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  • Writer's pictureShoronya Banerjee

The Established Relation Between Intellectual Property Rights And Social Media

The development of information technology supporting the broadening scope of the internet's utility has established a new relationship between social media and intellectual property rights. Usually, when an individual creates an original piece of work for instance, as related to literature, art, music, and so on, that person gets copyright protection for it. Even original non-literary written work like software codes could receive copyright protection. Copyrights protection is largely applicable to a variety of things, beginning from official work to crazy internet trends. Copyrights protect one's work and avert people from copying, imitating, or using that same thing for commercial gains. It also prohibits a person from taking parts of that work, performing it, portraying it in public, or for instance putting it up on the internet.

Copyright Act,1957 lays down the scope of copyright protection in India. Through the years amendments have been introduced in the statute to follow the pace of changing times and developments in the society and economy. Copyrights play an essential role in a content creator on social media's life. The Act focuses on providing safeguards to them. The Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 to bring the Act to be in consistency with the World Copyright Treaty 1996 and WIPO Performance and Phonogram Treaty 1996. It included provisions mentioning penalties against violaters, the rights of managing information put on such platforms, the liability and role of the internet service providers, and so on. It aimed to ensure proper credits and distribution of royalties to the creators of the content put online. It also put forth instances where infringement would not apply to and anybody could use that work under Section 52 of the Act. The Doctrine of Fair Use is more of a limitation on a creator or owner of a work's copyrights. This Doctrine has not been widely defined in the Act, but in no way should the creator's rights and interests should not get affected.

Social media has completely changed the medium and dynamism of how individuals think, businesses and corporations operate and communicate to carry out their work. Social media can be utilized effectively by businesses for promoting their product and services, putting forth all the relevant information in front of the consumers, and trying to achieve commercial success in terms of strengthening the brand. Social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, and so on, has turned to be a way of life for thousands of people because of its accessibility, accountability, entertainment factor, and so on. User-generated content is an essential facet of social media. The existence of online groups invite similar and like-minded people to join in together and portray their works, ideas, and thoughts and share it with each other. This is an easy way for businesses to reach houses which in turn is restricted by location and distance. It is even easy for people to share their art, poetry, acts, dance, music, creativity, and so on with millions of people across the world. But this is met with a clash between intellectual property rights and social media.

When an account is created on social media, for instance on Instagram or Facebook, an individual or organization has to accept certain terms and conditions before joining such a platform. In this case, maximum users blindly accept the terms and continue with using it. But this acceptance has meaning, it indicates towards granting a transferable, without any financial agreement a license applicable worldwide allowing the social media platform to use whatever the user shares. It is a license to use the account holder's content. A content creator has to be aware of the terms and conditions to see its consistency with their intellectual property rights. When a user posts some content on social media platforms it is basically getting published, it does not signify the rights of the content being conferred on anyone and everyone. The inclusion of ‘limitation of intellectual property rights’ in the terms of use of the social media sites built this scare and confusion and users most of the time or always register without reading terms and conditions and accepts such a clause. But such licenses on intellectual property rights have a limited scope. It authorizes the usage of contents and works posted by users by the sites or by other users. But usually, the content can be used only within that particular social media site but for no other usage. The terms and conditions of every social media site have to be referred to for authorizing the use of content every time.

With extreme competition co-existing in the market and the loopholes in the scope of intellectual property rights law, it has become a difficult task for individuals, organizations, and business owners to protect their personal and valuable information by preventing unethical access to it. Mark Zuckerberg had been summoned by the authorities for the apparent news of a professor from the University of Cambridge having acquired data and information on more than 80 million Facebook users doing rounds. It was also said that this data had been shared with the Cambridge Analytica which also had a role to play in the presidential election campaign for Donald Trump in 2016. Following this, Facebook made more stringent policies and also forbade third parties from dealing in data with unknown parties.

Daniel Morel, a photographer had posted authentic photographs of the disastrous earthquake that had occurred in Haiti in 2010. These photographs had gone viral immediately. But these pictures had been copied by someone and posted on that person's 'Twitpic' page under his ownership. Agence France-Presse, a French agency had immediately included these photos in their database. This, in turn, got in the hands of other agencies and organizations followed by these pictures getting published in several online platforms and newspapers, worldwide.

Except for Mr. Morel, every other person and agency circulating the pictures had received credits for the photographs. Daniel Morel took to the court in New York accusing the Agence France-Presse and Getty Images for infringing copyrights law by utilizing photographs clicked by him for name and commercial gain without his permission. It was highlighted that according to Twitpic's Terms and Conditions anyone was allowed to use already posted images. Agence France-Presse also asserted that they had the express license for using Morel's images or, what was known as the third-party beneficiaries arising from the agreement between Morel and the platform of Twitter. The court's ruling was in Mr. Morel's favor. The Terms and Conditions of Twitter do not allow third-parties to handle and deal in a user's content without prior and express permission. Most social media platforms have come up with policies consisting of similar terms for warding off third-party liability. According to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), these platforms have to have specific agents to note down infringement complaints by site users.

In an era where shopping is possible at a click of a button, it's easy to find talented individuals from any corner of the world, portray emotions through social media, start movements, showcase creativity, and so on, it is also easy to copy ideas about products from online shopping sites and sell it in another's name, steal people's work, unethically take on to people's personal data, and also rob money, one has to be very careful and know every legal detail and about their intellectual property rights. While sharing original content one has to be eager enough to get adequate credits for it, even watermarked pictures can be stolen. Laws applicable in this virtual world cannot be overlooked.



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