“Someone posted a picture on Instagram at our restaurant and they said they loved our new summer menu! Let’s repost it right away. Where else can we post it- on our website, Facebook?” Wait a minute- don’t hit repost just yet. Do you know what laws apply to User Generate Content? There are a few things you need to know before you share that picture or any other content that you don’t own or didn’t create. Let’s break it down.

  1. You need to get permission to use content from the creator. So who is the creator? It isn’t UGC examplenecessarily the person that posts the image/video on their account or technically even the person who has the image on their camera roll. It is the person that clicked the shutter and took the picture or shot the video. You need to make sure you do the due diligence to find out if the person you are asking for permission has the right to grant permission. Remember that social media encourages sharing, so it may have already been reposted several times- you need to track it back to the originator. Here is an example of how we ask for permission: “Love your photo. We’d love to share it on our social media channels. If you took this photo and/or own the licensing rights to it, would you mind if we shared it giving you credit?”
  2. Give credit to the original creator of the content. It is appropriate to link to the original post and credit the creator for the image (after they have given permission).
  3. When appropriate, compensate the creator. Some content is created by a person that makes a living from their photography or videography and they will request compensation for usage.
  4. Consider a contracted relationship with an influencer or content creator for your UGC. The price tag doesn’t have to be high when you work with an influencer depending on their reach and what kind of content you are asking them to create. The great thing about a contracted relationship is that you can request specific content and a delivery date as well as reuse rights or potentially outright ownership rights. This requires a contract, not just a casual conversation.
  5. Solicit UGC via a sweepstakes or contest with clear Terms & Conditions that state how the entered content will be used if they enter the contest.
  6. Carefully consider the implications of using content that implies endorsement for commercial gain. A great example of this is when Katherine Heigl justifiably sued Duane Reed for tweeting about Heigl caring DR bags with a link to a paparazzi photo on Just Jared. The tweet indicated that Heigl endorsed Duane Reed but clearly there was not contracted relationship or compensation. “Love a quick  run? Even @KatieHeigl can’t resist shopping ‘s favorite drugstore http://bit.ly/1gLHctI”

In addition to these tips, be sure to familiarize yourself with the FTC advertising and marketing rules.

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