Traps Associated With Social Media In Business Context

Picture of phone for posting with social media articleI love social media.  I will not pretend that I am as heavily involved as many of you, but I can say that I enjoy the exchanges.   Every day there is some Facebook posting by a friend that shows up on my smart phone.  This keeps me informed as to what my friends are up to, so I don’t lose touch.  I also like interesting articles and videos that my friends post on Facebook or bring to my attention through a “tweet”.  In turn, I like to reciprocate.  When I encounter something interesting, I make my friends aware of it on social media or sometimes I attach it to a text or email.  I am aware of the paramount rule, that you don’t post anything through social media that might place you in a bad light with your employer, members of your church, and persons you care about.  One of my outlets is in preparing articles (occasionally videos) that are posted on the Thompson Cooper website.  However, I avoid the possibility of copyright infringement; as I have been consulted numerous times by persons facing “cease and desist” letters with respect to content on their websites. Copyright includes the copyright owner’s exclusive right to make copies of, or publish, a work or any substantial part thereof, and, subject to some exceptions (discussed below), it is infringement of copyright to do these things without the permission of the copyright owner.  For that reason, all articles posted on our firm website are written by either myself or my partner, Michael Cooper.  All posted photos are taken by myself or I obtain permission and confirm that permission by email. Once the articles are completed, I disseminate them via social media.  The platforms I use for business are generally LinkedIn, Google plus, and Twitter.  To date I have been reserving Facebook for friends, but I am told that I should establish a business presence on Facebook.   This brings me to the point of the article.   The other day a friend emailed a wonderful video with a Xmas theme.  I loved it and did not hesitate to forward it to selected friends, although I did not post it on social media.  I was subsequently looking for an end of the year message to post on the Thompson Cooper website.  I immediately thought of that wonderful video with the Xmas theme, but then I stopped in my tracks and pulled out my copy of the Copyright Act.   Section 29 of the Copyright Act sets out exceptions to infringement.    As I review the “fair dealing” exception found in Section 29, it is for the purpose of “research, private study, education, parody or satire”; clearly not applicable.    As I review the “reproduction for private purposes” exception found in Section 29.22, can I say it is for “private purposes” if it is for my business?  I think not!   I note that even the section on “private purposes” does not apply if the copy that has come into my possession is “an infringing copy”.  In many cases, I have no idea whether the copy sent to me by friends is or is not an infringing copy.  To make matters worse, it ceases to be for “private purposes” if I share it.  What is the take away for the reader?  The advice I give to you is the advice I give to myself.  I will continue to circulate interesting articles and videos to my friends and my business contacts.  If I have concerns about possible liability, I will ensures that two conditions are met.  The first condition is that I must receive the article or video directly from the source, so I know it is not an infringing copy.  The second condition is that I must receive the article or video in circumstances under which it is reasonable to assume that I am authorized to pass it along.  By way of example, if I send an article that I have written out on social media via LinkedIn, Google plus or in a tweet; it is reasonable to infer that I have given you permission to retweet the article to your contacts. However, when a friend emails you a video from an unknown source, you are taking a small risk in forwarding it on to a handful of persons and a huge risk in posting it on your business website for all the world to see.