Beware of copyrights on social networks


Social networks are becoming more and more popular. In the time of a very dynamic development of the information society, copyright lags far behind, and therefore the challenge is to translate unrealized provisions into everyday life. In this article, we will try to deal with this task!

Dynamic development of social networks and copyrights

As already mentioned, the provisions of the law on copyright are not keeping pace with the development of technology and the popularity of online sales, including social networking sites. It turns out that the creation of the latter introduced considerable confusion in terms of copyright protection, due to the possibility of instant dissemination of works by authors by further sharing them by portal users.

When does copyright infringement take place?

The possibility of sharing content on social networks results in a multiple probability of copyright infringement, provided that, of course, the published content is protected by law.


Pursuant to Art. 1 of the Copyright Act "The subject of copyright is any manifestation of creative activity of an individual nature, established in any form, regardless of its value, purpose and manner of expression (work)."

Importantly, sharing a photo from an online gallery, e.g. of one of the actors, by copying and distributing it in your own photo collection, may trigger sanctions under Art. 116 of the Copyright Act.

Art. 116 sec. 1 of the Copyright Act

"Whoever without authorization or contrary to its conditions distributes someone else's work in the original version or in the form of an elaboration, artistic performance, phonogram, videogram or broadcasting, shall be subject to a fine, imprisonment or imprisonment for up to 2 years. 1 in order to gain financial benefits, shall be punishable by imprisonment for up to 3 years.

3. If the perpetrator committed the offense specified in par. 1 permanent source of income or criminal activity referred to in paragraph 1. 1, organizes or manages it,

shall be punishable by imprisonment from 6 months to 5 years.

4. If the perpetrator of the act specified in par. 1 works inadvertently,

shall be subject to a fine, the penalty of restriction of liberty or the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to one year. "

Copyright and fair private use

Using social networks can be safe, thanks to the institution of fair private use. According to this principle, to a limited extent, users of the portal may disseminate protected works, even without the consent of the author of the content (of the work).

Art. 23 sec. 1 of the Copyright Act [fair use]

“Without the author's permission, a work that has already been disseminated may be used free of charge for personal use. This provision does not authorize to build on the basis of someone else's architectural and urban planning work, and to use electronic databases that meet the features of the work, unless it concerns personal scientific use not related to profit-making purposes.

2. The scope of personal use includes the use of single copies of works by a group of persons remaining in a personal relationship, in particular by kinship, affinity or social relationship. "

It is very important that the said fair use concerns only those works that have been made available to the public, for example on the Internet, with the consent of the author himself. However, further dissemination of the content cannot be made public. In practice, the mere sharing of the work only with the closest friends may bear the hallmarks of legal, fair use.

Copyrights on the Internet - it's worth knowing the regulations

Social networks usually have regulations.They are a set of provisions that also include the presumption of legality of the content that will be posted by the user. This means that the user who registers in a given social networking site should post content that does not infringe the rights of third parties.

For example, the submission of a piece of music that was composed by another person requires the consent of the author. Such consent may take the form of a license that determines the scope of the right to use the work. License records sometimes contain the sites from which the work was previously downloaded. The problem is whether a given work can be further published after being saved on the computer's disk, i.e. whether the license covers its further publication.

Moreover, a user who registers on the social network also grants him a license. Therefore, the operator acquires a number of rights to the content posted on the user's profile. In addition, it may sublicense other users.

The issue of obtaining copyrights to use works does not apply to circumstances in which users publish works created by them - e.g. films, graphics or photos. In this case, they are entitled to the so-called primary rights.

The copyright situation is even different when the user uses the works under the GNU GPL (free and open source software license, which also applies to, among others, graphics and music). It is associated with the possibility of free copying and distribution of all materials.

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Finally, it is worth mentioning works that belong to the public domain. Pursuant to the Copyright Act, the public domain is understood as a legal institution whose task is to deal with generally understood creativity, which for various reasons is not covered by copyright.


In a situation where the content posted on a social networking site comes from other websites or from other people, already in the acquisition phase, you should read the rules of access and dissemination of this content. Relevant records can be found, among others in website regulations.

Copyrights in Poland require elaboration in terms of their use on the Internet. Dynamically developing social networking sites necessitate a swift change in the Copyright Act. Until then, all Internet users should bear in mind that the law also covers them in virtual reality, and for this reason, it is worth paying attention to what and when is posted on the web. Thanks to this, you can avoid unpleasant consequences in the future.