Recently a Facebook Page I follow posted a somewhat annoyed status update. The admin of this Page (Page A) was upset because of a message he or she received regarding content Page A had “stolen” from Page B. Here’s what happened:

Page B posted content. Page A, rather than using the “Share” option, saved the content and reposted straight from their page. Page A did tag page B in the post, but did not “Share” it, meaning the content creator did not get direct credit and the marketing department, if Page B has one, was not able to measure the metrics of that piece of content.

Page A was quite unhappy, and quoted the Facebook Terms of Service in their status update about it. They felt that Page B was overreacting. They were not. Let’s discuss why.

In situations like this one, even if you give the credit as you see fit (I’m using the general “you” here), many Pages are Company Pages, with legal regulations to which the content creators must adhere. You may be just one person or a small group, but the content you’re “downloading” is almost certainly protected by copyright law.

What many people don’t realize is that things like this aren’t just Facebook’s terms of service. They’re about actual copyright law. If you use text or graphics that a company has created other than with the “Share” option (which legally gives you permission as you’re linking directly to that content on their Page), you can be sued. Not in Facebook court; in real court. The Facebook Terms of Service are not what matters here; federal copyright law is what matters here. You could be fined and/or, worst case scenario, jailed. 

Many of the commenters were outraged by this information, thinking that suing would be unnecessarily litigious as Page A wasn’t trying to make money off of Page B’s content. But the point of suing isn’t necessarily about stopping Page A from from making money on Page B’s content – it’s about (in addition to the metrics mentioned above) an image or copy going viral and the credit being lost in the shuffle. Then a company – and the individual who created the content – …well, what was the point? They probably spent money to make that content, and they did it for branding purposes. Remember: Company Pages, individual bloggers, and other content producers or sharers are paying for photographs; buying them from sites like DepositPhotos or Getty Images. 

There have been more and more cases of individual bloggers being sued for using content without permissions. (Some even thought the content was categorized as Creative Commons – turns out it wasn’t.)

Facebook makes it so easy to avoid all this by giving its users the “Share” button option. Why would you not use that? Facebook even expressly requires that if you aren’t positive that you have the rights to legally post content, just don’t. Simple. Just DON’T. By using the “Share” button option, you know you’re protected, and you get to credit the original creator. And you still get the credit yourself for sharing it as that’s clearly noted in our News Feeds.

Avoid trouble and never “steal” content from another Page. Ever. Use the “Share” button option. If that’s not an option, that means that the original poster does not give you permission to use the content for any reason, including downloading it, sharing it yourself, and crediting them in the post.