Movie posters are entertaining and designed to draw in anyone who looks at them. If you’re hoping to capitalize on this marketing scheme by using these images on your Instagram, be careful! 

Copyright law protects a creator’s ownership, and you can only use them under specific circumstances. Fair Use, copyright expiration, and creative commons permit users to apply certain material to their posts. Ensure you understand these rules before applying them to prevent copyright infringement. 

If you want to understand copyright law and its application on Instagram, you’re in the right place! 

Before we proceed, it’s important to note that I am not a legal professional or authorized to give legal advice. We recommend you seek a licensed legal professional if you need legal counseling. 

Does Copyright Law Protect Movie Posters On Instagram? 

Copyright law protects most movie posters and images from unfair use on Instagram. Under copyright law, you cannot repost or share pictures that are protected against theft and exploitation online. Protection extends to movie posters, moving images, and other copyrighted movie materials. 

Instagram provides helpful guidelines for navigating copyright law and regulations on their site. They have rules and legal requirements that apply to all their users regardless of the audience size. 

The good thing about copyright law is it protects you and others. No one can copy and utilize your Instagram photos or content without your permission. 

Simply put, copyright prevents unauthorized people from using or otherwise copying content. This means if you’re hoping to use an image on Instagram, you’ll have to check if it’s the protected property of the owner. 

Copyright typically lasts approximately 70 years after the author or creator passes away. It covers creations, including: 

  • Books 
  • Artwork 
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Posters 

However, the length of the copyright can vary based on location, type of material, and whether the owner renewed the copyright. Therefore, you can’t simply assume that a movie created 70 or more years ago is fair game for use. 

Title 17 of the U.S. Copyright code allows copyright renewal after the expiration. This means some movies dating back to the 40s are still copyrighted material. However, some film copyrights were not renewed. 

Movie rights usually belong to movie creators, including the producer, crew, and writer. Although, even these people are limited regarding how and where they can use movie memorabilia. 

Aside from copyright expiration, there are only two legal ways to use images from movies. These include: 

  • Requesting permission 
  • Fair use 

We’ll dive deeper into these different exceptions below. While we’ll do our best to give you the best information, we recommend speaking with a lawyer if you are still determining if you comply with copyright law. 

When is it Okay to Use Movie Posters on Instagram? 

Generally, you can’t use anything that violates intellectual property rights or copyright. The only times it’s okay to use movie posters on Instagram is with permission or under proper use. Users must be cautious to ensure they follow the law and avoid violating the copyright owner’s desires. 

There are three general ways you can use movie posters on your Instagram, including: 

  • Requesting permission 
  • Using content with expired copyright 
  • Fair use 

We have already touched on the importance of each of these stipulations. But we’ll go into detail here to help you better understand how to use images fairly and legally. 

First, requesting permission is a safe way to ensure you have the right to share an image. Make sure you identify the exact image you wish to use and how or why you want to use it.

Finally, contact the copyright owner to request permission for use. 

Ensure you have their permission in writing to protect yourself. 

Second, you can use most content with an expired copyright. You should be able to verify the copyright by searching the copyright database. This database has all the up-to-date copyright holders in the U.S. 

Last, many creatives claim fair use when they add images and portions of a film to their content. However, fair use isn’t a cure-all or all-around excuse for using copyright material. 

Fair use allows for protected speech in creative content. Some protected use under this law include: 

  • Literary reviews
  • Literary critique
  • News reporting 
  • Parody 

There are specific ways you can misuse content, even under these protected uses. 

If you want to research Fair Use further, check out Title 107: Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use. This class helps explain when and where the Fair Use doctrine is applied and when it’s not applicable. 

Generally, this doctrine explains how the court evaluates claims of copyright infringement. The court is usually more lenient for non-profit use and clear examples under the above exemptions. 

We recommend contacting a lawyer to clarify whether the Fair Use clause applies to your content. 

You may also be interested in adding movie posters to your YouTube videos and so of course we wrote about that too here Can I Use Movie Posters In Youtube Videos?


What Happens if You Violate Copyright on Instagram? 

Instagram takes a strong stance against copyright violations. Depending upon the severity of the violations, you could face a strike, suspension, or both.

Copyright violations are also a crime, and you may face criminal charges depending on the severity of the copyright infringement. 

Instagram users can report copyright violations by filling out this form. If Instagram contacts you that you’re being investigated for copyright infringement, there’s a good chance someone filled this form out. 

This form allows users or copyright holders to file complaints with the social media company. However, Instagram can also hit you with violations if they catch you misusing copyright material. 

Copyright holders can sue violators in addition to fines for the crime. While Instagram performs its own internal investigation into the complaints, copyright holders may still press charges.  

However, this is mostly in extreme cases and relies on whether the copyright holder wishes to file a suit. Most Instagram users will only suffer having their accounts suspended or banned. You can appeal the accusations in the help center of Instagram. 

What is the Difference Between Copyright and Creative Commons? 

Creative commons refers to content that has been granted global use. This is almost always granted by the copyright owner, who chooses to grant access to their works to anyone. These are usually generic photos, artwork, or AI-created artwork. 

While it’s true that most Instagram content is protected, you can opt out of this protection. Creators might choose to do this for many reasons, but promoting their work is the most common reason. 

They may wish to bolster their visibility on Instagram and encourage others to share their work on their page. Or, artists might want their names spread along with their creations, thus demonstrating their skills. 

There are six types of creative commons licenses applicable to creative content. These licenses include: 

  • CC By-SA
    • By Creator 
    • By Same Terms
  • CC By-NC
    • By Creator
    • By Noncommercial use
  • CC By-NC-SA
    • By Creator
    • By Noncommercial use
    • By Adaptations
  • CCO
    • Relinquished Copyright 
  • CC By-ND
    • Permission to use
    • No Adaptations or reproductions
  • CC By-NC-ND
    • Credit Creator
    • No adaptation

These licenses help the creators decide how they want their works shared and reproduced. This allows them to require users to credit them or only permit certain reproductions. 

Allowing others to share your work and use your content could boost your standing online. But you might not want people to use your work to support a cause or promote something you disagree with. 

Choosing your creative commons license helps you safeguard your reputation while gaining recognition. 

Avoiding Copyright Pitfalls

When to Remove Content 

Under most circumstances, copyright infringements on Instagram require you to remove the content. As long as you aren’t repeatedly accused of copyright infringement, removing the content can help protect your account. 

If you’re unsure if the content is a copyright infringement, you might want to remove it. This will probably help protect your account against accusations of copyright infringement. 

How to Appeal on Instagram

Most copyright infringement notifications on Instagram involve copyrighted photos or music. If you feel you’ve been falsely accused, you can appeal directly to Instagram for the accusations to be removed. 

Fill out the appeals form on Instagram’s website. Sometimes Instagram makes mistakes, with some users claiming Instagram suspended their accounts for using their own music or images. Everyone makes mistakes, including social media platforms. 

Understand Fair Use 

Fair Use is commonly claimed on YouTube, Instagram, and other content websites. It’s very important you understand when this rule can be applied. 

Ensure you only use images like movie posters when critiquing, reviewing, or parodying the movie. Be specific and clear in your production to prevent any grey areas in the legality of the use. 

Copyright Disclaimers 

Many content creators make the mistake of thinking placing a copyright disclaimer nullifies legal liability. This isn’t the case. 

Copyright disclaimers and crediting the author/creator really only need to be used for Fair Use content. However, they don’t nullify copyright violations that don’t fall under fair use. 

Simply stating you don’t own the content and don’t want to commit copyright fraud doesn’t nullify responsibility. You must also abide by copyright law by finding an exemption or requesting permission before using it. 

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Closing Thoughts

We hope this article helps you avoid any issues on Instagram! Many people successfully build themselves on these platforms. Social media is an excellent way to promote your work and brand. 

It’s important that you comply with Instagram’s user guidelines and get help from professionals when unsure. We wish you success as you continue building your presence on this platform! 


Instagram: Copyright

Investopedia: Copyright Explained: Definition, Types, and How It Works

Copyright.Gov: Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17) and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code


Copyright.GOV: Search Copyright Records: Copyright Public Records Portal

Copyright.Gov: U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index

Copyright.Gov: Chapter 11: Subject Matter and Scope of Copyright

Instagram: Copyright Report Form

Creative Commons: Attribution

Creative Commons: About CC Licenses