The Modern Minefield – Social Media and Copyright Infringement

In the modern age, your company’s intellectual property (IP) is arguably its most valuable asset, even more than tangible real estate and equipment.

IP is also particularly vulnerable to copyright infringement, especially in the age of social media where industries and companies are increasingly interconnected.

According to the United States Sentencing Commission, some 66,000 copyright and trademark infringement cases were contested during the fiscal year 2017, a growing percentage of this occurred following instances on social media.

But how exactly is copyright applied in social media, and how can you protect your company’s IP through various social channels?

How is Copyright Applied in Social Media?

A copyright or trademark protects the owner of one type of intellectual property, which is itself defined as covering “creations of the mind”.

In this respect, copyright directly protects original creations and works of authorship, with this terminology providing a deceptively narrow definition that prevents many types of work from being protected in law.

From a digital perspective, there are various types of content that can be copyrighted, namely blogs, screen displays, online articles, app technology, photos, web copy and even social media posts.

However, the boundaries of copyright law and protection become blurred on social media, with digital transmission and the sharing of content through third-party sites now representing a vast and complex area of copyright law.

The same rule applies to website design and management, as while you can’t copyright an individual website, it is possible to register the individual work and content included within. What’s more, you’ll require a separate application to protect each individual component.

How to Avoid Copyright in Social Media

While seeking out legal advice and copyrighting individual pieces of content may help to protect your IP, this can also be time-consuming and relatively expensive.

Interestingly, a far easier and more cost-effective way to safeguard certain types of IP is to avoid putting them in the public domain in the first place.

After all, although you own the rights to the content that you publish on social media, sharing this online requires you to grant a licence to the site in question to use the copy and others to view it.

However, if you want to simultaneously share and protect your content on social media, you may want to consider including a copyright statement on the file for copy and photographs.

Similarly, you’ll need to track your content and remain vigilant in the face of potential infringements, while filing and subsequent complaints through a process referred to as a “DMCA takedown” notice online.

Written by Casey Mcclain

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