“The very popularity of that hot video or music track means its owners stand to profit from it. And they may not want others riding on their success and fame.”

Your business’s digital assets have a growing value so it’s important to have an effective management strategy in place to protect them.

Drawing up solid plans for managing corporate and company assets is one thing, but many small businesses are yet to draw up plans for managing an ever-growing number of digital assets – blogs, social media accounts, websites, images, videos and so on.

Copyright plays a big part in digital asset management, and it is paramount that you protect your content from theft and avoid infringing laws pertaining to ownership and intellectual property.

Communications expert and senior vice president for daily deal site Eliyahu Federman provides a good pop culture example to illustrate this, referencing the way images, videos or music can be appropriated by businesses and brands, and then shared on social media – often going viral as a result.

“The very popularity of that hot video or music track means its owners stand to profit from it. And they may not want others riding on their success and fame… we learned that lesson recently when we promoted the launch of our app for Android mobile devices. To celebrate we posted a video of our employees performing the Harlem Shake alongside a life-size Android bot costume.”

What we didn’t know was that Baauer, the producer and recording artist, was battling a copyright lawsuit over the track as a result of claims he has used samples of copyrighted songs without permission. As a result, Facebook automatically delete all Harlem Shake videos, including Federman’s.

Popular image-sharing platform Pinterest is another case in point. While the site manages to skirt copyright laws, it doesn’t mean your ‘pins’ or brand are completely protected. The site takes advantage of a provision in the Internet Service Providers Act to protect itself, but you are liable if you upload an image you do not own. On the other hand, if you upload an image that you do not own to your website or blog and don’t want others sharing it, you can opt out your website from Pinterest by inserting a blocking code.

“Sharing [content] is the idea behind websites such as Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and scores of others. Although the concept of online sharing seems magnanimous, it is not without legal implications, particularly related to ownership and infringement of intellectual property,” says Mary Ann L Wymore (officer at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale) in a Bloomberg Law article, adding there is much on social that can violate copyright law.

“Copyright holders have various exclusive rights in their creative works, such as the right to reproduce, distribute and publicly display the copyrighted material.”

She suggests obtaining a permit or license of the copyrighted material from the owner, but admits that “the average social media user stands little chance of obtaining such authorisation, especially with celebrity or corporate sources, and likely does not have the time or desire to seek permission for every piece of copyrighted material he or she pins.”

Another option is to explore the terms and conditions of the site the content appears on or work through Flickr or Google, which often contain authorised material. Another alternative is to assess whether the intended use of another’s work falls under the realm of a ‘fair use’, which is a statutory defence to copyright infringement.

With respect to permission, another avenue to explore for authorisation is the terms and conditions of the various sites on which the copyrighted material is found.

“Social media has become part of the fabric of our culture and is very likely here to stay. With a bit of careful thought and an ounce of caution, there is no need to shy away from it whether you are pinning, posting, tweeting, or liking for fun or to promote your business,” she says.

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