Social media influencers now hold a lot of power to influence people to buy products or go for a service. This power comes with a lot of responsibility. With thousands of followers, they must follow the rules and guidelines to keep them in check. It is easy for a mistake to occur, leading to a misunderstanding that can ruin a brand. So influencers need to be aware of the legalities that surround social media influencers. If they break the rules, it can lead to penalties and fines, which can be costly. Here are the top five legal rules that influencers should follow on social media.
When an influencer is advertising or endorsing a product on social media, they have to disclose any payment they receive. The rule ensures that the followers are aware of the partnership between the company and the influencer. It promotes honesty and trust between the influencer and their followers. It can be in posts or videos. There has to be a disclosure, even before leading a client to follow a link. The follower now must know you have received payment for promoting the product.
The influencer also needs to disclose any relationship they have with the brand. If a family produces the brand, they have to mention it. They also need to say if it is a brand they work under. But if it’s a product they use and tell people about it, they have no real ties to it. There is no need to disclose in this case.
Messages on social media already have difficulty with the issue of censorship. The problem of trying to police the content on social media is already tricky. Amendments are there toward censorship, especially towards hate speech and false speech. Influencers need to make sure they do not find themselves in this bracket. Influencers need to ensure their content is clean because they don’t know the age of their followers. They must be sure not to offend their audience, or they will be reported.
Trademark Infringements tend to be a slippery slope in Influencer marketing. Posting content that is not by the influencer may violate another’s intellectual property, copyright, trademark rights, or the terms of service. Additionally, suppose a social media influencer makes direct references to the products or services of another company. In that case, this is branded content. The influencer must seek specific authorization to use the name of another firm in her advertising or endorsements.
An influencer’s promotion mustn’t infringe on or impair the intellectual property rights of others. In general, “intellectual property” (IP) refers to the laws governing patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.
Regardless of their objectives, an influencer may face severe fines if proven guilty of infringing intellectual property laws on social media. A plaintiff in an intellectual property infringement case may seek monetary damages of up to $75,000.00 per infringement. They can also get a court order to delete or cease posting breaching content.
While an injunction may only force an influencer to cease infringing activities. It may also require the influencer to relinquish control of their content, including social media accounts. Undoubtedly, the severity of the infringement has a role in the outcome of every case.
Copyright protects “original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression” from infringement. Social networking platforms allow users to freely share content such as images, movies, and other digital files. This eventually results in the unauthorized dissemination of copyrighted material.
All of the following are instances of possible copyright infringements that a social media influencer may face:
Suppose an Instagram influencer did not develop the content she shares on social media. In that case, she is unlikely to be able to use it without the owner’s consent under copyright regulations.
Some influencers have fallen victim to lawsuits due to sharing or using seemingly public information in campaigns. Individuals have the right to sue if you use their information or content without their consent. The use of images found on popular sites such as Instagram and Facebook without permission is unacceptable. It is even worse if they become part of a paid campaign.
Another area of concern is the use of images taken in public spaces where there are bystanders. Images with other people’s names or images cannot be part of paid promotions. One can argue that no one took the time and effort to seek permission from them to be part of the campaign. And if an influencer monetizes this content, they can face a lawsuit for potential copyright infringement. If the image involves a celebrity or public figure, the lawsuit can be financially damaging. A right of publicity claim is usually the result of such situations. The right of publicity dictates the right to use a name, identity, and likeness for monetary purposes.
This is why influencers need to avoid using images, likenesses, and other such content relating to celebrities. Using such content in a promotion or other monetized posts violates the right to publicity and can lead to financial ruin. In situations where there is consent to use specific images, influencers need to use them in the proper context. A celebrity permitting an image doesn’t mean one can use it in potentially damaging campaigns. Potentially embarrassing or offending contexts can lead to lawsuits.
By the nature of their jobs, social media influencers have access to any data or information. Some of this data can be sensitive. In some cases, it could involve trade secrets. Brands are very particular about certain people having access to this information. This is why influencers need to understand the importance of some of their information. Information such as client lists in the wrong hands can be very damaging if a rival brand gets access to it. As an influencer, one should treat this information with care and not pass it on to other parties.
Intellectual property entrusted with influencers remains the brand’s property and cannot be shared. Sharing of this information can have grave consequences. Furthermore, specific material is not for certain platforms.
In every industry following the rules and regulations is important. There have to be boundaries and lines to protect consumers. For influencers to remain on the right side, it is best to seek legal assistance so that they remain safe. There are lawyers who are always willing to help with the process. Better to be safe than to pay hefty penalties.