Protecting Copyrighted Materials on Social Media

Is your copyrighted content protected on social media? There are, but social media is one of the easiest ways for it to be used without permission. Additionally, it is the copyright holder’s responsibility to catch and call out infringement.  There isn’t a lot you can do to prevent it, but you can stop it once you find it. Let’s look at what you can do to protect your original work on social media.

Copyright basics

  • What is protected? Copyright protects “original works of authorship.” Digital content that can be copyrighted are blogs, screen displays, social media posts, short online articles, apps, photos, and website content. 
  • What do you have to do to have copyright protection? Technically, nothing, as long as the work falls within the requirements of copyright law.
  • So I can sue an infringer right away? Not quite. You don’t have to register your copyrighted material to protect it. However, you must register your copyright if you want to take a copyright violation lawsuit to court. (And that’s another topic entirely).

What happens to the copyrighted material on social media?

Social media sites like FacebookLinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest (and others), all have Terms of Service statements. Those statements say that you own the original content you’ve posted to their site, however, you have granted a license to the social media sites to use your content and for others to view it. 

Social media sites provide tips on how to avoid copyright infringements when using their site. However, the onus falls on the copyright holder to police violations. If you are not finding and reporting, the problematic content stays.  

The double edge sword of social media

The truth hurts. You could say that not posting on social media is the only way to guarantee that your copyrighted work won’t be stolen. But that’s not realistic. Social media is essential to small business marketing. It is still one of the best ways to get your business recognized and patronized by the masses.  

What you can do

Find the instances of stolen content. Use an online monitoring tool that searches keywords across social networks and alerts you to similar content. There are both free tools and those that have a fee. 

If you find instances:

First, ask via email or direct message. Give the user a chance to make things right privately. Outline how you found your content on their page or site without permission, and that this is illegal. Give them a chance to take it down, or you can ask for payment and/or attribution. 

If this isn’t effective, escalate your concerns. 

Next, report the post to the social platform. Social media sites have built-in abuse reporting tools. Often it is a “Report” button in a pop-up menu that where you submit your request to remove. 

If this does not resolve the issue, consider legal action. 

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice.

This is a legal document explaining that the recipient has used stolen content and must take it down. Send the notice through a lawyer to send a clear message about the illegal nature of their activity. The recipient may send a counter-notice, another reason to have a lawyer involved when things escalate to this level. 

The bottom line 

There are ways to protect your work on your own, but policing instances of copyright violations, especially ones that might occur on social media, can be a huge undertaking. As someone who has been practicing Intellectual Property Law exclusively since 1996, I am actively working to help our clients identify, register, and police their creations, inventions and brands.

Let’s start a conversation about your needs today.

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Before we get started, we want to know your goals so we can better determine how to position you success. Reach out to us today. 

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