Avoid copyright infringement with Facebook Live

Avoid copyright infringement with Facebook Live

Avoid copyright infringement with Facebook Live

On 3 February 2017, Australian television broadcaster Foxtel televised a highly anticipated boxing match between two well-known boxers, Danny Green and Anthony Mundine. To watch the fight, viewers were required to subscribe through Foxtel and pay a fee to watch the fight live on TV.

copyright fair use in Australia
Australian resident Darren Sharpe was a genuine Foxtel subscriber who paid the required fee to watch the fight live. For those who aren’t exactly sure what live streaming is, it’s the ability to broadcast audio and video as it happens. Any time you want to “go live” you can and anyone watching your posts on Facebook can see you, or whatever it is you are streaming.

Sharpe made the mistake of using his phone to record the fight and stream it live through Facebook Live. While he was live streaming the fight, Sharpe received a call from Foxtel asking him to stop. It was reported that he said he couldn’t, because he has 70,000+ people watching it, which was exactly Foxtel’s point. While Sharpe was allowing a bundle of people to watch the fight for free, Foxtel and all those Sports Bars out there were losing revenue.

When Sharpe refused to stop the streaming, Foxtel immediately suspended his subscription, himself and his followers missing the rest of the fight.

Sharpe did what he did on purpose, and continued after receiving notice of infringement. You should also be aware of the risk of accidental infringement. You might have seen some television shows blur posters, signs, t-shirt branding and other images. It is usually because what has been blurred is protected by copyright and the producer didn’t get permission. It is easy to blur a background image when you have the ability to edit, but not in live streaming. If you infringe someone’s copyright, even accidentally, there can be consequences you didn’t anticipate.

Originally Foxtel claimed that it would pursue legal action against Mr. Sharpe for breaching copyright. Luckily for Mr. Sharpe, that legal action was dropped after he posted a carefully worded public apology on his Facebook page. It is unclear what conversations occurred between Foxtel and Facebook. Given that Mr. Sharpe was able to so easily live stream the fight from his Facebook page, it raises the question –

Should Facebook be responsible for copyright infringement?

Probably not.

One side of the argument is that Facebook should be more responsible for what users post as it has the ability to police the content on its website and act quickly to disable infringing material. On the other hand it is costly and time-consuming to monitor the Facebook page of over 1 billion users. Facebook terms and conditions do require all users to have permission to use the content they upload, whether written, audio, video, or as is now available, through live streaming.

United States legislation requires online service providers, such as Facebook, to take action against copyright infringement. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DCMA”) exempts online service provides from liability for copyright infringement by its users in certain situations. There is no Australian equivalent. The exemption requires online service providers to take down, remove or disable access to infringing material where it is given notice that offending material has been posted on its network. It is clearly working. Facebook’s copyright policy provides rights holders with an easy mechanism to give notice to Facebook that intellectual property have been infringed and have the offending material removed or have a user’s profile disabled.

Facebook Live copyright infringement

Can Facebook be over zealous in taking down infringing content?

Has the DCMA and its safe harbours caused Facebook to be over zealous when taking down material and disabling profiles?

Facebook page administrators are given no warning that the page would be shut down. Anybody with an email address, real or fake, can make a complaint to Facebook without having to validate the claim, effectively giving anyone the ability to shutter any page without proof.

Facebook has suffered criticism in the past (Huffington Post) for shutting down pages where copyright has been alleged, when in fact no copyright infringement existed. The above extract of Facebook terms shows the ‘hands off’ approach taken by the company after Facebook has removed content. What is worse, is when a business page is removed without warning, taking potential customers and contacts with it. In late 2017 a Queensland client had their page removed and received email notification from Facebook referring them to the company that lodged the complaint.


We’ve removed or disabled access to the following content that you posted on Facebook because a third party reported that the content infringes or otherwise violates their trademark rights:

Page: ###

Facebook is not in a position to adjudicate disputes between third parties. If you believe that this content should not have been removed from Facebook, you can contact the complaining party directly to resolve your issue:

Notice #: ###

Contact Information
Rights Owner: ## Inc.
Email: ##
Trademark: ##

If an agreement is reached to restore the reported content, please have the complaining party email us with their consent and include the original reference number. We will not be able to restore this content to Facebook unless we receive explicit notice of consent from the complaining party. Please note that the complaining party is not required to respond to your request.

We strongly encourage you to review the content you have posted to Facebook to make sure that you have not posted any other infringing content, as it is our policy to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers when appropriate.

For more information about intellectual property, please visit our Help Center at https://www.facebook.com/help/370657876338359/.

The Facebook Team

In this instance, the rights holder had a trade mark registered in the United States. Intellectual property rights are not granted worldwide. The Queensland company had the same trade mark registration pending in Australia. Facebook appears to be very U.S.- centric in how it reviews rights. The help centre information suggested that an appeal process would be available, but then failed to respond to any communication.


Facebook’s aggressive stance on copyright and trade mark infringement may hinder the impact of genuine rights holders. Where someone in the United States and Australia have the same trademark in respect of similar goods, both are equally as enforceable as each other in their respective territories.

Facebook has put the onus back on rights holders to work the details of the infringement out for themselves. Their copyright policy states that users can follow up (by email) with the person who alleges the infringement. It also provides guidance on how to file an appeal if the content was removed due to a take down notice under the DMCA.

Facebook’s policy surrounding two legitimate rights holders is not clear but it appears they are acting cautiously. It may be the case that whoever gets in first to lodge infringement with Facebook may be the winner.

However, in the case of live streaming, Facebook’s response time might simply not be quick enough to protect their interests and alternate avenues will have to be explored.

How can Onyx Legal help you?

If you have any questions about copyright or trade marks, make an appointment to find out how we can help.

Delay in Action for Defamation Could Affect Your Claim

Delay in Action for Defamation Could Affect Your Claim

Delay in Action for Defamation Could Affect Your Claim

You need to be quick if you are worried about being defamed. 

A couple of quick tips today that have come out of our work.

We had an inquiry about defamation. Now, if you are going to get upset about what somebody says about you, you need to take action quickly.

The person who spoke to us was concerned about something that was said back about six months before their call. It may be too late to take action. It may be implied that the defamatory statements were not that serious because the complainant knew about them for a long time and didn’t complain or take action earlier.

On the other hand, it should also be possible in that length of time to work out whether or not the complainant has actually suffered any damage to their reputation and it may be possible that a culmination of repeated publications over that length of time start to have a negative impact on the complainant so that action to stop defamation does become necessary. 

We’ll have to look at the enquiry we have received more carefully before deciding how to proceed, but if someone is going to defame you, you need to take action. You need to decide what you’re going to do quickly. Don’t sit on it.

So your tip for today, if you feel you’ve been defamed, do something about it now. 

How can Onyx Legal help you?

If you are concerned that you have been defamed on social media, or you are managing a social media group and have received a request to remove defamatory material, make an appointment so we can let you know what steps to take next.

Australian Standard Contracts Need Updating

Australian Standard Contracts Need Updating

Australian Standard Contracts Need Updating

Do your eyes glaze over when presented with a written contract for review? Do your hit the ‘I agree’ button and hope the contract terms are fairly standard? You are not the only one. A survey by The Guardian back in 2011 identified that only about 7% of consumers read terms and conditions before agreeing to them.

If so few people read contracts, then why should you bother to get your Australian Standard Contracts reviewed or updated?

Quick Answer: Update your contracts to avoid $100,000 in penalties and corrective advertising costs –

  • in April 2016 Europcar was ordered to pay $100,000 in penalties to ACCC and spend more in corrective advertising
  • in December 2016 Valve Corporation (online gaming) was ordered to pay penalties of $3 million to ACCC, publish corrective information and implement compliance programs

…Not to mention avoiding having to deal with customer complaints and potentially being sued.

Its also a good opportunity to have your contracts converted to plain English and presented in a language that makes sense to both you, and your customers. I’ve had clients give feedback that their customers have been impressed with how easy it is to understand their contracts. The Virgin brand has done it for years – using real language to help people manage the legal issues instead of exhausting customers with legalese.

But getting back to Unfair Contract Terms….

If you work B2B and use standard form contracts, you’re business now falls within the Australian Consumer Law. If your business customers have less than 20 employees, or the face value of the contract is less than $300,000, then you have to comply. Companies with more employees and higher transaction values are expected to get legal advice on their contracts as a matter of course. Its considered sensible business practice. Interestingly, there are still a lot of businesses who wait until the sh*t hits the fan before they ask for help, and by that stage, its a whole lot more expensive to manage.

So, what are the key areas of your standard contracts that need review?

The courts look at a variety of different things but some of the most frequently considered –

  • whether the terms are negotiable or just ‘take it or leave it’ (click wrap agreements for software are ‘take it or leave it’ contracts)
  • if the contract was prepared by one party before any discussion between the parties
  • who has all or most of the bargaining power
  • the effect of an offending term on the rights of the affected party
  • the actual risk or damage to the contract writer
  • whether the terms of the contract are altered to take into account the specific characteristics of the other party or the particular transaction.

The Europcar case focused on the disproportionate liability to the person hiring a vehicle. In that case Europcar attempted to hold a hirer responsible whether or not they were at fault. Europcar also required the hirer to pay a damage liability fee of $3650 regardless of the actual value of damage, unless the hirer bought extra insurance. So theft of the vehicle could cost a hirer $3650, but so could a dented bumper. The court decided in that case that the contract terms were not reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate interests of Europcar, as well as being disproportionate.

It is also important that standard contract terms are ‘transparent’. This means your contracts need to be –

  • expressed in reasonably plain language
  • legible
  • presented clearly
  • readily available to any party affected before they buy

Some common contract terms that will need review are:

  • clauses that give one party the right to make changes, but not the other – like software agreements that allow the software provider to increase fees automatically
  • clauses that roll over automatically, regardless of the customers wishes
  • clauses that make it hard or impossible for one party to terminate or get out of the agreement
  • clauses that require a buyer to forfeit there deposit, even if you cannot supply the product or service
  • one sided indemnity provisions
  • clauses that disclaim all liability, including negligence
  • clauses that limit the damages a buyer can claim, but don’t limit the damage the seller can claim
  • penalty provisions – like advertising agencies that want a two year agreement with no right to terminate and claim a right to charge whether or not they provide any advertising

If you are one of the 7% of people who read contracts before you agree to the terms, you might have seen some of these provisions. If you haven’t looked at your own business standard contract for a while, NOW is a great time to review and update. We generally recommend that Australian Standard Contract forms, including terms and conditions and privacy on your website or App, should be reviewed and updated at least every two years to ensure your business remains compliant and you avoid the risk of hefting fines and time consuming legal actions.

When reviewing and updating your standard contracts, consider what is most important to your business, where you have the most issues with customers and how you’d like to communicate with your existing customers and leads. We can assist you with a strategy for implementation as well as helping you review, update or refresh your legal contracts.

Book an Appointment now to request a contract review or to update or create your standard contract terms.

How can Onyx Legal help you?

We love writing contracts. Weird, we know. But hey, some people love mountain climbing, so go figure!