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Social Networks

What are you agreeing to?

Social Networks such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter often have lengthy and complex terms and conditions which people can be reluctant to read. How do these terms of service address copyright issues for you as a user? Below is a brief summary of the relevant terms and conditions of each of the major social networking sites to give you a better idea of what you sign up to when you join. However, be aware that terms of social networking applications can and do change, and therefore this guidance is also subject to change.

Key Points

1. When you upload or post your own original created content, you do not transfer your ownership of copyright.

2. However, when you sign up to a social network, you agree to grant a very broad licence to that social media company, so that they can host and reuse your content in various ways set out in the terms and conditions.

3. You also agree not to upload anything that does not belong to you unless you have permission to do so. You may sometimes share fellow users’ uploads, using specific sharing functionality provided by the social network – but otherwise will require permission to copy or use other people’s uploaded content.

4. No social network will be held responsible for any legal consequences which may occur as a result of you uploading content which is unlawful and/or illegal.


Uploading or posting content to Facebook or Instagram grants Facebook Ireland Limited a 'non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free and worldwide licence to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate and create derivative works of your content'. This permits Facebook to give or sell your photos and other content to others, to edit your content and to authorise third parties to do the same – without needing to notify you.

However, you can exercise some control over how your content is shared via privacy settings, so make sure you check these: the default settings might disclose more information than you would wish. When you publish content as 'Public', it means that everyone, including those not on Facebook or Instagram, will be able to access that content.

If you delete your content, the licence will be terminated, except where your content has been shared with or reshared by others and they haven't deleted it. This includes Applications and Platforms, which will have their own agreements in place as to how they use the content you share.


In 2018, Flickr was purchased by SmugMug, Inc. from previous owners, Verizon. By uploading images to Flickr you grant SmugMug, Inc. a perpetual, non-exclusive and royalty-free right to use your images 'as is reasonably necessary' to run the Flickr website and app.

Flickr users can choose to attach one of six Creative Commons licences to photographs they upload or dedicate a photo to the public domain – but you are only entitled to do this if you are the copyright owner. Don't upload anyone else's images to Flickr – if you weren't the photographer, they're not your photos.

Beware of unscrupulous uploaders who post other people’s photos under a CC licence or with a PD dedication, without authorisation. If you rely in good faith on a Creative Commons licence that turns out not to have been granted by the copyright owner, any copying or distribution you undertake will likely have been infringing. You should always exercise an element of judgement when intending to reuse photos purportedly made available under a CC licence, from Flickr or elsewhere. For example:

  • Does the Flickr account identify a named individual? Do they seem a legitimate and reliable source of original images?
  • Is it likely the Flickr user had taken this particular photograph? Do they provide similar content in the same context?
  • Is there anything within the image to suggest the licensor may not be the creator – e.g. a logo or watermark?

LINKEDIN and SLIDESHARE (search for 'User Agreement')

Uploading or posting content to LinkedIn or SlideShare grants LinkedIn Ireland Unlimited Company a 'worldwide, transferable and sub-licensable right to use, copy, modify, distribute, publish, and process, information and content that you provide'. This gives LinkedIn the rights to edit and adapt your content (e.g. by translating it, modifying the size, layout or file type or removing metadata), if they do not change the meaning. The terms also give other registered users of LinkedIn the right to embed public posts on other websites. When you delete uploaded content, the licence granted to LinkedIn will terminate except for shared content that has been copied, re-shared or stored by other users.

You may not publish or otherwise exploit any content or information that would infringe the intellectual property rights of anyone else. Except for linking to your own profile page, or to a LinkedIn Group, you may not 'deep-link' (link directly to a page of the LinkedIn website, other than the home page) unless expressly authorized in writing by LinkedIn.

These terms are included within a list of 4 DOs and 18 DON'Ts, in Section 8.


By uploading or posting content to Twitter, you are granting Twitter International Company a 'worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute' the content you upload, via any media or distribution methods (now known or later developed). This includes making your tweets & content available to the world and letting others do the same (for example, by retweeting you).

Twitter can also use your tweets & content for promotional purposes and make these available to other companies, organisations or individuals for broadcast, syndication or publication via other media or services – and modify or adapt your content to facilitate this.


By uploading a video to YouTube, you grant YouTube LLC a 'worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable licence (with right to sub-licence) to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform' your video. Additionally, you grant YouTube users a 'worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free licence to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform such Content to the extent permitted by the functionality of the Service and under these Terms'.

Users may link to and embed your content using YouTube’s embedding tool but may not access or distribute your uploaded content independently from YouTube or circumvent any copyright protection placed on your content.

YouTube users may only access uploaded content for their personal, non-commercial streaming, not download.

The licence you grant to YouTube is terminated when you remove or delete your content from the platform.

Guidance correct as of September 2018.

Things to do now
Contact the Copyright & Compliance Officer for more information