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Influencers are typically content creators on social media, with large followings that consume the posts they make. These posts can range from written content to videos. Significantly, they can reach many people very quickly, on online platforms like Instagram or TikTok. If you are a social media influencer or currently building up your following, you may be considering how you can build your business on your network. One area you need to consider is intellectual property, as the posts and content you create will likely qualify as this asset. Therefore, you need to protect your intellectual property to protect your brand. For some guidance, this article will go through four intellectual property issues for social media influencers.

Intellectual Property Ownership on Social Media

The concept of intellectual property is broad, often referring to your ideas or ‘creations of the mind’. Consequently, you can own intellectual property like you would own physical property and have similar rights attached. Indeed, as a social media influencer, the content you create can classify as intellectual property, such as your:

  • written content, like blog posts or tweets;
  • videos;
  • photos;
  • username;
  • branding; or
  • unique hashtags.

Copyright is an inherent intellectual property right that will protect many of these things. Notably, to own a copyrighted item, you need to be the original creator of that content in most cases. Meaning, you have not copied it from someone else.

However, because you post your content on a social media platform, you need to play by their rules. Indeed, you likely agreed to this when you ticked the box indicating your acceptance of their terms of use or similar document. For most social media platforms, this includes granting them a licence to use your content in the ways they specify. Therefore, you must carefully read through your platform’s terms and conditions to see what you have agreed to.

For example, both Instagram and YouTube require that when you upload content to their sites, you agree to grant them a non-exclusive licence to use and recreate that content in other areas. They may do so in their advertising or other areas. You still keep your intellectual property rights, but you let them use your property.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

In New Zealand, and many other countries, there are certain kinds of intellectual property rights that you can register. With registration, you gain official ownership over that property, which grants you various rights and powers. For example, if someone uses your registered intellectual property to steal or mislead your audience, this may qualify as infringement. When this is the case, you have legal options available to you.

Likewise, rights you can register include:

  • trade marks;
  • designs; or
  • patents.

As a social media influencer, you may register your username or business name as a trade mark. However, you can only do so if a similar trade mark does not exist.

With registration, you have greater security for your intellectual property. Additionally, many social media platforms require proof of registration if you want to use their dispute resolution services when someone infringes your intellectual property rights. Therefore, you must look into what intellectual property you should register as part of your social media brand.

Infringement of Third-Party Intellectual Property

Just like you can stop others from using your intellectual property, others have the same powers under the system. Therefore, it is important that when you post your content, you do not use third party intellectual property when you do not have permission. 

For example, do not use copyrighted music as background on your videos unless you have the copyright owner’s permission to do so. You should also be careful of using other business’ trade marks to promote your content.

Notably, various social media platforms can be quite swift and harsh on content that may be infringing on intellectual property rights. This fact can be useful for you if someone else is using your intellectual property, but you need to make sure you do not draw these consequences yourself. Otherwise, your platform can take down your content, and you can lose income.

Intellectual Property in Business Relationships

Many businesses now use social media influencers to promote their products or brand, and you may be in such a partnership yourself. As a result, it is essential that you carefully read through your contracts with these businesses. Indeed, pay particular attention to the section that covers intellectual property, looking out for:

  • a definition of what services you are providing;
  • licensing matters; and
  • clarifications about intellectual property ownership.

Additionally, you want to maintain ownership of the content you create, which can get murky depending on how much of a role the business plays in said content creation. Therefore, it pays to be clear on these matters. For example, if you provide the raw footage for a promotional video about a business’ product, but they edit the footage you post on your page, this can raise questions about who owns the final product.

Key Takeaways

As a social media influencer, much of the content you create will be intellectual property. Therefore, you need to protect your own and take steps to not infringe on others’ rights. If you would like more information or help with your intellectual property as a social media influencer, contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a social media influencer?

The exact definition can vary. However, generally, a social media influencer is a person on social media that can influence a large following. Businesses may engage them to promote their products.

What is social media intellectual property?

Intellectual property can cover a variety of content, and social media posts can come under its umbrella. Therefore, the photos, videos, or written content you post can qualify as intellectual property.

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