Did you know that just because something is posted on the Internet doesn’t mean copyright is free? If you visit an artist’s website, copy a picture to your hard drive, and then post that picture on social media, you have most likely violated copyright law. The same goes for content and photos posted on social media. It can be difficult to determine if something is fair game for use or copyrighted, so it is usually best to assume use is restricted unless you get permission or clearly stated at the source.
In the past, I have had to call out a few individuals for using images from my website and course manuals for promotional purposes. When contacted, most individuals were surprised that there was an issue. They hadn’t intended to cause harm and really didn’t realize they had done anything wrong. However, some could not claim ignorance, as they had intentionally removed copyright text, watermarks, logo stamps, and other attribute information embedded in the content.
I discussed the issue with Ryan Hoyme, aka The Massage Nerd, to get his thoughts on the issue. “I deal with this daily. There really isn’t enough time to go out and find everyone who copies and pastes instead of clicking the share button. I mean, after all, the share button is there for a reason! It lets the author maintain credit while allowing someone else to use the content. I can’t count how many times I have heard, ‘I thought because it was on Facebook I could use it however I wanted!’ People don’t realize how much time and energy goes into creating content.”
Those in the content creation business spend a tremendous amount of time working on their projects. It can be frustrating to see your content on someone else’s social media page, website, or printed materials without proper credit to the source. This is especially true because most authors will gladly permit to share as long as they are cited. In my case, I would have allowed the use of my content if asked.
Laura Allen, the well-known educator, and the author, agrees, “I have contacted many teachers to ask if I could use a handout I got in a class I attended, and I have never been turned down. A few years ago, I contacted a teacher that I didn't know; I had watched him perform a short demonstration at the World Massage Festival, and he gave out a handout I really liked. When I called him, he said, ‘I can't believe you called me. Most people steal it.’”
With a little effort and patience, you can usually contact an author to ask permission by messaging them on social media or sending an email. If a publishing company owns the image, you can visit their website and typically find a link that allows you to request reprint permission. It may take up to a week to get a response. Otherwise, you can create your own content.
I have spoken with some therapists that have said they have a hard time finding quality massage therapy photos. It is true that many massage therapy photos available show “therapists” with terrible body mechanics, long nails, or inappropriate dress. They also often have the clients looking pretty, but their heads turned in unrealistic (and uncomfortable) positions, or even with candles on the table! That said, there are several good resources business owners can use to find quality massage images.
- Hoyme Consulting offers a FREE Photo Library as well as small photo packages
- AMBP.com offers an extensive photo library for its members.
- AMTA offers Marketing Tools including photos to their members
- Istock offers a large variety of images for a nominal fee
Integrity is an integral part of being successful as a massage therapist, and it extends to all corners of our practice, including marketing, promotion, and operations. It can be hard to find just the right image to express what you are trying to say. Sometimes you find it, and it belongs to someone else. All you can do is ask permission to use it. If they say “yes,” great; if not, keep searching.