Abstract Social Network Sites (SNS) have increasingly grown as platforms for users to publish and promote content (which includes videos, written texts, and images), in addition to interacting socially. While all published material both online and offline is normally protected by copyright laws, what constitutes copyrighted material on SNS can be difficult to distinguish. Moreover, users on these sites can have differing expectations of how their content is used and viewed by others, causing confusion around both the legal and ethical obligations of others when they use or cite others’ content. Knowing when to attribute content to users and when to protect user privacy is, therefore, a key issue for researchers, particularly linguists working with language data from SNS. Using three case studies, this article looks at content from SNS where applying copyright rules might be problematic: videos that have been published and subsequently removed from a site; user comments on videos published on YouTube and Facebook; and user comments on sites, which might be considered sensitive, such as adult video pages. I discuss the legal obligations in using this content, by first presenting examples where there is a clear legal requirement to cite the copyrighted work of users. I then highlight the ambiguity of copyright law and suggest ways problematic cases might be addressed, enabling the researcher to act both legally and ethically in copying and using online material. In conclusion, I argue based on these studies that attribution of publicly available content on SNS should be the default position, but that the effect of reproducing materials for academic purposes should be taken into account.
Applied Linguistics Review – de Gruyter
Published: May 24, 2017