Snapchat -- it’s the go-to app for taking hideous selfies, filming and broadcasting drunken nights out or taking a quick photo of something funny to share with friends.
While pictures can be sent to individual users with a maximum time limit of 10 seconds before they expire, most people are guilty of taking a screenshot using their mobile to retain their own permanent copy.
According to Dr Isabella Alexander, who researches and teaches in the area of intellectual property law at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) this constitutes a breach of Australian copyright law.
“The person who owns the copyright in that [photo] will be the person who took the photograph unless they are doing it in the course of employment,” she told The Huffington Post Australia.
The United Kingdom’s Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey, has recently said that it is illegal to screenshot Snapchat’s and pass them on to others without consent in the UK.
“Under UK copyright law, it would be unlawful for a Snapchat user to copy an image and make it available to the public without the consent of the image owner,” he said.
“The image owner would be able to sue anyone who does this for copyright infringement.”
Alexander agrees that copyright owners can sue for copyright infringement, however she believes that in most cases Snapchat users wouldn’t bother because of the cost involved in bringing an action.
Dr James Meese, a lecturer also from UTS said that whilst a Snapchat picture is ostensibly copyrighted, the bigger question to ask is whether there is an issue with taking a screenshot and reproducing it, especially in a society where it is a regular occurrence.
“People are sharing copyrighted content all the time,” he told HuffPost Australia.