Do Memes Violate Copyright Law?

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Meme \ ˈmēm \. You know them, you love them, you are always laughing at them.  Memes are constantly copied and rapidly spread all over the Internet.  But have you ever paused to consider where they come from and whether it is actually legal to share and re-post these pop culture picture excerpts? While those who share these pieces are usually posting and re-sharing with an innocent purpose, it is important to understand the relationship between memes and copyright law to protect your copyright and/or prevent yourself from infringing on another’s copyrighted work.

Memes and Copyright

Memes are protected by copyright law.  This means that the creator of the meme has special rights in the meme.
Although it may not seem like it – the reuse of a meme, whether by posting or sharing – violates copyright law. And the fact that often times the creator of a meme is unknown does not absolve the individual’s infringement or prevent the creator from enforcing their copyright.

Although it is tempting to think of viral content as something that simply comes from the Internet and therefore just belongs to the public, this is not the case.  As such, bloggers, website developers, and even individuals on their personal Facebook accounts should refrain from using memes in their content.  The best course of action is to use images that you have a license for or have created yourself.

Hutcherson Law Can Help

Creator of a meme that went viral? Hutcherson Law handles Internet disputes including copyright infringements, trademark infringements, and domain name disputes. Contact Hutcherson Law today to protect your copyright!