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Digital Rights Management in the Age of Social Media

Today, social media is a foundational pillar for companies with regard to their brands, communication and dissemination of their products and services. Unfortunately, it can also pose major risks via open content sharing. For this reason, it’s never been more important for a business to have a digital rights management (DRM) plan supported by an intellectual property law firm in the age of social media.

DRM is about controlling access to copyrighted/licensed material through technology. In practice, it encompasses how this content is stored, disseminated and controlled in all aspects of usage across social media and other channels. DRM works holistically with digital asset management (DAM) to ensure that intellectual property (IP) is optimized for safety. This requires rules enforcing its use, dissemination and monitoring as well as clear and automatic protocols covering potential infringement and legal actions for each use case.

Businesses in the digital age must package content in the form of protected text, images, video and other IP assets. This can and will be used across social media channels to promote/sell brands and products as well as inform and interact with customers. Doing this safely requires strong DAM that adheres to meticulous DRM methods and protocols.

This entails not only keeping track of how those assets exist in-house, but how, when and where they are distributed and used across social media. Although social media sites have certification agreements stating that the poster holds the IP rights to content that they post, companies want their hashtags and posts to be freely shared.

Problems arise when the poster makes modifications or uses the brand communication in a way that infringes on the copyright. Social media platforms cannot and should not provide policing of this type of use beyond their own ethical and moral clauses. Consequently, companies must have a way to monitor and respond when necessary.

Digital rights management in social media requires thorough and constantly updated knowledge of the practices guiding information technology law to ensure that a business’ IP is used properly. The above example would apply to the use of hashtags by the company, but users may not understand the limits of fair use, which is often misunderstood by brands as well. Although companies want their content to be shared across social media, they must still have protocols in place to make sure that the usage meets legal and ethical standards. The average end user may have little knowledge of licensing and the law, so that can pose a high risk for brands without DRM in place. Knowing how to monitor as well as when and how to respond to a user violation of those rights via social media requires support from an experienced intellectual property law firm. They will be instrumental in helping to create and enforce a content licensing and permission policy.

DRM is a cornerstone of strong Intellectual Property Rights Management (IPRM) in the digital and social media age. It is vital for controlling, monitoring and documenting use of those assets, which is the key to business growth. Here is where DRM and DAM work symbiotically to govern content and other IP asset management and dissemination for a company’s marketing, branding and sales uses.

DRM encompasses protocols for media channels/platforms. It also encompasses time and place usage of specific images, logos, slogans and other assets utilized across social media for campaigns. Videos may hold a compendium of assets that have layers of rights where IP is tied to other legal contracts and release clauses.

Companies are in the best position to protect IP when DRM combines the specific IP with usage, security and access rights information and safeguards. Putting it all together for the front end and the back end is complex. DRM protects IP on the front end before it’s released to social media. IP is also protected on the back end through clear monitoring and intellectual property law protocols for dealing with possible infringement.

The fact is that many businesses lack the legal expertise to create a DRM strategy. They also lack expertise in intellectual property law where legislation, regulations and legal processes surrounding copyrights, trademarks and other IP assets are constantly changing.

The good news is that while new media technologies and rules to govern them are evolving, so are new technologies that work to safeguard IP on social media and beyond such as blockchain and smart contracts. A sound DRM strategy must cover every aspect of IP protection. This requires the support of an intellectual property law firm to help create the protection strategy approach to avoid and handle potential infringement risks that can damage a brand and the bottom line.


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