Public Access Does NOT Mean Public Domain


The Wellness Universe project is poised to take the Internet in a new direction. The WU website answers the need for an organized resource where the public can reference any topic related to well-being in seven wellness categories: Emotional, Intellectual, Spiritual, Environmental, Occupational, Physical, and Social.

This focused team of wellness gurus has fashioned a group where creative artists, servicepersons, and spiritual entrepreneurs gather to learn, develop, and inspire. Members combine Netiquette and flair to provide trusted branding and free quality content. This first-of-its-kind site combines a mission of promoting wellness with a commitment to standardizing professionalism on the Internet. The Wellness Universe is a community of ethical Page owners providing mentorship on a massive scale. These ethics emphasize the necessity for a universal standard in the recognition of intellectual property rights through ethical sharing.

Public access does not mean public domain.

When I started managing Facebook Pages, I didn’t know squat about “Netiquette.” I downloaded posters to use as my own, echoing the collective voice that says, “If you make it public, it belongs to the public.” But copyright law doesn’t support this position. Neither does Facebook. Facebook’s Help page is clear:

“Generally, copyright does not protect facts and ideas, but it may protect the original words or images that express that idea. . . . If you’re not certain that you are legally authorized to use the content, do not upload it to Facebook.”

The creator’s Page name is on the poster. Isn’t that good enough?

No! Not when you get the credit instead of the person who did the work. Without a link back to the source Page, the metrics don’t feed back to the creator. A disclaimer doesn’t let you off the hook. If you didn’t create it, it doesn’t belong to you. When a picture, poster, or wording of any idea is expressed in visual form, it attains copyright status. Posting without the URL that links it to the creator’s Page is unethical and illegal.  According to the United States Copyright Office, notice of copyright is optional and goes into effect upon publication. Publication occurs when an original work is distributed to the public, by sale, loan, or display.

Think of it this way: It’s like ripping the cover off of a book and replacing it with your own, then justifying it by saying that you left the title page inside with the original author’s name. That author won’t know your fans are reading his/her book. Facebook supplies Page owners with numerical Insights. These metrics detail how many people liked, commented on, or shared a post. When you upload someone else’s poster and post it as your own, you get the metrics for that poster instead of the creator.

What can you use?

Photos found on Google Images are all copyrighted; click on the photo to enlarge it, and you’ll see the copyright notice and link to the designer. Terms like royalty-free and creative commons don’t mean you can use them as you’d like. Most “free” photo sites require that you credit all contributors. If the words license, author, property, release, model, acknowledgement, requirement, attribute, credits, creative, editorial, or use appear anywhere on the screen, you can’t use the picture freely. 

You can use short quotes on your posters under fair use. It is the expression of the information or ideas that is copyrighted. We’ve heard it said that there’s probably no such thing as an original idea at this point in history. It is the way ideas are presented that is proprietary.

Making posters is not a real job. Is it?

New Page owners invest up to ten hours a day conducting R&D, developing design skills, and managing Pages. Seasoned Page owners spend anywhere from 2-6 hours a day maintaining their Pages. Research is time-consuming: finding properly attributed quotes and pictures; writing original material and creating original artwork, logo, and templates; profiling audience interests. You need a system of organization and tracking to file, retrieve, and manage material – external and virtual storage, and Word documents to track text. Each poster takes an average of 15-30 minutes to design.  Building a page is a full time job. When someone appropriates (steals) an original work, well… it hurts.

Who really cares if you’re not trying to make money?

That depends on your principles. Someone spent time on those posters you enjoy. Failing to credit that person for their talent and effort is hurtful. According to Pew Research Center (2013), women (70% of Facebook users) cite “learning about ways to help others” as one of the top 4 reasons they use Facebook.  Appropriating posters accomplishes the opposite. Page owners justify circumventing copyrights by saying, “I’m only trying to carry the message.” What kind of message is carried by stealing somebody else’s work and passing it off as your own?

Thieves suggest copyrights are all about ego. It isn’t about ego. It’s about respect. Would you pirate a Beyonce CD, hand it to people and say, “Follow my work”? Building a reputation on the creative efforts of others takes forethought and effort. That’s all about ego. Uploading posters is the Internet equivalent of shoplifting. We don’t assume we’re entitled to the work of cashiers, utility workers, or teachers just because we need their skills. We recognize their expertise and pay for it. Facebook Pages are free. Page owners should manage them ethically.

Facebook users may not care. A Facebook user commented, “If people are posting your pics with your name on them, then your messages are still reaching people. This is what’s important, not your recognition.” Page owner Anna Pereira of Circles Of Inspiration by Anna Pereira replied, “You are free to feel as you wish. The future of humanity lies in art and culture. If the rights of creative people are not protected, who will be the creators?”

Are you part of the problem?

This is where Page followers come in. Yes, it is thrilling to Page owners when you as individual Facebook users download our work because it speaks to you. But when you upload posters to other Pages in comments, those Pages appropriate and repost them as their own, with or without a Page name on them.  This is important because the metrics we see on each post tell Page owners what works and what doesn’t. We can’t please you if we don’t know you’ve engaged with our work. We understand wanting to share something that helped you. Using the share button protects the integrity of the work.

What can you do?

Use the share button. Spread the word. Without publicizing the problem, we can’t affect change. It’s said that ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse for breaking it. We recognize that education is the solution for ignorance. We’re hoping that awareness will foster understanding and support for creative artists.

The messages of inspirational Pages carry us through difficult days. Most inspirational Page owners don’t buy advertising. We attract followers with quality content. Free access ≠ free usage. Uploading posters takes effort. Hitting the share button takes seconds.