How to Legally Use Copyrighted Material in Advertising

Do you use photos, videos, music, or infographic in your advertising, social media, or website? Unless you are an intellectual property law geek like I am, there’s a good chance you may be unintentionally violating copyright law. That’s not good for business. So, let’s finds out how to legally use copyrighted material in advertising.  

Copyright exists the moment someone creates a creative work (such as a photo, written article, song, or video). Copyright law gives the creator the right to profit from the work and determine where, when, why, and how others can use the work.

Imagery and soundtracks are staples of our modern advertising and web content.  Technology makes it simple to snap a photo or snippet of a song into your content.  Unfortunately, many unlawfully do so.      

So, how do you legally use photos, infographics, music, or videos in your advertising?

Create your own content

People gravitate toward authenticity.  Rather than buy a stock photo, create a connection through your own photos and videos. There are so many tools available to easily create your own photos, videos, music, infographics, and more.  Be brave.  Be authentic.  Create your own content.  

Use public domain content

The public domain is all of the creative works whose copyright has expired. In 2020, this means all creative works published in 1924 or earlier. Thus, Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos are in the public domain and anyone can perform them. 

However, the Academy of Ancient Music’s 1984 recording of this concerto is not in the public domain. You need permission to use it in your advertising.

Public domain works are great for scholars, education providers, creatives, and those wanting a vintage feel.  They are less desirable for modern, edgy advertising or web content.

License the copyrighted material

Copyrighted works are intellectual property. As property, they can be sold, rented (licensed), donated, or shared. There are many sites that license stock photos, infographics, and music.  

Avoid copyright infringement penalties and pay for a license.  Music and photo licenses are pretty cheap compared to other advertising expenses.

Hire someone  

This is a great option for those who lack the time, technology, skill, or confidence to create their own content.

When you hire someone, use a work-for-hire contract that gives you ownership over the content. This works even when you want someone to provide the preliminary work and you tweak it. 

Don’t know whom to hire? The internet abounds with freelance platforms for any imaginable creative content. Check it out.

Fair Use of copyrighted material

US copyright law allows certain types of “fair use” of copyrighted works. The fair use doctrine is legally complex and most people (including many attorneys) misunderstand it. You must examine:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether it is for commercial use or educational purposes.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work (for example nonfiction works are more easy targets of ‘fair use’ than fiction works)
  • The amount you copy
  • The effect of your copying on the value of the copyrighted work.

Due to the complex nature of this doctrine, consult with an attorney so you are certain your use is fair use.

 

If you are reading this, you must be interested in learning more about how to legally use copyrighted material in advertising.  Pick up the phone and contact Concerto Law at (814) 706-1288 to discuss your online and advertising content.