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Who Owns Your Facebook Posts?

Do you know who owns the posts to your social media accounts?
Under copyright law, the creator of the social media post owns the rights to that post.  The various social media companies—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest— acknowledge this fact and, in their Terms and Conditions, recognize that you are giving them a license to publish your posts.  That means that if you have a social media consultant creating posts for your Facebook or Twitter accounts, that consultant owns the rights to that post.  If you plan to sell your business, you would have to get permission from that consultant before including your social media accounts in that sale.
Same goes if you have a photographer taking photographs for you and adding those photos to your Instagram or Pinterest accounts.  The photographer retains the rights to those photos and the post.  You would be violating that photographer’s intellectual property rights if you use those posts in any other promotional materials. 
To acquire the rights to these posts, here is what you should do:

•    Employees:  Under the law, employers retain the rights to any works created by their employees, which have been created at the direction of the employer.  However, to avoid any confusion, you should include a provision in your employee handbook, which assigns to you the intellectual property rights to any works created. 
•    Consultants: If you hire a consultant to manage your social media account, you should have that consultant sign an agreement, which includes, among other items, a provision that assigns all of the intellectual property rights to you.
You also need to ensure that your social media posts are not infringing on someone else’s intellectual property rights.  You do not want your consultant or employee taking someone else’s copyrighted materials and using those materials in your account.  Other than the fact that it looks bad, you could also be liable for your employee’s or consultant’s actions.  To prevent any infringement, also include a provision in your employee handbook or your consulting agreement that prohibits the use of copyrighted materials without the consent of the author.
If you have questions about the ownership of your social media accounts or other emerging technology issues, contact a member of our Emerging Technology Practice Group.
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