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The authoritative resource for news and information about law enforcement social media. From Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and Nixle, we discuss social media and its use as the ultimate community policing tool.

How To Get Sued Over Your Social Media Content

How To Get Sued Over Your Social Media Content

On this episode of The Law Enforcement Social Media Podcast and COPS on Blab, we discussed the legalities of the visual content we use in social media. Everyone, regardless if you are in the law enforcement community or not, uses copy, video, images and infographics in the content they publish for their communities, fans and followers.

Our guest on this episode is not only a personal manager for music artists, but he's an entertainment lawyer as well. Mr. Kamal Moo joined the crew this week for a great episode to discuss copyright law and the use of other people's work, like videos, pictures and music.

Meet Kamal Moo

Kamal MooFor the past several years, Mr. Moo has represented artists from various genres of music as both personal manager and attorney. In that time he has negotiated several types of entertainment contracts, including recording, music publishing, and producer agreements. Prior to this, Mr. Moo worked in the business affairs department of a boutique venture capital firm based in downtown Los Angeles.

Mr. Moo earned his B.S. in Music Industry from the University of Southern California in 2002, his J.D. from Southwestern Law School in 2005, and was admitted to The State Bar of California in 2006. Mr. Moo was born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in Miami, Florida.

Let's Get Into The Interview

During the interview with Kamal we asked him series of questions.  The following is a summary of those questions.  For all the details, watch the video or listen to the podcast. 

When you create any type of content, specifically a video, you should not use any song without first receiving permission.  Simply "giving the artist credit" will not suffice. A lot of times the artist cannot even give you permission because they don't own the song and they may not want to be associated with the content. There are two types of copyrights involved, there is the music composition which deals with the lyrics and the melody. The other copyright is the sound recording and they are two different things.  For example, Michael Jackson wrote Thriller and I want to do a cover version of Thriller I would get a license from Michael Jackson's publisher who owns the composition.  I would then make my recording and I would own the copyright of that recording, but the composition would still be owned by Michael Jackson's publisher.  So if you are looking to use a music track in a video, you need two licenses, one for the composition and one for the sound recording typically from the record label and they are two different things. 

Sone people are under the misconception that using under 30 seconds of a song doesn't exempt them from getting a license for the music.  This is not true, you should always get a license no matter how much of the music you use.  However, in the real world, people make personal YouTube videos all the time and sometimes they get taken down and sometimes they don't. Technically this is still a copyright infringement, but from what Kamal has seen people really only get sued when money is involved. 

Generally when asking an artist for permission to use their song even for public safety it isn't up to them.  It's up to the record label to give you permission because they own the song.  However, if the artist is big enough, the label may not want to upset the artist, so they may in fact get permission from them prior.  As mentioned before there are two copyrights involved, the sound recording and the publisher. As an example a music artist who writes their own lyrics will sign a deal with a music company like Sony and they would own 100% of the sound recording and the artist would have no rights to it.  As a song writer, the artist would sign a deal with a publisher and the publisher would represent all of the artists compositions. 


One of the problems that lawyers face these days is that copyright laws were written pre-internet.  The most recent overhaul to the copyright law was done in 1978. Part of the copyright you have is how the photograph is disseminated and how many copies you want released.  With the internet, its impossible to regulate this. However technically speaking you wouldn't have the right to re post someone’s photo, but it happens all the time.  Technically speaking its against the law, but everyone does it.  Giving the photographer credit on your post doesn't give you permission to use it. However, if you emailed the artist and asked for permission and they gave you permission, you would in fact now have a license for their photo.  Stock photo websites are great because you receive permission to use them through these sites, either by purchasing them or agreeing to their terms.  

Posting pictures that are considered "public information" such as a booking photo of a criminal that was posted to the internet by the district attorney's office or a police department is not a violation of someone's privacy because it is in fact public information.  Images that the media has taken and used that are newsworthy can be posted as well.  Same goes with a public figure.  The public figure puts their life out there in the public, so they actually need to meet a higher standard because their life is out there for everyone to see. It’s not against the law to take their picture and post it. 

If a picture is taken in a public venue with many different people in it and you want to use it in one of your social media posts, its best to blur the faces of the individuals that you don’t know or don’t have permission from. It’s better to be safe than sorry.  It’s really a judgment call on your part and if their is any doubt, err on the side of caution. 

When a website violates the DMCA Act (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), they get receive a notice gets notice hat they are using copyright material. The website is required to immediately take that content down.  This is what usually what happens when content is pulled down from YouTube.  If they refuse to pull it down, they could be sued.  However, it’s hard to monitor the entire internet because it's so big. 

We want to thank Kamal for coming onto the show and dropping his knowledge bombs! If you’d like to follow him on twitter, click here.

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