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Sharing content on social media platforms such as Facebook has become easier than ever. For you as a copyright owner, you may have to take steps if your copyright is infringed by unauthorised sharing on Facebook. If somebody shares your work improperly on Facebook, it could damage your reputation or dilute your brand, so it is crucial to take action if infringement has occurred. This article will take you through the steps you will need to take to deal with copyright infringement on Facebook. 

What Is Copyright?

Copyright protection is a type of intellectual property protection that applies automatically in New Zealand. This means that if you create original work, your work has rights and protections. These protections include:

  • exclusive rights to use your work; 
  • the right to determine who else can use your work; and
  • legal protection.

These rights and protections extend to Facebook and other social media platforms.

So, how do you know if your work has copyright protection? Copyright protects original works. Some types of work that copyright protects include:

  • literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works; 
  • the typographical layout of published editions; 
  • sound recordings; 
  • films; and 
  • communication works.

Copyright protects your expression of an idea. Copyright cannot, however, protect an idea itself. Your script for a play will enjoy copyright protection, but the ideas and themes in the play will not. Someone else could have the same idea and choose to express it in a slightly different way. 

There are some key exceptions to your exclusive rights to use your work. In some circumstances, others will be able to use your work. These circumstances are:

  • research;
  • private study;
  • criticism or review; or
  • reporting current events.

Under these circumstances, others can use your work as long as they are using it fairly. On Facebook, this may look like somebody using your work to report on a news event. 

What Should I Do if I See an Infringement?

If someone has used a substantial part of your work on Facebook without permission, that is copyright infringement. You should assess the severity of the infringement before proceeding. For example, it may be simpler to deal with somebody innocently resharing your work than somebody who is claiming your work as their own. However, the steps below are a guide for how to deal with infringement on Facebook.

1. Contact the Infringer

Firstly, you should contact the person who has infringed your copyright on Facebook. You can tell them that you are the copyright owner and explain your rights. If possible, you should include details, such as the date and time that they infringed your copyright. This may be the only step you need, as hopefully, the infringer will take down their post. If you are satisfied with this, then you can resolve the issue here. 

2. Let Facebook Know

You can make a complaint to Facebook if you find someone has infringed your copyright. They have an online form that requires you to outline the following information:

  • your personal information;
  • the work in question;
  • the infringement on Facebook; and 
  • the location of the infringement, which can be in URL form.

From here, Facebook will take steps to resolve the issue.

3. Send a Formal Letter

If your initial communication with the infringer does not work, you can send them a letter of demand or letter of infringement. Both of these inform the other party of your copyright ownership and rights. You may wish to inform them that you have contacted Facebook about the infringement. You should include clear demands, and give the infringer a timeframe after which you intend to commence legal action if they do not meet your demands. It is best to seek legal advice when drafting these letters. 

Key Takeaways 

Once you have established that somebody on Facebook has infringed on your copyright, you can take steps to have that content removed. You can informally contact the infringer or send them a formal letter. Hopefully, this will lead to the infringer taking the material down, but you may require legal action if they refuse. You can also let Facebook know, as their policies do not allow copyright infringement. If none of these steps are sufficient, then you may need to take the matter to court. If you need assistance with copyright and how it applies to Facebook, contact LegalVision’s experienced IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is copyright?

Copyright is an intellectual property right. It allows creators of original works to have exclusive control over how the work can be copied and used.

How can I obtain copyright protection?

In New Zealand, copyright protection applies automatically as soon as you create the work in material form.

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