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Copyright infringement on social media

September 29, 2021, By

Uploading, streaming, watching and sharing content across social media platforms has never been easier. There are roughly 1 billion active users on both Instagram and Tik Tok every month and approximately 30 million YouTube subscribers. This ability to share content is revolutionary for businesses, particularly for those in creative industries, as it gives them a means of advertising their work like never before, and for influences and vloggers, whose careers are heavily reliable on it.

While this is obviously a great tool, it also requires awareness and diligence to ensure that content, and the intellectual property within it, is protected from third party infringers.

So, what action can you take when the content you upload is copied and who is held responsible for the copyright infringement?

Social media platforms that host content benefit from a ‘safe harbor principle’ in EU law. This means that the host can’t be held responsible for infringing content posted by users, provided it has a mechanism in place that allows users to notify it of infringing content, and it subsequently removes it.

To tackle this, most platforms have a ‘report’ function allowing users to report the infringing content to the host and request that it be removed. However, given the enormity of these platforms and the number of users, it’s no wonder that sometimes these reports go unactioned, and the content isn’t taken down. This can be especially frustrating when you can’t track down the infringer and pursue them directly – it can feel like you’ve lost control of your content.

However, there is also an exception to the safe harbor principle that holds the host directly liable if it doesn’t act quickly once it has knowledge of the infringement. You would then have the option to seek an injunction and/or pursue it for damages.

At this point, the best course of action is usually for a lawyer to send a ‘copyright notice take down’ letter to the host to unequivocally inform it of the infringement and notify it that further action will be taken against it, should it fail to remove the infringing content. The exception provides extra incentive for hosts to act upon a report, and receiving a letter from lawyers will often provoke action.

This should serve as some peace of mind that there are actions that can be taken if your content is copied online and you can, in the circumstances provided above, hold the host liable. Our team of expert lawyers offer a free consultation in which they will be able to advise you on protecting your online content and whether you have claim against an online platform.

Written by Katie Moruzzi, Solicitor

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