The Nexus of Social Media and Copyright Protection

  • Nov 28 2016
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  • Category: News

How do copyright rules shape my digital marketing strategy?

Today, as more businesses engage in digital marketing campaigns through the use of multiple social media platforms, it is important to understand that copyright protections extend to the worldwide web.

In short, this means that networking on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others requires following existing copyright laws.

While a business owns the work that is created by its employees in connection with their jobs, including comments posted on Facebook or Twitter, this is not the case for the works of independent contractors and freelancers.  A business can only secure its ownership of these works with a well designed work-for-hire agreement. Moreover, it is important to note that internet service providers are protected from infringement lawsuits by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This law provides safe harbor to ISPs provided that they take down content that potentially violates a copyright if/when an owner sends a take-down request.

As an aside, in addition to adhering to copyright laws when using social media, a business that conducts digital marketing through its own website also needs to ensure that any content, designs, images, and logos don’t infringe on the work of other entities.

Protecting Domain Names

There have long been existing protocols designed to protect domain names that are managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). As has widely been reported, the U.S. government transitioned its role in managing Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions completely to ICANN on October 1, much to the chagrin of certain Congressional lawmakers.

While it remains to be seen what the long term effects of the transition will be, ICAAN continues to coordinate the designation of registered domain names, the so-called internet phonebook, under the Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy (UDRP). Nonetheless, it is vital for businesses establish a brand identity by selecting distinctive domain names as well as to protect trademarks and copyrights on the internet. In the event of a domain name dispute or infringement, it is crucial to engage the services of an experienced intellectual property attorney.

The Takeaway

In sum, a business that engages in social media marketing must adhere to applicable copyright laws and protect its original content as well. For this reason, it may be necessary to formally register your work. In so doing, you gain a number of rights including the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute and license your work. At the same time, properly registering your work gives you powerful legal recourse to pursue an infringement lawsuit. Finally, it is equally important to recognize that domain names, online trademarks and copyrights are valuable IP assets that also need to be protected.