You may be a social influencer, blogger, YouTuber or just an average person using social media platforms. Regardless, you are making an effort to post, tweet, Instagram or blog content. Additionally, you own the rights to that content. However, with a few simple clicks, anyone can take your content and use it for whatever purpose they want. Is this legal? This article outlines your rights to that user generated content on social media platforms and what you can do if someone exploits those rights.

User Generated Content

User generated content is not a science and it is not necessarily high-quality content. Rather, it is a term referring to content that users create and make publicly available.

If you post a photo wearing Nikes or a video using your Apple products, the photo or video is UGC. So, instead of spending a fortune on advertising and marketing, businesses capitalise on this seemingly freely available content to promote their brands. But is doing so legal?


Copyright automatically protects any content you create. For example, a:

  • photo;
  • video;
  • blog post; or
  • voice recording.

Being the copyright owner of content gives you the exclusive rights to use, adapt, produce and commercialise that content in any way that you wish. It also means that if anyone wants to use your material, they have to seek your permission. Additionally, you have the option to assign or license your copyright.

Moral Rights

In addition to your exclusive rights to use your content, you also have moral rights, including a right:

  • to the attribution of authorship;
  • not to have authorship falsely attributed; and
  • of the integrity of authorship.

Unlike copyright, moral rights can never be assigned, licensed or waived. Therefore, if anyone uses your content without your permission and if they do not credit you as the creator, they are in breach of your moral rights.

Copyright and Social Media Platforms

When you upload your content to a third party platform, such as Instagram or Facebook, you agree to their terms and conditions or terms of use. Every platform will have different terms but, in many circumstances, those terms will not include a complete assignment of all your rights to the content you upload.

However, they may include a non-exclusive, transferable licence to use the content. This means that you grant the platform the right to use your content in any way that they wish, including licensing it to third parties.

However, just because platforms can license your content, this does not mean that they have. Nor does it mean that you have forfeited your copyright. Instead, think of it as sharing; you allow the platform to use your content, but you still retain your rights.

And, regardless of your copyright, you can never license or sub-license your moral rights. Therefore, if you see a business re-posting your image and they do not have a specific licence to use your content (from you or the platform), you may be able to seek legal remedies.

Submitting Content for a Contest

Businesses have started running contests involving user generated content. For example, they entice consumers to submit their content or hashtag their brand in a photo for a chance to win a holiday or products. In this case, you willingly share or submit your content for the brand to use, but what does that mean for your copyright?

By uploading or submitting your content for a brand to use, you are probably  agreeing to their terms and conditions. This may be through a:

  • click wrap agreement, where you click to agree to before submitting your content; or
  • simple list of rules on the business’ post about the contest.

And, like social media platforms, in most cases, you provide the business with a non-exclusive, transferable licence to use your content.

It is advisable to always read the terms and conditions before agreeing to anything and to know your rights. However, many fail to actually read the terms and conditions. Accordingly, before you upload your photo to Instagram or enter a contest, think about whether you are happy for a platform or business to use your content however they wish.

Key Takeaways

Across the digital landscape, consumers are the content creators dictating the trends. This means it is important to be aware of your rights for your user generated content, especially when posting on social media or submitting content for contests. If you have any questions about your user generated content on social media, get in touch with LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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