Social Media and Intellectual Property: Should You Spend Your Time Preparing?

Oct 15, 2012   //   by AmandaD   //   SEO Blog  //  21 Comments

Many businesses are excited to share ideas and start conversations on social media—and they should be. It isn’t always easy to get people to really connect with your accounts and participate in your discussions, so you want to do what you can to be impressive and earn some engagement. Unfortunately, sometimes sharing all of your ideas on social networks can backfire, and most small businesses aren’t prepared.

Getting your readers interested in an idea or a great contest is never a bad thing, but you want to take precautions to make sure that someone out there isn’t stealing your idea. Most businesses have heard of “intellectual property,” but now the term is being brought into the social media world.

What is Intellectual Property and How Does It Work With Social Media?

For those who are unfamiliar, intellectual property is and idea that you own when it is published or printed (so on social media). Even though you may not have a patent or official documentation, it is your intellectual property. When things go wrong, someone steals you’re idea, he/she gets the credit, and you get to watch someone else get rich. Someone stealing a company’s intellectual property can usually just go right over to a Facebook page or LinkedIn account, check it out as if he/she was just a normal reader, steal a few ideas, and leave. It’s as simple as that.

Fortunately, there are measures that small businesses can take to protect what is said on their social accounts. A few of these precautions include:

  • Google Alerts: Set up Google Alerts to track certain key terms or your company name. This will help you see when these things pop up online.
  • Trademark: Before you set up your social media accounts, make sure that your company has a trademark to help protect the name. If you have any strong ideas that you want patented, do this before posting on social accounts.
  • Scheduling Tools: Consider using social scheduling tools (Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, etc.) to track your company name and keywords. This focuses on social media as opposed to the web like Google Alerts.

It is also worth mentioning that it isn’t always a good idea to take action when it comes to intellectual property. If you think someone has stolen an idea, talk with that person to determine if it was unintentional. In most cases, the person will remove whatever is bothering you. It’s also not a good idea to take action if you’re benefitting from someone trying to use your company name—it’s only when your business is in jeopardy that you should take the next step.

What to Do When You Want to Take Action about an Intellectual Property Issue

Taking action involves some research. First, you will want to read up on the “terms of service” of the social network account where you think the intellectual property issue occurred. These pages usually help you see what steps you can take. Next, file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice to hopefully block the website that has stolen your idea from Google. Lastly, you’ll want to talk with a legal professional to determine the final process.

While it may seem easy, this is a new issue. Many small businesses simply don’t even realize this is a problem until it’s too late. People have been dealing with intellectual property issues for many years, but the issue with regards to social media is new. The sooner your company gets prepared, the better.

Has your company ever been a victim in a similar situation? Is this something that concerns you when you think about your business? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for Highervisibility, a nationally recognized SEO firm that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.

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  • Thank you for sharing this information. Rights to intellectual property had been an issue for such a long time. Credits to the tools, stealing an intellectual property, plagiarism and the like are easily tracked nowadays.

  • Himadri says:

    Yes,The point is valid.The number of social media is increasing in an alarming rate and i think that if we do not decide which social media we need to use and in which way we need to spend our time, we will be in trouble to make time management.

  • Glad you both agree. Interestingly enough, this wasn’t really something that ever crossed my mind. I heard the term one day and started thinking about how it all works with social media–and it IS blurry. Good to know there are measures you can take. Thanks for reading!

  • Abhishek says:

    Thanks Amanda for bringing this issue of intellectual property. Many of us are not aware about this thing. Loved the info you have shared here.

  • Fatima says:

    Intellectual property should be a concern for all of us and we should make more conscious choices when it comes to social networking. Thanks for the great share.

  • Saurabh Rai says:

    ahaaa thanks for sharing this, I got it, I was searching it since long whether I should spend or not

  • I think so much helpful article of yours about social media and intellectual property. I like your article very much i also agree with you about your post. Thanks a lot for your useful topic.

  • Trent says:

    This is genuinely stellar advice, Amanda. As Social Media avenues have opened up and it has become easier than ever before for the average ‘Joe’ or ‘Jane’ to launch their own online business/website/social media campaigns, the issues of I.P and trademarks can easily go unattended. Most of these people aren’t professionals and rarely have a business background so pressing matters such as protecting your trademarks never enter their frame of mind.

    Posts like this are really beneficial and you’ve written it in a highly engaging and articulate fashion. It is clear to see why you’ve got the job that you do. I really enjoyed it and I’ll be back for more. Thanks for taking the time!

  • Simon Geiger says:

    Thanks for sharing Armanda . Guess many people don’t kow how to deal with those issues

  • RajKumar

    You have efficiently spotted light on intellectual property. It is the real treasure of a person. It has to be dealt and protected the best way. Its protection and knwoing about it is a must when you are a part of web.:)
    Thanks for the share.:)

  • The company I work with has never been a victim of such a situation but I am glad that you shared. I will have to share with my people so that they can know how to tackle those issues.

  • Victoria

    Thank you for the post – too many people really don’t understand that the fact they were first to think of something is not enough and do not pay attention to it until it;s too late. It’s especially crucially for small business owners who do not have in-house lawyers.

  • Thanks so much for reading everyone, and I’m sorry I haven’t been back sooner to check out your great comments. It seems like everyone is in agreement that this really is an issue–and it’s an even bigger issue because people never think about it! It’s not a concern that is talked about much, so here’s to changing that 🙂

  • Paul Profitt

    Hi Amanda,stealing intellectual property is words that greedy lawyers love to hear, because it will be so hard to prove that someone has stolen an idea. A court case like that could drag on for years. You only have to look at Google to see an example of this.

  • I did not go into how long the court cases would take and what goes into that process, so I think you make a great point. It’s something to consider when you decide whether or not you should take legal action.

  • aaslin says:

    Good article. it really is the question of many. intellectual property is one huge complex stuff to be clear off. you have well elaborated the nature of this important factor essential for life. thanks for providing such useful info. it was worthy reading your article. looking forward for more from you.

  • Wonderful post!Content in my Facebook page was copied several times by many people and i suffered many losses due to it.From this post i came to know about DMCA which helps in protecting the content and I am definitely going to use it.Thanks!g

  • Veronica says:

    Just like waiting for the right person, creating intellectual property that’s fed with pure dedication and a lot of time goes a long way compared to those items that are not well thought of and sold in the online marketing world.

  • Ron says:

    This is such a huge problem in so many areas. I have had an online business for over 12 years…a few different businesses actually. My current business has been stolen; that is to say, everything on my site that I BOUGHT with my hard earned money, bought the rights to resell has been stolen. My whole site was duplicated and now they are selling everything that I worked so hard to put up and tweak. We have no recourse other than contacting paypal every single time they open a new account. Since they are not in the US there is nothing we know of that we can do legally to stop them. The host refuses to shut them down. We have a Cease and Desist and that will be our last recourse. It is sad that this is what people have come to, that there is no trust online anymore, that you have to be so careful. I hope others get as much help and info as you have posted because these days you do need to know your rights and be prepared!! Thanks for all the info and tips!

  • Ron, that is an AWFUL story and I’m so sorry to hear that! I think you bring up a great point about dealing with those outside the US. The Internet industry is all about working with people around the world, and in most cases I think this is a positive, but it can certainly be a negative.

    Does anyone have any advice about what Ron can do?!

  • Carl

    Recently I found a person that used to impersonate me on one of the social networks. I also followed similar guide and receiving Google Alerts. I think I’ve handled the situation after reporting face profiles.