Increasing Copyright Protection for Social Media Users by Expanding Social Media Platforms’ Rights

By: Ryan Wichtowski

Social media platforms allow users to share their creative works with the world. Users take great advantage of this functionality, as Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, and WhatsApp users alone uploaded 1.8 billion photos per day in 2014. Under the terms of service and terms of use agreements of most U.S. based social media platforms, users retain ownership of this content, since they only grant social media platforms nonexclusive licenses to their content. While nonexclusive licenses protect users vis-à-vis the social media platforms, these licenses preclude social media platforms from bringing copyright infringement claims on behalf of their users against infringers of user content under the Copyright Act of 1976. Since the average cost of litigating a copyright infringement case might be as high as two million dollars, the average social media user cannot protect his or her content against copyright infringers. To remedy this issue, Congress should amend 17 U.S.C. § 501 to allow social media platforms to bring copyright infringement claims against those who infringe their users’ content. Through this amendment, Congress would create a new protection for social media users while ensuring that users retain ownership over the content they create.
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Cite: 15 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 253

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