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How to keep control of your copyright on social media

JamieWhiteMillions of shares, pill likes, search posts and tweets spread content around the web. But if it’s your content, decease and you didn’t give permission, you need to force a social media take-down.

After years of working hard, you have that Eureka moment you’ve always hoped for; an original idea, tune, story or work of art. You hone it, develop it, fashion it, and then start to get the word out, only to discover the word isn’t just out, it’s everywhere.

To your horror, you find your new idea and creative work has been posted on Facebook, tweeted about on Twitter, and pinned on Pinterest. There’s even a YouTube video and you aren’t in it.

In fact, you aren’t even referenced anywhere, no one knows the new creative work is yours. So, how do you get it back?

The large number of social networks and the huge amount of content that is shared on them every day makes it difficult to figure out just who helped themselves to your intellectual property (IP) in the first place.

If you happen to know, then you can jump straight to taking legal action based on your copyright having been infringed (if you can prove a substantial amount of it has been reproduced without your permission).

However, even if you do know the culprit, you still have to deal with the fact your work is now sitting on a number of social media platforms that seem beyond your control.
While it may be difficult to sue Facebook, for example, over the infringement you do have the right to ask for the content to be removed from their network.

In short, while it can sometimes be hard to get a legal smack down where social media is concerned, you can get a takedown.

Each network has a set process you will have to follow, although it is advisable to seek legal advice beforehand to establish whether your copyright has truly been infringed or not.

Once you’re confident that you need to take action, you’ll find that all of the major social networks have a fairly similar FAQ-type page that steps you through your rights and how to make a formal complaint.

With each, you’ll be asked to fill out an online form detailing what infringement has occurred. To do it, you’ll need to tick some basic boxes; links to the original work or a clear description of them, a link to the infringement, a statement that you have not authorised the use of the material and a declaration that the information given is accurate.

If the network investigates and agrees the content belongs to you, they’ll send a DMCA notice to the infringer and remove the content.

Remember though, that a counter-claim can be made. If you don’t respond within 10 days, the content could be re-instated.

It’s worth noting that Facebook makes special reference to the fact that “some applications…. are created and operated by third party developers. As such, Facebook does not have the ability to control the content made available through these applications.”

However, if you are dealing with a third party, they could be in breach of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. The advice is to work with the third party to come to an agreement, and if that’s a dead end, there’s another form which will trigger a second Facebook investigation.

In all, the suggestion to try and work things out with the person or organisation that has infringed your copyright is a good one. It may be they aren’t as aware of copyright law as they should be, and an innocent mistake has been made.

However, if that isn’t the case, then you have every right to re-claim your creative content or idea – whether it’s a piece of writing, artwork or music. It was your Eureka moment, after all.


DMCA is the abbreviation for the United States Digital Copyright Millennium Act (1998). One part of the Act protects social networks from being liable for infringing content posted on them if:

1.    they were unaware of the infringement had taken place;
2.    did not benefit financially from it; and
3.    removed it quickly once the infringement was discovered.

Jamie White is the Solicitor Director of Pod Legal.

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