Social Media Law

The law on social media marketing – part 4

The internet offers businesses huge potential to foster their advertising and image strategies for low financial outlay. It is therefore hardly surprising that many German businesses maintain online profiles to keep their brand fresh.

The law on social media marketing - image and images © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia –

The law on social media marketing – image and images © ioannis kounadeas – Fotolia –

The law on social media marketing

Whether businesses use Facebook fan pages, blogs or Twitter, the possibilities are limitless. Or are they?

This series presents an overview of the steps which businesses can take to ensure their social media marketing strategies remain legal.

Part 4 – Image and images

Since the social network Facebook introduced a time line for its fan pages, the profile picture has been moved into the centre of the page. It therefore draws the immediate attention of any visitor to the profile. This is why it is important to properly present the image of a business. The same is also true of background images on YouTube.

The use of images can often present businesses with legal challenges. Almost all images and photographs are protected by copyright and may therefore only be used with the express consent of the copyright holder.

However, even where consent to use an image has been obtained, legal problems can still arise. Stock photo websites such as, or, which offer the use of images either for free or for a very small fee, often grant non-transferable usage rights only.

Images on Facebook

Links to external content can also infringe copyright. Facebook, for example, generates a small photograph when a link is created. This photograph is then “reproduced” and “made publicly available”. If such a link is created without the consent of the copyright holder, it represents a copyright infringement.

On the other hand, where a copyright holder has signified his approval of linked copyright-protected material, such as by clicking the “like” or “share” button, consent to use of the material could be deemed to have been given. The use of the link together with the image would then be considered legal.

Online businesses should always remember that as Facebook fan pages are visible to the public at large, it is easy for copyright lawyers to detect infringements and to send warning letters.

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Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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