With the rise of the social media “influencer,” intellectual property touches a broader range of people than ever before. Influencers’ monetization of their content also drives the need to protect that content from reproduction or misappropriation. The most important areas of intellectual property for influencers are copyrights, trademarks, and publicity rights.
The Copyright Act provides owners or creators of photographs, videos, blog posts, audio compositions, and other creative works exclusive rights to copy, distribute, and reproduce their materials. It allows influencers to register TikTok videos, tweets, Instagram posts, audio recordings, and more with the United States Copyright Office (USCO). Among other things, a copyright registration provides a record and presumption of ownership, the ability to file a copyright infringement lawsuit, and enhanced damages.
A trademark is “any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services.” For influencers, their name and handle are often their brand. They should therefore consider protecting their brand by applying with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to register their name and/or social media handle.
A “right of publicity” is a separate intellectual property right that protects someone’s name and likeness. These rights—which are typically aimed at protecting famous people—can be statutory or common law and vary by state. Texas, for example, recognizes both a right of publicity for living and deceased individuals.
Through intellectual property protection, there are several ways for influencers to increase the value of their name, handle, and content, and leverage others to stop imitating them online. To do so, contact us today.