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Social Copycats: Is a Social Media User Infringing On Your Intellectual Property Rights?

Social media platforms present great opportunity for brands to gain visibility and attract followers.   But what if another user is using your brand name or a confusingly similar brand name to promote a competing business?  Or, what if your original work appears on other user’s social media pages?

If your brand is trademarked or if your work is copyrighted, you can institute litigation, which can be very costly and time consuming.  However, there may be other recourse for you.  Most social media sites provide a process for reporting trademark and copyright violations.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube all offer similar trademark and copyright reporting procedures.

While social media platforms are doing their part to stop copyright and trademark infringement, claims of infringement are increasing exponentially.  Between the first and second half of 2015, the number of takedown notices received by Twitter of alleged copyright infringement increased by 89 percent.   Twitter Transparency Report, available at https://transparency.twitter.com/.  In the second half of 2015, Twitter received more than 35,000 reports of alleged copyright infringement. Id.  During that time period, it withheld nearly 57,000 tweets and more than 22,800 media files. Id.

If you believe in good faith that your copyright or trademark is being infringed by a social media user, you may complete an electronic form (available on the social media site) reporting the violation.  The social media site will evaluate your report and, in most instances, will remove the offending content.  The alleged offender may be given notice that you made the report.

If the social media site removes the offending content based on United States trademark rights, the alleged offender may respond with an explanation as to why the content should not have been removed.  If the social media site concludes the content should not have been removed, it will restore it.

If the social media site removes the offending content pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the alleged offender will be afforded an opportunity to formally appeal the removal by submitting a counter-notice.  If the social media site receives a counter-notice, it will forward that notice to you.  You will have 10 days to seek a court order authorizing the removal, otherwise, the social media site may restore the offending content.

Reporting an infringement of intellectual property rights is a serious matter.  If you knowingly misrepresent certain types of infringement, you may be liable for damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.  Accordingly, it is best to consult with an intellectual property attorney before reporting a violation.  If your intellectual property rights have been infringed, it is important to act quickly to protect your brand and to prevent the social copycat’s content from going viral.

About The Authors

Nicole J. Benjamin

I am a shareholder and business litigator at AP&S. I help businesses and their legal departments achieve their objectives by reducing their liabilities, advising them on complex legal matters and defending unavoidable litigation in federal and state court. I am also a member of the firm’s Appellate practice group and counsel the firm’s clients on appellate matters in the Rhode Island Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Nicole M. Verdi

Nicole Verdi is a member of the firm’s litigation group.  Her practice involves assisting clients on a wide array of civil… Read More

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