Social Media Sites and Intellectual Property
Social media sites are the “go to” Internet forums for fun and e-commerce. Internet users spend a great deal of time at these sites, not merely for pleasure, but also for monetary gain, to create and build careers and to establish reputations. Social networks (i.e. Facebook), content communities (i.e. YouTube), virtual social worlds (i.e. Second Life), social broadcasting technology (i.e. Twitter), and other weblogs, social blogs and wikis create the possibility of fake accounts with posted content created by another user without the permission of the creator because of the anonymity component such sites provide.
Moreover, because there is instantaneous access and the ability to rapidly respond to text and content, the possibility of abusive behavior and perhaps defamatory actions is ever present. So what can be done if you believe someone is using your content without your permission or someone is “telling lies” about you on social media?
First, social media forums and mobile social media forums are service providers and to use their sites or applications, one must agree to the terms as set forth in each of their Terms of Service (TOS). These service providers require the person posting content to agree that all posted content, whether posted publicly or privately, is the sole responsibility of the person who originated such content.
Additionally, the user must agree not to post prohibited content, such as
1) private or confidential information of another,
2) content that impersonates another, with the intention to mislead, deceive or confuse others,
3) content that is considered a direct threat of violence toward another; and
4) content that includes the intellectual property of another, including trademarks and copyrights, without the owner’s permission.
Therefore, confidential, deceptive, and threatening content can easily be addressed by merely contacting the service provider – pursuant to that provider’s formal grievance procedure – to have the offending content removed. Many times, if the postings are considered an egregious violation of that provider’s rules or the offending actor continues his/her behavior, the offender will be denied access to the service provider’s services. On the other hand, if postings contain the intellectual property of another, one might be required to take further steps.
Second, pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, service providers must immediately address notices regarding the use of copyrighted and trademarked material on their sites and remove such material if requested through a DMCA formal notice to the service provider. If the service provider fails to act on the DMCA notice, then it is possible the service provider can be held liable for contributory infringement. If you find someone using your material, photos, designs, videos and trademarks without your permission, contact an attorney to properly submit a DMCA notice in order to prevent the necessity for costly civil litigation.
These outlined procedures offer the social media subscribers a cost effective means for removing offending content from Internet sites.