Intellectual property on social media Treatment of intellectual property on websites like Facebook

Intellectual property on social media

Treatment of Intellectual property on social media
Websites contracts govern the relationship between websites and their users making them very important for content creators and users of the Internet.
This article is concerned with the treatment of intellectual property on social media.
Cases and articles on domain name disputes
According to Facebook’s Terms of Use 12 December 2013:
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”
In other words a broad based licensing of your intellectual property rights is normal in the Internet culture in return for the use of the website’s services. The treatment of intellectual property rights, and indeed physical property is evolving differently from the way intellectual property rights, and real property rights have been treated from the traditional ethical perspective.
Taking a look at the ITunes usage rules
Usage Rules

(i) You shall be authorized to use iTunes Products only for personal, non-commercial use.

(ii) You shall be authorized to use iTunes Products on five iTunes-authorized devices at any time, except for Content Rentals (see below).


(iii) You shall be able to store iTunes Products from up to five different Accounts at a time on compatible devices, provided that each iPhone may sync tone iTunes Products with only a single iTunes-authorized device at a time, and syncing an iPhone with a different iTunes-authorized device will cause tone iTunes Products stored on that iPhone to be erased.


(iv) You shall be authorized to burn an audio playlist up to seven times.”


There does appear to be a difference between the traditional culture relating to copying and distributing works and Internet culture.

Copyright related cases and articles

Copying and distributing works on the Internet

For example, in the traditional approach, if you disable the anti-theft tags on a CD and remove that CD from a store without paying for it, then culturally everyone accepts that you stole the CD without question. However with Internet culture there is the pervasive debate as to whether downloading music illegally is morally or ethically wrong. There is significant condemnation of the use of digital rights management software to limit the use of digital music files. As seen above, Apple for example limits your use of the files you buy to five ITunes authorised devices at any time. People who disable such digital rights management software are not necessarily seen as criminal but as liberators.
The development of the law differs based on local culture. In the United States of America, the utilitarian value of the creative work is of paramount importance. The American approach is to protect the value of the work in accordance with its value to the wider community. In Europe it is the intrinsic right of the author to their work that is being protected. For example in Europe, moral rights are much more broadly protected as intrinsic part of copyright than in the United States. Indeed in the United States moral rights are not necessarily an integral part of copyright at all. There is a sense in Europe that a creative work is infused with the person of the author, that the author has some inseparable connection with the work which should be protected. There are also other alternatives like the development of open source technology and the creative commons which are part of the copy left movement. Whilst in some Asian and African cultures like China and South Africa, there is the concept of the individual and the society being inextricably linked, which might lead to a more holistic approach to the treatment of digital copyright in those cultures
Whichever approach is taken to the treatment of intellectual property on social media, it should depend on the culture of the jurisdictions that the website is targeting. One law will not necessarily fit all. Whilst it is tempting not to afford jurisdiction the importance it deserves you really need to seek detailed local advice in each targeted jurisdiction.
Additionally you should consider intellectual property clauses more carefully. More than 70% of the social media websites that we review on a daily basis have not fully considered the effect of some of their intellectual property clauses within their website contracts.
To book a face to face consultation for commercial legal advice you should contact a specialist solicitor (charge rates may apply and may vary).

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