Who Owns Your Social Media Content?

When you’re posting original content (e.g. your photos) on social media sites, who owns and has the right to use the content? You may own the copyright but have you given the social media site a license to use your content however they want to?
This is not an academic issue but has serious real world applications for your intellectual property rights and your reputation.
What’s important to note is that each of the big social media sites has different policies on how they treat the content you post…and what rights you’re giving to them in exchange for the ability to post the content in the first place.
For example, some Facebook users photos were being used in advertisements on Facebook for products. In some instances, the users clearly did not want to be associated with the products and services being promoted on Facebook using their images.
What about Google Plus? Have you read the terms governing the use of the content that you post? Are you giving Google the license to use your content however Google wants? What about Google’s advertisers and others with which Google has a business relationship? Did you give them a license to use your content too simply by posting it on Google+?
It’s important to note that sometimes even the social media site’s policy governing content use won’t necessarily determine your rights. For example, Twitter has taken the position that users own their own content (not Twitter). However, there’s a lawsuit in New York where a court may very well decide that Twitter owns the content…even if you delete your account.
Finally, if your intellectual property is important to you, and you insist on sharing it via social networking, understand that a social media’s terms governing content use may change frequently. Primary reasons for such changes include government action forcing the modifications and settlement of class action lawsuits by social media users unhappy with how their content has been used/misused.
If what you’re posting on a social media site has tremendous value to you, always read the current terms governing content use and intellectual property rights before putting the content online.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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