Understanding Intellectual Property for Online Influencers

Understanding Intellectual Property for Online Influencers

While the world of online content creation offers endless possibilities, it also presents unique challenges.

November 20, 2023

In today's digital age, content creators, often known as online influencers, are the driving force behind many cultural and commercial conversations. These influencers, whether they're on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook, generate vast amounts of content daily. While the world of online content creation offers endless possibilities, it also presents unique challenges, especially in the realm of intellectual property. This guide aims to demystify the intricacies of intellectual property (IP) rights and provide influencers with essential knowledge to protect their creations in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property, often referred to as IP, covers creations of the mind. These can be inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names, and images used in commerce. For online influencers, this often translates to videos, photographs, music, written content, graphics, and brand logos.

The Basics of IP for Influencers

  1. Copyright: The moment you create a video, write a blog, or snap a photo, you have what's known as copyright. It's an automatic right that prevents others from copying or distributing your work without permission.  

YouTube Tip: If someone reuploads your video, submit a copyright takedown notice to YouTube to have it removed.

TikTok Tip: Utilize TikTok’s content reporting feature if you notice someone duplicating your original content without permission. They have strict measures against content theft.

  1. Trademarks:  Your brand identity (logo, slogan, or even unique color schemes) can be trademarked. This means others can't use something confusingly similar to promote their products or services.

Instagram Tip: If you see an account impersonating you or using a logo similar to yours, report it to Instagram for trademark infringement.

Facebook Tip: Use Facebook’s Intellectual Property Reporting form if you notice any trademark violations on their platform. Keeping your brand identity safe is crucial.

  1. Patents:  More relevant for tech influencers, patents protect inventions for a set period, ensuring others can't produce or sell them without permission.

Twitter Tip: Although patents might not be commonly discussed on Twitter, if you're sharing innovations or tech discussions, ensure you're not revealing details that should remain confidential until patenting processes are finalized.

  1. Trade Secrets: These are practices, designs, formulas, processes, or any information that provides a business edge. As an influencer, this could be your unique method of content creation or editing.

Social Media Platforms & Your Content

Each platform has its terms of service (TOS) that you should be familiar with. Often, by posting on these platforms, you grant them a license to use your content. This doesn't mean they own your content, but rather that they can use it. The limits of what they can and cannot do will be spelled out in the TOS.

For example, when you upload a photo to Instagram, according to their TOS, you grant them a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use your photo. This might sound scary, but it's mostly so they can display your photo to users around the world or promote their platform.

How Can You Protect Your IP?

Here are 7 tangible things you can do right now to be protected:

  1. Watermarking: This can deter unauthorized use or at least ensure viewers know it's your content.
  1. Registering Copyrights: While copyright is automatic, registering offers better legal protection and the possibility of statutory damages in the U.S.
  1. Trademark Registration: Essential if you want exclusive rights to your brand name or logo. Munizzi Law Firm offers affordable trademark filings to its influencer clients, so reach out if you need assistance.
  1. Contracts and Agreements: If you collaborate, ensure everything is in writing. Define who owns what and how content can be used. There is no such thing as too much detail in these types of agreements. If you are approached by someone who wants to discuss a licensing or similar arrangement, start by having them sign a comprehensive Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). Then, have the deal written up by a business lawyer who knows your industry and can properly protect you.
  1. Stay Updated: Platforms may change their TOS. Stay informed and consider diversifying where you post content.
  1. Act Swiftly: If someone is using your content without permission, report them to the platform and consider legal action. In your world, time is money; and every second counts.
  1. Consult a Lawyer: Especially if you're starting to gain traction, having legal counsel on speed dial that is ready to jump in can save a lot of frustration, money, and pain.

As an influencer, your content is your most valuable resource; therefore, you should treat it with the care and respect it deserves. By understanding and utilizing intellectual property (IP) rights, you safeguard not just your creative works but also your brand and, ultimately, your livelihood.

Remember, while this article offers a general overview, laws can change and each influencer's situation is unique. Therefore, retain and consult with legal counsel about your unique situation before taking any action in reliance on this article.

Stay savvy, and keep creating!

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