I love Instagram. It lets me communicate to the world what I'm about (nourishing food, natural light and comfortable shoes wherever possible, and preventative health in life, law and business!), and has allowed me to connect with so many like-minded clients through my page @thelawyerslunchbox.
And I know many of my clients loving using it for their own businesses.
But we all need to make sure we stay legally safe on Instagram. This means not falling foul of Insta's terms and conditions, using the right images and not saying or doing anything illegal.
Here are some tips...
Types of images
To avoid problems, you must not post violent, nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos. This term is interpreted sensibly, for example if your business is in fashion, intimate apparel, swimwear, music, celebrity, modelling etc, photos may be quite sexual without causing any trouble. But nudity, or pornographic inference (even if digitally-created), will not be okay. Use common sense when thinking about what Instagram and its diverse audience may find offensive. Nudity in photos of drawings, paintings and sculptures will be acceptable, as will photos of mastectomy scarring and breastfeeding women.
If your business is related to children or you like to share photos of your own family, be mindful of the broad audience that they may be open to. Photos of nude or partially nude children may be removed, even if they seem innocent and are being shared with the best intention. Instagram’s aim here is to ensure that they don’t fall into the wrong hands.
You can only use images that do not infringe others’ intellectual property rights. If you are posting authentic images created by you or your business (such as your own photos, photoshoots, illustrations, videos, or graphics) then this is not an issue. But if you want to post an image found online, then you must be vigilant. There are millions of high-quality graphics and photos online available for free commercial use. Many websites curate images in the public domain, and you are free to use them in any way. In most cases, you do not have to provide attribution. But check the terms of the site to make sure. If attribution is
required, check what format.
It is best to assume every image you find online is copyrighted – a copyright notice is not legally required as notification of copyright, so the absence of a © or watermark isn’t a sign that no copyright exists. If an image is covered by copyright, the copyright holder may agree to some uses but not others. You must check this before using the image.
If you alter a copyrighted image, it does not relieve you from potential liability. If you repeatedly infringe other people’s intellectual property rights, Instagram will disable your account.
On Instagram, you are liable for what you upload. This means you are legally responsible for copyright violations even if you hire a social media professional who chose and used the offending image. It is important to ask your social media manager where they source their images from. You should contractually ensure that if an image they use is found to violate copyright and you are required to pay, that they will indemnify you.
Music is covered in the same way as images, and you are not allowed to use music that you don’t own the rights to, for any commercial or non-personal use. This includes music in videos uploaded to your feed as well as Instagram lives and IGTV, and can extend to music playing in the background of videos.
What you can legally say
Don't copy any other person's written work in your Instagram posts. This may infringe their copyright.
And don't post unwanted comments, likes or other forms of commercial or harassing communication (spam) to Instagram users. This includes repeatedly contacting people for commercial purposes without their consent.
Further, online cyber bullying is a crime in Australia. You must not threaten, harass, or offend someone, stalk someone, access others’ Instagram accounts without permission or defame someone on Instagram.
How to deal with trolls
A troll is a member of an online community who deliberately tries to disrupt that community by posting inflammatory content.
How should you deal with trolls commenting on your business page?
- Use Instagram’s built-in reporting option. Instagram will quickly remove content that does not meet community guidelines.
- Unfollow or block the person who posted the comment. And delete the trolls’ comment on your post.
- Sometimes ignoring a troll is best. If they are looking for a reaction, they may lose interest when you give them nothing.
- If the troll is a customer with a complaint, take notice and try to help. Humour can be used to effectively engage unhappy customers and turn them into advocates for your business. Acknowledge yet make light of the situation, and apologise for the customer’s experience.
- If the troll is spreading rumours or misinformation, address the issue head-on and retaliate with the truth.
- If the troll points out a mistake, look into it, make the proper corrections and admit that you were wrong.
Instagram has the right to modify or terminate your account for any reason, without notice,
and at any time. So stay the right side of their terms and the law.
Jessica Kerr is the director of Sinclair + May. Jessica set up Sinclair + May with a view to do law differently and make legal services accessible for small businesses. Sinclair + May operate on a fixed fee basis and offer retainer services for their clients. Sinclair + May is a female-led, boutique commercial law firm and work extensively with the creative industry. You can follow Jessica on instagram @thelawyerslunchbox for useful legal tips and see more about Sinclair + May at www.sinclairmay.com.au.