The efficient protection of IP rights in social media has always been a challenge. This is due to several factors, among which is the international character of such platforms and the large amount of information uploaded by the minute.
For quite some time now, Facebook has been involved in the protection of trademarks, meanwhile copyright protection has been somewhat left behind probably due to its complex character. It should be noted, though, that the automatizations, which different social media networks implement to ensure IP rights protection, sometimes tend to be quite burdensome for day-to-day business operations. As the first level of decisions on potential IP violations is the product of algorithms rather than of an expert analysis, errors are likely to occur. This may lead to the blocking of business and ad accounts for alleged IP violations, which once reviewed in detail, turn out to be groundless.
Such measures present inconveniences for businesses and may lead to loss of profits. But the other side of the coin is the significant amount of data that must be processed by social media networks and the practical impossibility for the first level of filtering to be handled by experts. Therefore, a careful balance must be reached between the interests of right holders and businesses, on the one hand, and the responsibilities and capabilities of social media networks on the other.
A positive improvement in this regard is the recent introduction by Facebook of a new functionality of its Rights Manager tool, which will help creators and publishers manage and protect their image content via image-matching technology. In other words, Facebook will provide more possibilities for users to have control over their images by claiming ownership over them and consequently, administering their appearances across Facebook and Instagram.
The new functionality, called Rights Manager for Images builds on the IP violations reports process available for Facebook and Instagram, as well as on its already functioning Rights Manager for video content, first introduced back in 2018.
The new functionality will cross-reference uploaded visual content against other uploads across Facebook and Instagram prior to notifying content owners of potential IP violations. Similarly to Facebook’s existing Rights Manager for video content, creators willing to claim control over their intellectual property across Facebook and Instagram will undergo a process of two main steps:
1) Creators provide Facebook with a copy of the images they wish to protect, as well as a CSV file containing image metadata. In order to complete this first step, they do not have to publicly post their images on Facebook or on Instagram – the photos are uploaded to a reference library used by Rights Manager for locating matches across both platforms.
2) Creators determine how to proceed in case matching content is found. They can either simply monitor it, block its use through a takedown request, or attribute credit to themselves via an ownership link. Additionally, creators can also choose whether their ownership will apply only in certain locations or worldwide.
Facebook’s description of the Rights Manager for Images sounds rather promising in terms of efficiency. However, it might prove inefficient for the needs of part of the creators in the Facebook and Instagram community. The new functionality is intended primarily for managers of large content catalogues, who post regularly. It is still recommended that the reporting of individual infringements be carried out through the IP reporting form.
Another interesting new development in the field of IP rights protection in social media is the creation of an Oversight Board aimed at reviewing Facebook or Instagram decisions for content removal. After a careful selection phase, final content decisions made by Facebook or Instagram can be reviewed by the Oversight Board. Once a case is selected, a panel of Board members is assigned to it and is presented with information allowing for an in-depth review. This includes information shared by the person, who submitted the appeal, as well as contextual information from Facebook, in compliance with applicable legal and privacy restrictions. The appeal process results in a binding decision, which may overturn the initial position of the social media. To file an appeal, one must be the holder of an active account, the decision to be appealed should have already been reviewed by Facebook and should fall within the scope of the decisions eligible for appeal. The deadline to file an appeal is 15 days. An interesting detail is that the decisions of the Board will contain grounds and will be published and thus available to the public.