Sharing and republishing material

When you share material to the public or a section of the public, including on social media, this is a type of publication. In the legislation, this is referred to as ‘republishing’. The law on imprints therefore also applies to material that you share – for example, using the ‘retweet’ function on Twitter, the ‘Share’ button on Facebook, the ‘duet’ function on TikTok, or forwarding an email.

This also applies when you share material that was first published before the law on digital imprints was in force.

However, if you share material that has already been published with a correct imprint and you do not materially alter the material, then you do not need to include a new imprint with your own details. The original imprint will suffice. In this guidance we refer to this as the ‘sharing exemption’.

Materially altering the material includes:

  • changing it in such a way as to change the meaning of the material
  • removing the imprint (if it originally appeared as a part of the material)
  • sharing it in such a way that the imprint ceases to be accessible from the material (if it originally appeared somewhere directly accessible from the material)

If you share digital material that has already been published, but

  • you materially alter that material, and
  • it still requires an imprint in its new form

then you must include your own imprint, even if the original material had an imprint. If you do not, you may be committing an offence.

A flowchart describing what kind of republished material needs an imprint

When material is republished, the duty to include an imprint falls on the person republishing the material (and anyone else on whose behalf they are republishing it).

The duty does not fall on the promoter of the original material which is now being republished. The promoter of the original material only has a duty to make sure that it is possible for the original material to be shared without losing either:

  • the imprint (if it is included as part of the material)
  • access to the imprint (if it is included somewhere directly accessible from the material)

In all cases, but especially if a promoter encourages the sharing of their material, it is good practice to include the imprint somewhere where it will be most easily retained if the material is shared. If the post contains an image or video, this will usually be in the content of the image or video itself.

If you are a member of the public sharing material, you will usually not need to include an imprint. This is because if you are not a relevant entity, and you are not publishing on behalf of one, you do not need to include an imprint with any organic material.

Last updated: 2 November 2023