Normally I don’t worry too much about what “the competition” is doing – I just don’t have the time! But, because we manage organic and paid social media campaigns for Eminent SEO as well as our clients, I manually check the social media every day.
Over the weekend, I noticed a post went up on our Instagram account and it was missing a branded hashtag that we normally post with it. I logged in, made the update and then click the tag for good measure… and what did I see?
Someone else is using our tag. No biggie. This is common and it’s not like we own the tag. However, we DO own the graphics, images and content we made, right?
Do I Own My Social Media Content?
You would think the answer to this question would be fairly straightforward, and in some ways it is. However, it does have layers, so let me break it down for you.
The short answer is: yes.
Where it gets grey is where and how you share it.
Facebook, for example, states in their Terms of Service that by transferring your photos to their servers you are giving away a license to reuse those photos. This goes for the other popular social platforms too. Twitter and Instagram also reserve the right to use your photos, for example, and they also won’t pay you anything for the use. For Facebook, it’s a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license”.
Say that three times fast. Jeez.
Just because they retain the right to use your photos and content, the good news is you don’t lose the copyright. If someone snags your work from Facebook and reuses it as their own, you can still seek legal recourse.
What If Someone Stole and Is Reusing My Social Content?
This is the question I was left asking after discovering that the company using our branded hashtag (who shall remain nameless, because I still have a heart) had been stealing and reusing our social content for over TWO YEARS!
So, I took to Twitter and, as usual, my Tweeps didn’t hesitate to chime in and offer help:
What can you do, if anything, if another company is taking your social media images and content and reusing it as their own? They’re putting their logo on our images and using content I wrote verbatim. It’s just social, but come on. #copyrightquestion
— Jenny Stradling (@dayofjen) March 25, 2018
Looks like the options are:
1) File a DMCA request with the networks they are on.
2) Document it and then it over to a copyright lawyer.
3) Try http://blasty.co which helps you find it all, and sends out the DMCA’s on your behalf.
Protecting Your Copyrights Costs Time and Money
Taking the advice of my Twitter friends, we immediately took screenshots and documented everything. We found images they stole and used as their own. Copy pasted captions, calls-to-action and paragraphs that I wrote myself, right here at my desk. Graphics they removed our logo from and added their own. It wasn’t just a single branded hashtag they used – it was troves and troves of exact duplicate content.
YEARS of blatant, outright stealing.
I then took to Google to figure out the whole DMCA thing.
What is “DMCA” (don’t worry, I didn’t know either)?
DMCA stands for The Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In 1998 President Bill Clinton signed this legislation into law. In a nutshell, it was created to deal with the special copyright challenges of regulating digital material. It aims to protect the rights of both the copyright owners and the consumers.
The law complies with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, both of which 50 countries around the world ratified in 1996. If you are feeling super nerdy, you can read more about it here.
How Can I Use the DMCA?
I’m sure there are a lot of third party companies that can help with this stuff, but I found DMCA.com. Their site says they can get the following removed for you:
Of course, it will cost you $199 for a full-service takedown.
Yes, that’s cheaper than hiring a lawyer. But, I have to be real. It pisses me off that some a-hole can STEAL your content and use it for profit for YEARS but YOU have to pay to rectify the situation.
Sending a Cease and Desist
So, this dude has a bad rep online and clearly is a sleaze ball. But, nonetheless, I decided to start by simply sending a Cease and Desist. Look, I know I am no lawyer but I do have rights and I shouldn’t have to pay an attorney to send a letter letting this guy know I mean business.
I can do that all on my own, thankyouverymuch.
If he decides to A) not remove my content and B) continue poaching my shiz…
Well, then, I guess he will be hearing from my lawyer.
If someone stole your social media content, I feel your pain. Literally. Seeing my own words posted as though they were THIS GUY and HIS BRAND makes me feel violated. I realize this is a common problem and probably will happen again.
BUT STILL. 😢
In the future I am going to keep an even closer eye on our content. Particularly on you-know-who.
Have you ever had your social media content or images stolen? How did you deal with it? Share your story and tips, and help others who may be unfortunate victims of this common problem.
Don’t the creators deserve credit for their hard work?