your work. This means, that under Australian law, if you post someone else's photo and do not credit the image creator you are actually breaching federal legislation.

I honestly believe most people don't know this. Most people don't post other people's images maliciously, they do so because they love the image and they are inspired. They may not know or have had the time to do the detective work to find out who created the image. There is no readily available Instagram etiquette / rule book. By writing this post I am not aiming to shame or humiliate those who have posted images without due credit in the past. I don't want them to feel guilty or bad about themselves. All I want is to educate, inform people of the legislative requirements and stress the importance of crediting in the future.

And yes, crediting may be required under law, but more importantly, it is the right thing to do. Creatives put so much time and effort and creativity into their work. We love to share it, we love to inspire and we love that it is universally available for everyone to enjoy. Most of us don't want to be famous or have our faces plastered over the world's media. We simply want credit where credit is due - an acknowledgment that we have created the image and it is our work that inspired.

Corporate wardrobe by CATHERINEGRACE INC, copyright 2017 - 24.jpg

So next time you go to post an image, remember to create the image yourself or credit the image creator! Want some practical tips? Check out our next piece - #createorcredit: practical tips.

These posts do not, and should not, take the place of appropriate and individual financial, legal or other advice that directly takes into account your particular circumstances. To provide financial advice in Australia, and most other countries, you need a financial services licence. I do not have that licence and I am not a registered financial advisor. These posts are designed to highlight issues that may affect you and encourage you to delve deeper and seek out the correct advice in relation to the issues that will affect your life or business.