By Maiya Wall & Sarah Brown

Pipeline LIVE is a bi-monthly Facebook live series covering topics on digital marketing, including social media, web design, blogging, and SEO. Each 15-minute Facebook live video is designed to help business owners and marketing professionals learn step-by-step, applicable techniques to expand their digital marketing knowledge.

In a recent Pipeline LIVE session, COO Leslie Wilkins was interviewed about Photo Copyright Infringement and the importance of respecting copyright, understanding fair use, and being responsible with images on social media. Copyright laws can be particularly precarious as the majority of social media platforms revolve around image-driven content. Below are a few tips from this Pipeline LIVE session to ensure copyright safety when promoting your hotel on social media.

1. Why Image Copyright Infringement Puts Your Hotel At Risk

Your first instinct when looking for photos for your business’s social may be to run straight to Google Images. Don’t make this mistake! You might get away with it or you might end up getting sued by a rightfully angry photographer. Before using any image, you need to ask yourself “Do I have the right to use this?”

You need an image with a Creative Commons license, which in short means that it is free to use. However, not all images with this license are created equally! You might find an image that is free to use, but maybe it has a stipulation that users can’t edit the image or use it for commercial purposes. Maybe the owner wants you to give them credit when using the photo. If you’re not careful, you can end up using a photo unlawfully even if you found it on a free photo site. You’ve got to read the fine print!

To be super safe, use images that are covered under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license—”No rights reserved.” Under CC0, the image owners waive the rights to their work with as few restrictions possible and place them in the public domain for free use. Users can then edit, distribute, and use said work for commercial purposes.

2. Where to Find Photos for Social Media

There are several safe & free photo sites available to you. Here are our favorites:

Everything on these sites are covered under CC0, so you can begin using them for your business right away without worrying about licensing or attributing. Feel free to search for similar sites! Just be sure to first go to website menu and find a tab that says “license,” or read the about page to find out what you can legally do with images on that site.

3. Use Guest Photos/Rules of Using Guest Photos

User-generated photos are a powerful and valuable way to authenticate your hotel and engage with your guests. Utilizing reviews, compliments, and check-in photos will not only earn your guest’s trust, but it also provides an amplified distribution of your brand. User-generated content is meant to be shared and will increase your brand awareness; however, precautionary steps must be taken to prevent copyright complaints.

The simple solution is to always ask for permission before sharing your guest’s photos. For example, if one of your guests posts something on Instagram and tags your hotel’s location, you can comment below the image and ask permission to use their image for your hotel marketing efforts. Consider the use of each user-generated share before posting it as well as its potential value, and make sure it is both logistically beneficial to your digital marketing plan and aesthetically appropriate to your hotel brand.

The important thing to remember is caution and awareness; as long as you are careful with your choice of user-generated shares, you can avoid violating the code of owner vs. author.


As a business using social media to promote your hotel, it is your responsibility to be aware of copyright laws within the digital sphere. Breaking these rules could cost your hotel money and time. It is possible to connect with your target audience, increase your brand’s visibility, and expand your following with the basic principles of copyright law in mind. Educating yourself about copyright laws in social media will ultimately protect your brand and help you gain more exposure. Tune into the next Pipeline LIVE session about Instagram Stories on May 30, 2018 at 1:15pm EST on Pipeline Social Media’s Facebook page. If you have a specific topic you would like us to cover, please contact us; we’d love to hear from you.