Information Services

Web and Social Media

​​​​​​​We live in a world where anybody with a computer or mobile device can be a creator, publisher and aggregator of content; this presents new challenges for copyright. The casual nature of social media can promote a relaxed attitude to copyright laws. However, the laws regarding copyright and other intellectual property rights still apply.

When using any social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, be aware of the following points.

  • When you upload your own content to a social media site, you may be agreeing to license your content to be hosted and used in specific ways as set out in the terms of service of that site.
  • You should never upload anything that you do not own the rights to, unless you have permission from the rights holder.
  • Check the terms and conditions carefully of any social media site you sign up to.
  • Check for information on copyright statements on content websites; if there isn't any then do not assume that copyright doesn't exist. Remember it doesn’t need to be stated in order to be protected.
  • Do not email or transfer copyright material that you have legally downloaded to anyone else, particularly via a social media platform, Learn, Moodle, or an online teaching environment.
  • Only link to legal content or reuse material made available under a Creative Commons licence, unless you have written permission to reuse copyright content.
  • Be aware of any reposting of your own content on other people’s sites. If this does happen without your permission, you are within your rights to ask the infringing owner to remove your material.
  • No social media site will be held responsible for any legal consequences which may occur as a result of you uploading content which is unlawful. [Note: this may change if the new EU directive on copyright comes into force.]

Does Facebook have any rights to photos that I upload and share?

By posting content you “grant [Facebook] a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on... Facebook”.

You own the copyright of the content that you create and share, however by adding them to social media sites such as Facebook, the terms of use include an agreement to license your content to be hosted and used in specific ways set out in the terms of service.

Source: Facebook Terms of Service

Can I share articles I've found with other students via Dropbox?

No. As a student you are allowed to make a single copy of a journal article for the purposes of non-commercial research and private study. However, sharing the document with others via any means, including social media or cloud services such as Dropbox or One Drive, is a copyright infringement. You should instead send them the link or source information to allow them to make a single copy themselves.

Can I copy images I find on the web?

Remember that  unless otherwise stated, ALL material on the internet is protected by copyright; this includes images.

However, it may be possible to copy images without infringing copyright if they are being used for one of the following safe purposes:

  • non-commercial research and private study
  • criticism and review

If in doubt seek permission from the author and always acknowledge your source. Another option is to seek out images that are no longer protected by copyright, i.e. in the public domain, or that have been released on Creative Commons licences.

What are Creative Commons licences?

Creative Commons licences are a way of licensing material to protect some of the rights, rather than copyright which protects the work entirely.

You can find out more about the Creative Commons movement and the licences on the CC website.

For example, some people are happy to allow you to re-use their work (e.g. an image, a video) if it’s for a non-commercial purpose and you give them credit. You can search for material licensed under different types of Creative Commons licences using the Creative commons search.

Using Creative Comons licences

Applying a Creative Commons licence to your work is a way to clearly state how someone else can and can-not re-use your work.

For example, the CC BY (Attribution) licence gives anyone the right to re-mix, re-use, and re-share your work in any way so long as they attribute the author/creator of the original work.

The CC BY-SA (Attribution Share-Alike) licence gives anyone the right to re-mix, re-use, and re-share your work in any way so long as they attribute the author/creator of the work AND re-licence any new creation containing your work with the same licence.

Other CC licenses, to restrict commercial use or restrict alteration, may be used if you feel this is necessary, or to comply with the licence of any third party content used in your work.

The CC license chooser is a useful tool for deciding which licence you would like to apply to your work. At the chooser, simply answer a few questions, fill in the fields you need, and you will receive an already formatted embed code, or just go ahead and add a written statement to your work.

When adding a licence statement to you work, it’s important to provide the Author(s) name (being you, the creator of the work) so that the resource can be appropriately attributed when re-used, and the year that the work was created.

For example:

© [Author Name], 2019, CC BY

Where can I find free images to use in my work?

There are loads of free image sites you can use. Most are free to use for non-commercial purposes, so you just need to attribute the image correctly.

We provide a comprehensive list of free images sites on the Open.Ed service pages.

Further Resources

Academic Services - Plagiarism

University Policy on Student Intellectual Property Rights

OER Service

This material is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. For further information please contact: 

Open Education Resources Service

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Scholarly Communications Team

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  • You can book a one-to one video consultation with an expert from our team. If you want to find out more about open access (journals, funding, policies etc ), Copyright & Intellectual Property, General publishing activities (request an ISBN or DOI), or research metrics (using Web Of Science or Scopus) please contact our team via email to book a session at a time that suits you.

Information on this page has been adapted from Copyright Guidance at The University of Manchester, CC BY-NC