Intellectual Property and Social Media


This afternoon I am at the Harvard Club in New York City participating in Social Media: Risks & Rewards, an Incisive Media event. These are my notes from this session. Now that you are in social media, how do you deal with trademark and copyright issues? How do you protect them?


  • Valerie L. Boccadoro, Senior Intellectual Property Counsel of Toys R Us
  • Lesley Rosenthal, Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
  • Robert Ambrogi, Attorney of Law Office of Robert Ambrogi

Bob started off with a 12 part copyright quiz.

  1. Linking is not copyright infringement
  2. If it does not say it’s copyrighted, it’s not protected. False.
  3. As long as someone uses only uses an except they are free to republish it as fair use? False.
  4. If a material is copied for non-commercial use, it okay? No.
  5. A tweet is not protected by copyright law? False.
  6. If it’s old, I am free to use it. False.
  7. I am not liable for copyright infringement committed by others on my site. False (There are protections to the site owner, but you need to meet the specific requirements.)
  8. As the publisher I am free to grant permission to use material posted on my site. False. The writer holds the copyright.
  9. If I paid for it to be created, I own the copyright. False. This is subject to the “work for hire rules.”
  10. The copyright owner retains control of material posted to a social networking. False. (Although it may depend on the site and its term of service.)
  11. If it’s under a creative commons license, it is free to reuse. False. Creative commons is just a licensing structure.
  12. If material is posted anonymously, it is not copyright protected. False. The creator still holds the copyright.

Valerie was up next. Social media does not create any new rights. But things do move faster. There are things that they should do. First, you should do site sweeps, checking out sites and see how people are using your trademarks. The second step is to consider whether to enforce the trademark against the third party. Valerie provided a series of legal issues to consider and business issues to consider. The third step is report problems to the sites. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have procedures for dealing with these issues. The fourth step is the traditional enforcement. Start with asking before bringing in the lawyers. The reality is that you cannot stop all infringement.

Last up was Lesley. She pointed out that non-profits have many of the same issues as businesses. She focuses on educating the people in her organization. Lincoln Center has several Facebok pages and Twitter handles. They are experiencing astronomic growth in fans and followers. They have lots of focus on clearing rights in their publications. You need to enforce or you risk abandonment of the mark.