Protecting your intellectual property in the digital environment is an incredibly complex issue, one that no platform, algorithm or government regulation has an adequate response to. For instance, while live streaming UFC PPV is strictly prohibited by platforms like YouTube and Twitch, some streamers found a way around this. What they did was simulate using a joystick and pretending it was a video game in order not to get instantly banned by the platform. The funniest thing is the fact that it worked. On social media, with all the shares, retweets and a myriad of false profiles, it’s even harder to keep everyone in check and in order.
The worst part is that while some people infringe on your copyright deliberately, in order to set you back or gain a material benefit, others infringe due to the lack of knowledge on this topic. In general, the public on social media is generally misinformed on the issue of copyright laws and intellectual property, which means that they might misuse your work without any bad intention. The problem lies in the fact that the consequences might still be the same. With that in mind, it’s incredibly important that you learn as much as you can about the issue of brand protection via social media.
Know a thing or two about a fair use
The first thing you need to understand is the fact that there’s such thing as fair use. This is a scenario where someone uses your content but is not infringing on your trademark, along the way. However, determining whether or not something is fair use is not easy. First, you need to see if someone is using your content for commercial purpose. If they are, the chances that this is fair use are quite slim (even non-existent). Apart from this, you also need to look at the nature of the copyrighted work, due to the fact that certain formats (reactions, commentaries, and reviews) usually tend to fall under the category of free use.
Other than this, there are also two important, yet, a tad more abstract factors worth considering. The first one is the amount and sustainability of the content used. The second one is the effect of the use upon the potential market. For instance, if the main aim of your content or work is to reach out to a certain market with a message, yet, the message you send has a diminished appeal because your audience has already seen it from someone else.
As you can see, the issue of fair use is complex as it is but in the era of social media, it becomes that much harder to control. The problem is that there are still so few final rulings in cases related to social media. Nonetheless, the fact that something’s on Facebook or Twitter is not and should not be a legitimate defense argument.
Know what’s yours
What makes a piece of content truly yours? Well, this is a question that may not be as easy to give an answer to. In order to ensure that you know exactly what IP you own, you need to start with a brand registration. Sure, this isn’t a 100 percent reliable method of protecting what’s yours in the digital world but it is something that gives you a legal foundation based on which you can file a claim or, at least, make a strong argument in your favor. Another reason why this is such a good idea is due to the fact that you’ll get informed of your own rights and privileges. This will also prevent you from infringing on the IP of others.
Social media listening
The next thing you need to consider is whether your brand is an active discussion online. You see, just because someone is discussing your content, it doesn’t mean that they’re infringing on your copyright. Social media listening is the only way for you to know this for sure. Other than that, you still want to know what’s being discussed about you in the digital environment. Sometimes, just by monitoring an active discussion you can help move your brand forward or even uncover a misuse that you would remain obscure of.
Outsource your IP protection
In this very article, we reflected on the complexity of the issue so many times. Therefore, outsourcing your IP protection to a specialized legal team might be the best choice. The cost-effectiveness of this method only depends on whether you have someone to deal with this on a retainer or plan to hire someone when the moment arises. Keep in mind that while the latter may be more frugal, it’s not necessarily more cost-effective.
The only way to make an informed decision on this topic is to try and analyze the situation beforehand and be objective about how much you need this form of legal protection. Moreover, you shouldn’t allow for biases like your legal services budget or your paranoia (that everyone wants to steal your brand to get in the way).
Sometimes, the infringement won’t be straightforward or obvious. What if someone hides behind the satire? What if they’re just as similar to confuse your audience but not enough for you to actually sue them and win. The only way to fight against this is to try to cover as much ground as possible on your own. Of course, the law and regulations in the field of IP are still changing, which is a good thing, due to the fact that no loophole will remain open for long. Reading a bit more on the topic of cybersquatting may be the right way to go.
At the very end, the issue of IP is problematic due to the fact that it’s not a theft in a traditional sense. On the one hand, you are getting robbed of some of your hard work through diminished value and reputation damages. On the other hand, the fact that they’re using your work doesn’t mean that it’s unavailable to you. Still, you, as a brand owner have no privilege of discussing ethics behind trademark infringement. What you need to do is focus on protecting your assets, whether they’re physical or digital. With the above-listed five tips, you might just get a fighting chance.