Intellectual Property and Social Media: An Introduction

Posted by Edwin Chang on November 9th, 2020

image of a person updating company's social media

Originally incepted to serve as a tool to facilitate communication among peers, the notion of social media has gone above and beyond and has caused a seismic shift in the way businesses' function as a whole. That brings us to the question, is content shared on social media platforms considered as Intellectual property?

In an era where oversharing information is almost normal, social media marketing has become integral, if not basic, requirement for any business to remain afloat. But at what expense? Anyone who has been exposed to the intricacies and boons of social media (irrespective of reason) can confirm that the type of information people share among each other, is usually user-generated content. This movement has birthed countless digital micro-communities comprising of like-minded people, who share relevant information with each other.

Thankfully, an increasing number of organisations are steadily adopting small yet effective steps towards a more IP-compliant approach when it comes to their overall business strategy. Irrespective of your social platform of choice, our brand experts have compiled a brief guide outlining simple yet effective steps to take, to minimise legal blunders and risks.

Expert Insight: In business, social media is king. It functions in multiple ways, from marketing a new product to creating opportunities for new business connections, connecting with customers, or getting inspiration from others.

"Since the inception of social media, as we know it, in 2002, approximately 3.725 billion are active social media users. That’s 3.725 BILLION users."

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), “refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names, and images used in commerce.” This means that when someone creates something tangible or intangible, the creator has ownership of that product, and said creator has the controlling rights to the usage of that product. Now, this is where it gets blurry when it comes to social media.

The acts of “content sharing” and “collaborating” are quite prolific in the social media world. This is how one gains an audience, expands their market, their followers, or interacts with their “community.” With the proliferation of digital distribution and duplication made easier through social media, an inherent problem has risen – the theft of intellectual property. A significant segment of a business’s estimated worth lies in its intangible resources. In spite of this, numerous business and brand owners are oblivious of, or neglect to perceive the true value of such intangibilities.

Applications of Intellectual Property and Social Sharing

As the world moves to the twenty-first century, the need to have an online presence has become a vital part of life.  There are numerous ways social media has been an integral part of this monumental shift in the way the world voices itself, from static comment fields to interactive messaging platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Carrying out a thorough review of your intellectual property will enable you to recognise elemental resources that may require immediate protection such as:

  • Innovations that are yet to be licensed or registered.
  • High-performance trademarks and sub-brands.
  • Trade manuals and business guides that are integral to your operation.

Trademarks, as an example, are considered to be one of the most valuable assets a brand can own. Especially when the brand owns have painstakingly thrived to connect themselves to certain goodwill and reputation. But how exactly will registering your trademark help your brand go that extra mile?

Trademark registration provides substantial legal benefits including exclusive usage of the mark throughout your geographic location. A registered trademark is also safeguarded against any possible future infringements by other similar trademarks or an undisclosed third party.

Oversharing is The New Normal

With the social media platforms making it easier to access endless displays of content – from images to ideas – and creating this digital cultural norm of “sharing,” it is quite easy to capture someone else’s idea and make it your own. But in this age of digital freedom, how free is free?

As the access to content expands in the digital world, particularly on social media platforms, the line between ownership of original material, duplication, and distribution has been blurred. However, contrary to popular belief, one cannot just take images or content from a social media feed and use it as their own. There are specific rules, guidelines, and laws one must abide by. This is where the importance of intellectual property comes into play.

Social Media and Intellectual Property

Remember that little box one needs to click agreeing to a social media platform’s terms and conditions when creating an account? When you sign up for social media, you give away a license or legal permission to that platform to use your product or material. For social media platforms to function the way they do, this is necessary. But this does not override Intellectual Property laws.

Expert Insight: The creator still retains intellectual property rights. The agreement made is between the creator and the platform. It is important to remember though that this does not mean that any content on social media is free. So, why is intellectual property in social media important?

Final Note: Know your Intellectual Property Rights as a Digital Creator

With social media’s widespread nature of sharing, it is oftentimes hard for intellectual property holders to catch up on any infringements or violations. However, when they do, this law is a tool that can be used to stop sharing or halt any violation of copyright, trademark, or patent. The protection of intellectual property affords the holder the right to file complaints, takedown content, seek compensation, file lawsuits, and so much more.

Expert Insight: If users do not understand how intellectual property rights protection can be lost through social media or how to protect their intangible assets, they may suffer some significant losses. It is therefore advisable to be vigilant in keeping track of any possible violations or infringement. It is also best practice to stay up to date with changes in IP laws. This will enable them to protect their rights correctly and, at the same time, contribute to the conversation about intellectual property rights in social media.

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Edwin Chang

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Edwin Chang
Joined: May 4th, 2020
Articles Posted: 3

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