When it comes to social media legal issues, it can sometimes seem a bit of a grey area. It can be a little scary to some when it comes to the legal requirements.  Don’t stress, it’s not as complicated as you might think. With social media now being a major part of the marketing strategy for businesses it has grown dramatically. More now than ever are more rules and regulations are put into place to keep consumers safe and protected.

Social media is literally at the fingertips of anyone, anywhere, with mobile phones, iPads and laptops. This makes it seem like a laid back environment but as a business or brand you are automatically open to more issues than someone posting online for personal reasons. Some of the most common reasons why brands get in themselves into trouble, can be easily prevented.

We have put together, some really basic social media issues, that you come across everyday and ways that you can easily avoid them.

1. Images/Videos

With images and videos there are so many ways visual content in your social media can get you in trouble! Here are a few of the most common ways you can get into trouble.

  • Using photos you do not have the rights to. This one gets a little complicated with people thinking you can copy a photo off a Google search, pop a logo or some words on and caption it for a post. Don’t do it. You do not own these images, always assume the creator owns all rights.
  • Getting people in your photo. This is a hard one to avoid, but people are touchy about their faces and where they may appear. While some people they are more than happy to be in your photo.  You will have the odd person that will be not happy at the same. If you are having people in your images or videos make sure you have there permission to use in your marketing. Create a media release form, you can have them sign giving them your permission to use the image with them in it in any of your marketing material.
  • Not Reposting User Generated Content Properly. This may seem simple, but is another cause for confusion. You may think that because someone has tagged your brand or used a brand hashtag that they are giving you the green light to use the photo. In reality this may not be enough “permission” and you may find yourself in trouble. Ask them for permission before using their image. Majority of the time they will be happy for you to share it, as long as you tag them in.

How to Keep your business out of trouble:

My golden rule for visuals is “better to be safe than sorry”. Try to use your original content as much as possible. Go out and take some snaps yourself, for those times that you can’t create your own content, make sure you use free stock image websites like Pixabay and Pixels to source photos.

Don’t use Google Images  – you do not want to get sued, it’s not worth the hassle. Especially when you can use free stock images instead.

Not getting people in your photos or video’s, not this can be a hard one. The best way to avoid this problem is to let people people know that the photo or video will be used on social media and ask for permission.  Take this opportunity to ask for their handles to tag photo participants, creating more reach for both parties.  Make sure you create a standard media release approval form, you can have with you on the go.  Give  these to the people in your photos to sign and give you legal permission to use the image. This is the best way to cover your arse, and know that no one will be suing you in the near future. You can also blur faces out when editing photos. As for properly reposting user generated photos, give credit, even if the person isn’t on the network you’re sharing from.

2. Using Music without Permission

It’s really important to know that with many of the video editing apps available to use these days,  come with the option to add music to your posts. You would think this was pretty harmless right? If it’s available in the app, then why can’t you use it for your business right? A BIG NO! These app companies are assuming that the content you are creating, is for personal use not business use. Having a popular song in the background of your video can lead to a big fat lawsuit if you don’t own the rights to the music.

How to stay out of trouble:

Use stock music, buy the rights to music. A great website to check out for Royalty-Free Music is here, for a small cost you can download music for your videos, movies and advertising and have the comfort of knowing you have the rights to use that music in your videos.  Work with a local artist to create original music for your content? This can be a great opportunity for getting more reach and visibility if you partner with an influencer who will showcase their work.

3. Promotions (Sweepstakes/Competitions):

As social media grows and more brands are becoming social, the dynamics of giveaways has also had to adapt to the changing times.  The legalities can be a little confusing when it comes to the digital world. Some people use “sweepstakes” and “competitions” interchangeably, making the distinction between the two can help you stay out of any legal issues.

Sweepstakes are commonly used to spread awareness and require little to no barrier to enter with winners chosen at random. A competition is great for engagement and requires the participant to do more (display a skill, post a photo, like a post etc.) and is subject to terms and conditions. Each individual social media networks have different rules when it comes to these promotions, it is always a good idea to check on each platform you plan on promoting the competition with, to make sure you are abiding by their rules.

Things to remember when putting together your competition:

In order to run a competition without any hassle there are a few rules you can follow:

  • Learn the contest rules for each platform you use.
  • Prepare your terms and conditions. Make sure the full official rules are included in your T&C, including instructions on how to enter, rules to the competition, duration, and how the prize will be announce/administered.
  • Review the Trade Promotion Permit rules for each state you are planning to run the competition. You will need to add your permit numbers to your T&C’s.

Running a competition can be a daunting task, especially when you consider that Australian states tend to operate independently of each other when it comes to permits. You can find all the links for each state below.

Trade Promotion Permit in VICTORIA:

  • From 20 June 2015, businesses, charities and community organisations no longer need to apply to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) for a permit to conduct a trade promotion lottery.
  • More information can be found at the VCGLR

Trade Promotion Permit in NSW:

  • Games of Skill do not require a permit
  • The NSW OLGR requires a permit for ALL Games of Chance regardless of total prize pool value and strict guidelines must be met (open PDF) Including potentially submitting for audit your the Draw Procedure Report and Appraisal Report (yes we can assist with these).
  • Exceptions : Games of Chance for a Christmas Party or Office Draw do not require a permit.

Trade Promotion Permit in SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

  • Games of Skill are not considered a lottery under the Lottery and Gaming Act 1936
  • A permit is required where promotions have an element of chance and the total prize pool exceeds $5000 OR the competition offers an Instant Prize
  • Competitions where you answer a simple question and the FIRST person is the winner also require a permit.
  •  More information can be found at the SA OLGC

Trade Promotion Permit in the ACT:

  • Games of Skill do not require a permit
  • Promotions that have any element of chance are required to apply for a permit regardless of prize pool size (Permit prices can be found here)
  • More information at the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission

Trade Promotion Permit in the NT:

  • Games of Skill do not require a permit
  • Promotions that have an element of chance and a prize pool to a value greater than $5000 will require a permit
  • More information can be found via the NT Department of Justice

 Trade Promotions in QUEENSLAND : 

  • Trade Promotions do not require a permit, but there are special conditions on some formats to be met under $2,000 and under $50,000. See : QLD’s competitions-raffles-bingo etc information page for a complete summary. In short, if you meet the criteria, you will only need a permit above $50,000.
  • Businesses conducting Trade Promotions do not require a permit if there is no entry fee.

 Trade Promotions in WESTERN AUSTRALIA : 

  • A permit is not needed if the entry is free or the promotion entry is gained by the purchase of a product at its usual price, eg. If the cost of your butter product at retail is usually $2, and remains at $2 during the course of the promotion.
  • However you need to conduct the promotion based on the WA gaming guidelines. For more information please visit the RGL site

Currently, Trade Promotion Permits for Tasmania are not required, although certain conditions may apply.

Remember the laws are always changing when it comes to competition permits so it’s always good to check the above links for each state you plan on running your competition.

4. Influencers

Finally another place where you can get yourself into trouble, is related to influencers and influencer marketing. Endorsements by influencers are a great way to reach a new fan base, but be cautious of the laws.  Make sure your sponsored posts that uses bloggers/content creators have it clearly state when a post is sponsored, to the audience. Portraying your brand as being honest and letting them know when posts are sponsored opposed to a personal post.

To sum it all up as a social media marketer who takes this issue really seriously, It’s my job to keep my clients safe from any legal issues relating to social media marketing activities. The rules and laws that apply to social media are constantly changing as the networks themselves grow, so staying in the know and reading guidelines is the key to staying out of trouble.

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