“Sarah” was surprised to see her tweet go viral. It was gathering likes, comments and reshares from thousands of fans. New connections and opportunities should have come her way – had her name been attached to it.
She was a victim of an increasingly common occurrence: copyright theft. An influencer had copied her words and passed them off as her own. Now the influencer was claiming credit and boosting their profile for their “insight”. When challenged, Sarah was blocked. It could have been worse had the thief turned their fans against her.
The pressure to create new content has led to a rapid rise in theft. Fuelled by a perception “it harms no one” and a belief social media content is in the public domain, influencers have taken to stealing other people’s work to keep their fans’ appetites sated.
Your posts aren’t in the public domain
Buried in the terms and conditions no one reads are often reassurances you own the copyright to your content. When you post to LinkedIn, Twitter or most other social networks, you’re granting them a licence to reuse your content. This includes letting others share it through the platform and beyond – as long as they use the “approved methods”. Someone can retweet or reshare your post by tapping the “share” button. They can’t copy and paste the words and post them separately.
If you find someone has done this, the social networks are legally obliged to investigate and remove content that affects your copyright. Sometimes there is an option on the offending post, other times you need to contact the network separately. Either way, once you report it there’s a reasonable chance it will get removed.
DMCA is your copyright upholding friend
The good news is you don’t have to be a user on the site. All you need is the URL to the offending post and you should be able to lodge a complaint. Open your favourite search engine and look for “DMCA request” and the name of the social network (or look through the handy list below).
Copyright theft is a serious business. You can spend a lot of money preparing a piece of content only for a wannabe influencer to rip it off and claim they own it. When this happens you need to be ready to either call them out, or request the social network takes it down.
Appendix: How to Make a Complaint
When you find content online, you should be able to make a “DMCA Request” to have it removed. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a US law that protects both social networks and rights holders. In exchange for protection from copyright claims, social networks have to provide a mechanism for rights holders to complain, investigate complaints and remove offending content.
You don’t need to be a registered used to make a DMCA Request. The links that follow are to DMCA reporting pages on the major social networks.
The “email of shame” list
These companies require requests are sent by email rather than completing online forms. I’ve linked to their TOS pages in case the email addresses change.
Archive.org (email firstname.lastname@example.org)