Advice on copyright to make sure you don’t break the rules


Simply put, Copyright is a law that gives you ownership of the things you create. Copyright Infringement therefore is when someone uses your creation without your permission or ‘license’.

For example, if you take an original photo, film some footage, paint a picture, write a song or a book – those assets are your copyrights, which means they belong to you. If someone wants to use, sell or broadcast those assets – they would need to license that copyright from you.

Paul Sampson, Founder & CEO at Lickd explains that copyright Infringement, whilst illegal, happens all the time. If you’ve ever created a PowerPoint Presentation and included an image you downloaded from the internet – unless you have sought permission to use that image, you’ve infringed copyright.

In fact, it is estimated that 2.5 billion image copyrights globally are infringed every single day. According to law, that constitutes as theft and costs an estimated €532.5b in damages.

If you’ve ever watched a lyric video of your favourite artist’s new song on a video platform, you’ve been party to the uploading channel’s copyright infringement. If you’ve ever downloaded a song from LimeWire or Napster, you have infringed a Music Label and Publisher’s Copyright because those sites didn’t have the rights to sell you the song, and you didn’t seek to obtain permission from the Copyright owner.

The advent of Social Media and more and more User Generated Content (UGC) Platforms, is largely credited with what has been a huge rise in such activity over the last decade or so. Despite this,  we all know these platforms aren’t going anywhere. In fact, as you read this, the next big UGC platform you’ve never heard of is probably raising its next funding round somewhere in Palo Alto, CA, and will make its name, and most likely, it’s enormous valuation, off the back of widespread Copyright Infringement by its users.

What’s clear is that the world has changed. All of us today are now broadcasters with our own channels and our own ideas for what to put on those channels – as a result of this those platforms that facilitate our creativity are growing at an exponential rate.

To put this into context, every 60 seconds of every day, the following happens online:

  • Over 500hrs of video is uploaded to YouTube and over 800,000hrs of video is watched on the same platform
  • Over 400,000 photos are uploaded to Facebook and Instagram
  • 100,000hrs of video are streamed on Netflix
  • Over 200,000 video messages are sent via WhatsApp

For years, the larger copyright owners have tried to have something done about this wide-scale Copyright Infringement and, recently, in the EU at least, they achieved a major win. Article 17 (nee 13) passed as part of the European Copyright Directive in 2019 and is due to be fully implemented in 2021.

As a result, as of 2021, the platforms themselves eg Google, Facebook are now the liable parties if Copyright Infringement happens on their platforms whereas, previously, it was the individual ‘User’ that was the culpable party. And realistically who’s got the time to try and sue a billion individual users one at a time whereas holding an individual platform to account is much more likely?

Whilst, on the surface, this put Copyright owners in a more protected position, there is always the fear that it might lead to unforeseen or unintended consequences. There is the potential for the platforms themselves to become so strict on implementing the law that it becomes incredibly difficult to have your creation ‘go viral’ if each share of that content is an infringement for which the platform is liable. The music industry, along with many many others, will look on with interest as to how this will all play out.

You can, of course, still use content without infringing copyright and, therefore, not have your posts ‘blocked’ by your favourite social media platform. For example, you can use copyright without permission if your content qualifies under the ‘Fair Use’ terms (Parody or Public Interest) plus you can always go and get a valid license for the copyright – something we should all be doing.

Today there are numerous stock image and music licensing companies.  Our own platform, Lickd, for example, was built to enable the legal licensing of some of the biggest songs and artists to the public for the first time. Have you ever posted a video created only to see it muted or blocked because you used a famous song? Well, that’s the problem that Lickd is solving.

So, what does the future hold? More and more micro-licensing solutions will begin to appear, consumer facing licensing solutions will become more prevalent and, with the exponential growth in areas like Podcasting, entrepreneurs will increasingly see opportunities for disruption and innovation.

We may even see Platforms themselves try and develop native solutions however these will prove time-consuming and far costlier than consumer friendly 3rd party solutions, not to mention, they will be incompatible and rejected by rival platforms. One things we can be sure of though is that whatever happens will change the rules around copyright.