Facebook Live Audio Copyright Issues: Things You Need to Know!
The rollout of Facebook Live Audio is awesome. It offers a new way to communicate, in real time, with our clients, customers, and audiences, using our mobile devices. Click here to listen to my first Facebook Live Audio.
Intellectual Property Rights
While Facebook Live Audio provides all of us with a new free audio based broadcasting tool, it also exposes uninformed users of Facebook Live Audio to place themselves in legal jeopardy for violations of Intellectual Property (IP) and specifically, copyright right laws. In this post, I share some of the issues I’m already watching and listening to and, others I anticipate in the future on the Facebook Live Audio platform.
For example, if you read or play original content created by someone else, for any reason and for any length of time, you may be in violation of the creators IP rights. This includes reading a book, blog post, or playing music in the background. The easy solution is as follows: If you didn’t create the content, don’t use it without the written permission of the owner or person with legal use rights.
Yes, there is the Fair Use Doctrine that permits the use of someone else’s copyrighted material, but the exceptions are narrow and the law is gray. Don’t count too much on this exception protecting you unless (1) your lawyer is better than the other side’s lawyer and (2) you have more money than the other side to win your case in court (sarcasm).
Terms of Service (TOS) Agreements
Facebook has a Terms of Service (TOS) Agreement that applies to Facebook Live Audio. It prohibits users from violating the copyright of others. It’s part of the DMCA Safe Harbor provisions that protect Facebook and not you.
If you go live and share copyrighted material, you may be liable to the creator of the content and, you may also be in violation of the TOS Agreement. Facebook can suspend your account or shut you down for a violation of its TOS Agreement.
If you repurpose your Facebook Live Audio broadcast on other platforms like Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram and Snapchat, their TOS Agreements allow for the same action. Depending on how and why you use your social media platforms, this could be devastating to your reputation, success, or business.
If you play music during your Facebook Live Audio and didn’t get permission from the creator of the music (writer, band, license holder, management company), you will in all likelihood be in violation of a copyright. This includes background music or using Facebook Live Audio to share an evening of live karaoke which I see all the time with livestreaming video. Keep in mind that just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right or legal.
Similar to the TOS Agreement mentioned above, if you go live from a concert or stadium and share protected music with your audience, you’ll probably be in violation of one or more intellectual property rights. While the venue may have secured a public-performance license through ASCAP or BMI (songwriters’ associations), and may have the legal right to record and play the music, you don’t.
In addition to copyright issues, there’s also a valuable “right of publicity” that an artist may be able to protect. Under this theory, Katy Perry may argue her voice or music played in the background during your Facebook Live Audio is part of her image or brand, and only she has the right to benefit from that image or brand. This is a relatively new and untested area of law. It appears to me that artists such as Katy Perry would be on strong legal grounds should they decide to hold offending Facebook Live Audio users liable.
Other legal arguments musicians and bands may assert for the unauthorized use of their music during a Facebook Live Audio include violations of the “Lanham Act” (confusion or dilution of a trademark through unauthorized use) and “False Endorsement” (implies that the artist supports a product or your broadcast).
We tell our clients not to use any audio, including music, during their Facebook Live Audios that they did not create or, obtain permission from the creator or owner to use. When they claim that the Fair Use Doctrine will protect them, we remind them of the limited scope and protection this doctrine provides.
Best practices are to (1) get permission before using someone else’s audio content or (2) use licensed or royalty free audio (for example, services like Shutterstock).
Facebook Live Audio is a fantastic tool. Enjoy it and use it often. But when you do, respect the IP rights of all sounds, music or other material that you directly or indirectly share over the platform.