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Protecting your Content on Social Media

Your social media content is protected under the existing intellectual property laws:

  • Trade Secret (protects something that gives value to a business from not being known),

  • Trademark (protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs that identify the source of goods or services) and

  • Copyright (protects original works of authorship such as drawings, photographs, and written copy).

To lock down trade secrets, make sure your employment documents are clear about company ownership of social media accounts and make sure you have the logins and passwords.

To lock down trademarks, consider registering your brand names and logos, and making sure other people aren’t using them to siphon your customers. You are allowed to truthfully use other people’s trademarks to advertise your goods/services (We sell Levi’s jeans; We repair Ford trucks; We are certified Microsoft resellers) or to voice your opinion (United Breaks Guitars).

What you can’t do is use a trademark that is substantially similar to someone else’s that the customers are likely to be confused. Have search engines look for your trademark, and consider sending a cease and desist letter to others that are too similar to yours.

Finally, for copyright, understand that as soon as someone publishes their material online, the content is covered by copyright law. You should not copy and paste their content to your social media accounts. It is confusing because they probably have a like, share, retweet, or pin button next to that really cool graphic. (Think about where you are placing your share buttons in regard to the content you don’t want someone to cut and paste.)

Instead, create your own content or license (pay for it) from a third-party site. Use material that is clearly in the public domain or not covered by copyright (anything written by the government, for example), get permission, and get a Creative Commons (or similar) license. Remember background music on otherwise original audio-visual content trips up a lot of people.

In addition, have a “take-down” provision in your website terms, which gives you a civil forum for addressing inadvertent copyright infringement. Use this process to make others take down your copyrighted material.


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