Many businesses are turning to services online for advertising and marketing purposes. Some of the well known available are social media websites. For business owners who actively post on social media to promote their goods or services, it would be helpful to understand the terms of service of your use and how your ownership of your copyright material may be affected.

Ownership and Licensing

Most social media websites do not claim to own any of the copyright material you have posted. Through your use, however, you do provide the social media platform with extensive rights in the form of licensing provisions. Many social media platforms may actually have very similar rights as the copyright holder. This would include rights to:

  • transfer their licensing rights;
  • sub-licence the copyright material; and
  • use of the copyright material on a royalty-free basis.

You should check with the social media platform to determine the exact level of licensing rights you agree to. Ownership and licensing clauses are particularly important to businesses in the creative industries or businesses that share valuable intellectual property.

Transfer of Risk

Although many social media platforms have such a wide-reaching licence, they typically have very narrow terms when it comes to risk. Effectively this means that many social media websites disclaim all liability from the items you post on the website. Further, there are often clauses minimising the liability on the social media platform.

Governing Law and Jurisdiction

In most instances, online businesses take the necessary steps to draft business terms and conditions for their website. These terms and conditions should have the relevant clauses that note down the governing law and the jurisdiction that applies to each transaction. The governing law refers to the laws that will apply to the transaction. The jurisdiction refers to the court where a dispute may be heard if one were to arise. If there are no business terms and conditions, parties to an online transaction may need to fork out extra legal costs to simply determine the issues mentioned above. For many of the larger social media platforms, you will notice that the governing law and jurisdiction clauses refer to the State of California.

Public Use

It is important to be wary of the extent at which your copyright material is available and allowed to be used by others. The uses may be as broad as copying your copyright material or distributing or modifying your material. Of course, as a business, this may end up being beneficial to you as it can allow for the viral spread of your material.

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If you’re a business that is operating and using social media platforms, make sure you understand their Terms of Service particularly when it comes to the use of your copyright material.

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Kristine Biason
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