A unique story has come to light from Chechnya, where the country’s president, Ramzan Akhmadovich Kadyrov, was caught infringing another user’s copyright on a social networking site.

Copyright exists in many forms (eg literary works, artistic works and recordings) and there is a growing trend with people using social media websites to showcase their copyrighted works. As so much content is publicly available via social media avenues, this potentially gives rise to an increase of copyright infringement.

On 25 July 2013, a Dutch photographer, Herbert Schroer, uploaded a photo he had taken of a mountain landscape to the social networking website Instagram. Schroer discovered that in early September Kadyrov had used his photo, added a filter and posted the same photograph on his own Instagram account.

Schroer was made aware of Kadyrov's actions by third party Instagram members and following the number of comments made, Kayrov removed the disputed photograph from his account. Kadyrov is an avid social media user, with a large following and uses social media to attract a wider audience, although undoubtedly this was not the publicity he was looking for.

Under UK copyright legislation copyright can be infringed if a whole or substantial piece of copyright is copied by a third party without authorisation from the owner of the copyrighted work. In this case copyright was infringed as Kadyrov essentially copied Schroer’s photograph in its entirety and, although some minor changes were made to the photograph, this was not enough to remove the risk of breaching Schroer’s rights.

Instagram also has a process in place for dealing with copyright infringement and should users continue to infringe third party content via its platform, users will be removed from Instagram.

Essentially, copyright exists on every social media website and, without requesting permission from an author or in some cases including sufficient acknowledgement of the copyright author, it is a breach of that copyright to reproduce it. If the work is reproduced and can be accessed in UK, it is possible to bring an infringement claim against the third party user under UK Copyright legislation. Our copyright guidance note contains additional information about copyright protection and your legal rights.

This is a clear case of copyright infringement under UK legislation and it echoes the importance of ensuring permission is requested prior to using another person’s copyright, especially in relation to photographs and digital media.