Social media is one of the most powerful and effective ways of marketing and advertising. However, as social media is gaining more and more publicity, promoters, YouTubers, and artists are at risk of direct legal concerns about Intellectual Property rights (IPRs). Social media promoters and content creators work hard to build a reputation for expertise in specific topics, products, and industries. In fact, the influencer marketing industry is expected to have a cost of $15 billion by 2022 and currently accounts for about 15 percent of total revenue spent on global advertising. While creating content and products, promoters also create different types of smart and secure products.
Why is Intellectual Property registration important for social media influencers?
The content on the social media websites is consumed daily on a variety of platforms. With this, they need to understand that their unique content is easily accessible to millions of users and can be easily copied. It is very important for them to understand and protect their intellectual property.
When creating content, it is also important to understand that before using the creative works of others in videos, photos, or text in social media, social media platforms make sure they have adequate authorization and consent to use such content to avoid infringing the rights of others.
The following are a few reasons to register intellectual property:
- To establish ownership of intellectual property rights which helps in enforcing rights in case of any dispute.
- Registered IP becomes more liable and legit: If the content is protected, consumers tend to find it more reliable and are more likely to revisit it.
- It is easier to get plagiarised content removed if your IP is registered: If someone is misusing or recreating original content, it is easier for it to be taken down if such content is registered as compared to unregistered IP, which requires strong evidence in support.
- Avoiding replications altogether: If registered, people would not want to replicate the content in the first place as the registration will discourage any copying.
Ensuring Compliance with IP
Copyright is a form of intellectual property that protects original creative works, such as photographs, videos, text, art, audio recordings, cinematograph films, and other original creations. It grants copyright owners the right to distribute, copy, display, or perform their original works.
Content Creators must verify that they have the appropriate permissions (or are eligible for copyright, ‘as a fair use’) before using others’ creative works on videos, photos, or text for social media posts. In many cases, the online use of creative works is not protected, and promoters need to know if they need a license and, if required, take the necessary steps to contact the copyright holder before sharing their material so as to avoid violating and/or infringing the Intellectual Property Rights of the copyright owner.
Several social media platforms have come up with their own tools to detect intellectual property rights violations; for example – YouTube has used the ‘Content ID’ program to assist copyright owners in identifying, managing, and protecting their content. Copyright holders, usually limited to those with large content catalogues, can register themselves on YouTube. Whenever content is uploaded to YouTube, the Content ID system scans new content and checks for similar copyrighted content already existing on the Content ID system.
Trademarks are a type of intellectual property that are used to identify, classify, and indicate the source of one’s goods and services from others. Creators should obtain the written consent of owner of a trademark, brand name or product displayed on a social media post, blog, video, or photo. Posting content that contains someone else’s trademark, product name, or logo may infringe on their intellectual property rights. When a content creator makes a direct reference to a product, it is referred to as branded content, and the creator must obtain special permission to use that product’s name in their content. Trademark laws protect brand owners from two types of infringement, namely the possibility of confusion and redress. Creators should avoid using IP in a way that may confuse customers with the source of the goods or services or negatively affect a company’s brand.
- Domain Names
Domain names are easy to use and easy to remember. A domain name can simply be called the ‘online identity’ of a business. Each website has a domain name that acts as an address, which is used to access the website. Domain names are usually business names followed by .com, .org, .gov, .net, .in, etc.
Generally, domain names may also be registered as trademarks if they meet all the requirements for trademark registration. Once registered, the owner of the domain name will have all the legal rights and authority, which are usually acquired by the owners of registered trademarks. Therefore, social media influencers and content creators should choose a domain name after checking the appropriate domain and making sure that their chosen name is not already registered or violates the intellectual property rights of others and they should consider picking a domain name that may also be eligible for trademark protection.
The Future of Protecting Digital Content on Social Media
There has been a recent rise in the discussion about the impact of NFTs on the protection of intellectual property of influencers and content creators. NFT or “non fungible tokens” are blockchain authentication certificates, which apply to tangible assets produced online such as photos, music, videos, and images (as well as other digital content). Content creators are still protected by copyright law whether NFT is their original work, or they prefer to combine copyrighted work with another creator.
In the landmark judgment Marico Limited vs Abhijeet Bhansali, the Bombay High Court noticed two main issues:
The court held that the defendant (a content creator on YouTube.com) cannot, under the garb of educating or bringing the true facts to the public, provide misleading information to disparage the plaintiff’s product. Any campaign to educate the members of the public by placing before them the true and correct facts may be welcomed. However, such an excuse should not be used to put out misleading information, which disparages, discredits, or belittles someone else’s product or influences the consumers not to buy the said product.
Additionally, the unauthorized use of the plaintiff’s registered trademarks by the defendant in a manner, which is detrimental to its distinctive character or reputation, cannot be in accordance with the honest practices in industrial or commercial matters.
Therefore, as discussed earlier in this article and after going through the above case law, we can conclude that the issue of intellectual property on social media is complex but can best be addressed by taking appropriate steps towards protection. To protect IP, creators must:
- Understand that they have a sense of responsibility towards their audience when reviewing a product. Reviews should be factual and based on facts. Defamation of a product based on falsehoods should be avoided.
- Find online trademark registrations, logos, slogans, tags, series names, and their unique hashtags, to protect them.
- Get copyright subscriptions for original videos, audio recordings, photos, text, and artwork.
- Avoid the use of brand names, logos, trademarks, and copyrighted material without permission and obtain the necessary permits and licenses in advance.
5. Exercise caution and diligence before registering and using a domain name to avoid infringing on another’s rights.
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