Happy New Year!
I'm sorry to start 2023 on such a negative post but as I'm trying to save franchisors potentially thousands of pounds, I hope you'll forgive me.
Let me start by asking, what do you know about UK copyright laws?
If the answer is 'totally up to speed, we have all the correct licenses in place' then I wish you a very Happy 2023; please let me know if you ever need PR support for your business. Farewell, Au revoir and my favourite, Tschüss!
If your reply is 'What is copyright law and why it would it apply to me?' then we might have a problem.
Now, let me ask you this: Do you ever achieve coverage for your business in any magazines or newspapers or even online? Do you get stories in What Franchise, Business Franchise or Elite Franchise or on their websites, or in other trade magazines or your local papers? Do you ever take photos of that coverage, or screen shot it and then share it on your socials or your website? If yes, then you absolutely MUST have the correct licenses from the Copyright Licensing Authority and the Newspaper Licensing Authority to do so, and if you don't, and they find your posts, you will be on the end of some hefty fines. How do I know? Because despite knowing all of this, I too, as a professional PR company, got caught and it cost me £1,000, so I speak from bitter, painful, expensive experience and I'd love to stop that happening to you too.
In a nutshell:
Once your press release, or a story about you, your business or your franchisee, makes it into a paper or onto a website, it ceases to belong to you, it belongs to the publication/website and, if you share a photo, or a screenshot of that coverage, even if you wrote every single word of it, (as I usually have), you are breaking UK copyright laws if you do not have a license to do so.
As you can imagine, I have this conversation quite a lot, following my fine, and these are some of the reasons people give me for sharing coverage without a license.
Excuse #1: 'But I've been doing it for years'
I have no doubt you have, but totally illegally, and the scary part is, the agencies can go back through your socials for SIX YEARS and fine you for every single illegal post you've ever done that breaks copyright law. I think it is approx £250 fine per offending post...imagine if you share every post across your website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, that's £1,000 per 'infringement'. Now multiply that up across all the times you've ever shared coverage....and maybe your franchisees have done the same on their socials too? Doesn't bare thinking about does it?
Excuse#2: 'But I included a link to their website under my screen shot'
Yes, so did I. I did a lovely screen shot of an article my client got in the Daily Mail back when Linda Whitney was still writing the franchise column. I did a screen shot or a photo of the article and put in a link to the page in the body of the post....according to them, it still broke copyright laws and I still got fined.
Excuse #3: 'But I wrote it - those are my words - surely they belong to me'
They do when they are on your laptop, or on your website, but the moment they are posted on a media website or appear in a publication, they cease to belong to you and you will be breaking copyright law if you share it without a license.
So how DO I share my coverage legally?
Firstly, you could get a license but they are costly. The only way to share coverage legally, without a licnse, is to get the URL from the piece and copy and paste that into the post so that it creates a link directly to the piece of coverage. See my explainer video below.
How to do a copyright 'safe' share of your online coverage
Getting the correct licenses
They make all kinds of licenses - from allowing you to use coverage in socials to using them on your website. Before you start googling the NLA and the CLA, please go back through ALL your social media channels and website and remove any and all posts which go against copyright law. Sadly these people aren't a lovely friendly agency who will do an audit for you, allow you to remove the offending articles and send you on your way. The moment they find an infringement they'll fine you and start searching through all your socials, so stay well clear of them until you are 'clean'.
Also, I'm not an expert on algorithms but I'm fairly sure they'll know who's been researching the licenses on their website, which could form the basis of their next search? Maybe do it from your home laptop instead...?
As a PR agency I have always had to have licenses to send my clients coverage, but I now steer well clear of any copyright infringement areas too, and I'd strongly suggest you do the same.
Feel free to give me a ring if you need any clarification. I'm not an expert, just trying to help my fellow franchise community.
Happy New Year and have fun with your delete button!