January 04, 2013 Articles

Think Twice Before Posting Online

Users concerned with maintaining their rights under copyright law should consider the consequences of posting any materials on social-networking sites.

By Jillian A. Centanni

Popular social-networking sites have become an integral part of many people's daily lives.  According to a recent issue of Crain's New York Business magazine, for the month of June 2012, the three most popular social-networking sites were Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. See NYC's Top Social-Networking Sites, Crain's New York Business. In fact, Facebook overwhelmingly had 9,123,000 unique New York metropolitan visitors, whereas LinkedIn had 3,093,000 visitors, and Twitter had 2,618,000 visitors. Id. Further, Crain's notes that 46 percent of New Yorkers use Facebook and only one in 10 have Twitter accounts. Id.

Since the inception of these social- networking sites (Facebook in 2004; LinkedIn in 2003; and Twitter in 2006), people have anxiously been signing up for accounts and immediately posting materials such as pictures, videos, and text without knowing what the terms are in their user agreements. This brief article will answer the following questions: What laws cover posting materials (i.e., pictures, videos, text) on social-networking sites? Does the online service provider (OSP) face any liability when an account holder posts materials that infringe another's copyrights? Are the user agreements the same for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter? Who owns material once it is posted on a social- networking site? Does an original owner give up any rights by posting material on social- networking sites?

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