Intellectual Property in Social Networking


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An overview of trademark, copyright, libel, defamation, FTC and other issues related to the use of social networking services such as MySpace, Facebook and twitter.

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Intellectual Property in Social Networking

  1. 1. Intellectual Property Issues in Social Networking Gary A. Pierson
  2. 2. Three Questions: • What is social networking? • Why should I care? • What are the IP issues?
  3. 3. What is social networking? Social network services feature: - communities of users organized around interests, activities or relationships - ways to communicate, interact and share information
  4. 4. What is social networking? MySpace Facebook Twitter LinkedIn And many more. . .
  5. 5. MySpace • Founded in 2003 and initially used primarily by students • Users create profile pages and groups of friends; pages typically can be viewed by the public • Very popular in music and other creative industries
  6. 6. Facebook • Designed by and for college students, opened to public in September of 2006 • Users create groups of “friends,” send messages and update their personal profiles • Also features “Networks” based around geographic region, school, profession, interests, etc.
  7. 7. twitter • Launched in 2006 • Users create messages no longer than 140 characters and select which users to receive messages from or “follow” • “Tweets” can include links to distribute content • Notable “twits” include Shaquille O’Neal, Ashton Kutcher, Barack Obama, Sen. Claire McCaskill
  8. 8. LinkedIn • Launched in 2003 • Allows users to maintain a list of “connections” featuring the contact details of people they know and trust in business • A user’s “network” consists of second and third-degree connections which facilitates introductions through mutual, trusted contacts
  9. 9. Why should I care? – Facebook: 300 million users – MySpace: 268 million users – Twitter: 18 million users (active) – LinkedIn: 48 million users
  10. 10. What are the IP issues? • Trademark issue: Username abuse -a.k.a twittersquatting, usersquatting, brandsquatting, impersonation, etc. - Estimated that over 90% of top 100 brands don’t own their twitter username - Each service has procedures for dealing with abuse
  11. 11. What are the IP issues? • Trademark issue: enforcement? -Do you need to police how users are talking about your brand in tweets, status updates, etc.? -Does it matter if your brand has a presence on the service?
  12. 12. What are the IP issues? • Copyright issue: Who owns the content? -Text of status updates, tweets, etc. -Photos, video, articles posted or distributed through one of the services
  13. 13. What are the IP issues? • Libel/defamation suits: -Simorangkir v. Love: fashion designer sues musician after payment dispute turns ugly and public -Neiditch v. Acar : NY condo board sues twitter, users and domain name registrar for $190 million in damages
  14. 14. What are the IP issues? • Who owns the friends, followers and connections? -Can an employer prevent an employee from taking their social networks with them when they leave? -Important consideration for journalists, authors and other content creators
  15. 15. What are the IP issues? • FTC regulation? -New guidelines require “clear and conspicuous” disclosure when endorsers have received products or compensation -Specifically includes bloggers -FTC stressed that they intend to enforce primarily against the advertiser
  16. 16. Thank you! Gary A. Pierson Husch Blackwell Sanders 314-345-6236 twitter: @gpierson