Social media sites, such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, present significant opportunity for individuals and businesses to communicate to extensive numbers of people in ways never before envisioned. Facebook, for example, currently boasts more than 350 million users, and conservative estimates show at least 18 million Twitter users. These numbers are only expected to increase over time. While these sites present tremendous growth opportunities for businesses, they have sparked a flurry of activity among IP owners who are scrambling to find ways to safeguard their valuable assets. While the title of this article may appropriately describe the reaction of an IP owner upon discovery that it has been victimized on a social media site, there is no need to panic. There are various tools available to the IP owner that can be used to address abusive situations.
Naturally, the first question an IP owner must ask is “How much of this can I take?” When the answer to that question is “no more,” the owner is invited to turn to this article—which is intended to serve as a practical guide and resource for navigating through social media sites, procedures that enable IP owners to address infringing situations. While this article specifically focuses on the current policies and procedures of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, the general principles and tips provided will be applicable to other social media sites as well.
A few points to keep in mind. The IP owner always has at its disposal the option of pursuing formal legal remedies, such as initiating a lawsuit, to protect its valuable IP assets. But given the significant expense, resource and time commitments associated with litigation, the IP owner would be well-advised to consider, at least as a first option, utilizing the dispute resolution procedures set up by the specific social media site. Remember that each social media site (such as Facebook and Twitter) is run by a company—not the government, not a court. Because these are different companies, their procedures and policies for addressing abusive situations, while similar, are not the same. The different policies and procedures do, however, echo a common theme of “self-interest” in that each company does not want to be sued by IP owners over infringing content. Clearly, it is in the companies’ best interest to work with IP owners to address acts of infringement occurring on their sites. If a site fails to act after being put on notice of the infringing activity, the social networking site runs the risk of being charged with being complicit in the infringement. This provides a significant advantage to IP owners and certainly increases the chances of getting the issue resolved quickly.