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Protecting your intellectual property on social media

Jacinta Bishop

When you post creative content online you maybe be giving away your copyright or at least any real control over it.
Protecting your intellectual property on social media
When you post creative content online you maybe be giving away your copyright or at least any real control over it.


Do you love to Like? #hashtag? Use sepia filters? With so many different social media websites out there, you've probably signed up to lots of terms of service. But do you know who owns your content (or even that selfie with your cat)?

When you post content on Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram you grant them a licence to use your content liberally.

You give each of them a non-exclusive, transferable, worldwide, sub-licensable and royalty-free licence to use and publish your images or content.

So what have you agreed to?

Non-exclusive: multiple people can use your content at once.

Transferable: if the social media giants merge or get taken over by another company (just like Yahoo recently purchasing Tumblr), they are allowed to transfer their licence rights to your content to the new company.

Worldwide: the content can be used anywhere in the world, there are no geographical limits.

Sub-licensable: the companies you give a licence to can then give those rights to someone else.

Royalty free: as much as you might want to, you can't ask for any money or gold bars in return for your picture, despite how many people 'liked' it.

When you delete your account on Facebook and Instagram, their licence ends but not if you have shared your content with anyone else and they have not deleted it.

Tumblr's licence to your content continues when you finish using the services, essentially because once content is out on the web, it isn't coming back.

What does this mean? You technically own the IP in the content you post on Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram, however the social media sites have the freedom to use your content in connection with their services. And that makes your ownership worth, well, not much.

About the author

Jacinta Bishop is a solicitor with Marque Lawyers.


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