Intellectual Property issues in Social Media: Digital Content

On Saturday at the panel for Intellectual Property Issues in Social Media I learned several interesting facts about IP law and how it pertains to our technology savvy society. As many people know Intellectual Property (IP) Law is categorized by how a product is used: whether by commercial use or for educational purposes. Also, individuals must be careful as to how to to incorporate copyrighted material as it could effect potential markets related to the work or its value. The most interesting topic of discussion was about the user’s rights in regards to social media.

In the case of Twitter, account holders actually do not have the right to establish copyright for individual messages. This is due to the fact that tweets are to short to be considered as legitimate legal documents. However, it is arguable that compilations of tweets can be as they are an extended document format. The usage of corporate logos is also questionable.

In 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon incident caused millions of gallons of Oil to be spilt across the Gulf Of Mexico, activist groups purposefully took BP’s image. They then doctored it to appear in satirical web postings about the companies practices. In a legal light, BP had the right to protect its image under the Trademark Dilution Act. They did not take this action due to overwhelming public opinion forcing them to settle thousands of medical and property damage suits. The other topic discussed at the panel was the legality of stalking.

In the digital age the act of hacking a person’s online identity in order to post defamatory remarks is a violation of one’s privacy. Electronic Impersonation is known as ” knowingly and without consent, credibly impersonating another individual’s actual person…. by electronic means for the purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding another person”. However only the states of California, New York and Texas have the action registered as a misdemeanor.

The lessons that I have taken from these examples are that on-line media is the most difficult of legal areas as far as individuals are concerned. A phrase is not protected but a collection of them are. An image can be protected in spite of overwhelming public opinion, at the discretion of the defendant. The right to defend one’s person online is barely considered as a legal right when fraud is concerned. In short, the medium of Internet based media is not limited to state or even national borders. The legal criteria in defending a person’s rights or those of a company are woefully obsolete.

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