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Social Media "Trending" Format and Copyrights

Ritika Singh

Indore Institute of Law


Copyright is intended to motivate the creativity of authors and not to impede the efforts put in to create the work. With the increase in the popularity of social media, the “Trending” format has become new normal. This has normalized the duplication of ideas or concepts, which gives rise to Bandwagons and Copyright Infringements and leaving the original authors in distress.


In the social media era, brands often use a creative format or template that is conceptualized by one agency and change it a little to bounce on the bandwagon. Brands don't just take ‘inspiration’, they use almost the same template and put their logo on it without seeking consent from the creator and call it their format. Social media has normalized replicating one brand's idea for another by calling it a 'trend.' Hardly anyone has a ‘unique & original voice’ any more, everything today is a copy of a copy of a copy, for instance, take Snapchat’s stories, Twitter Stories, Instagram Stories & Facebook Stories.

After all, advertising is a business of ideas & expressions, and without these, no agency or organization would exist. After the emergence of social media, however, agencies have violated their own code of conduct about idea duplication that they have been following throughout recent years. It has become convenient for brands to adopt original ideas and formats on social media, in the name of ‘trends’, to grab people’s attention


We automatically get copyright protection as soon as we create original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic work, including illustration and photography, as well as original non-literary written work such as software code.[1] Unlike a patent or trademark, we don’t need to register your work to be protected.

Digital content that can be copyrighted are blogs, screen displays, social media posts, hashtags, short online articles, apps, photos, and website content.


When we sign up on platforms like YouTube or Twitter, through their “terms of services” they opt license to our work and it allows other users to share the content or ideas through the same platform.

We own the intellectual property rights (things such as copyright or trademarks) in any such content that we create and share on Facebook and the other Facebook Company Products you use. But it opts for a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, and worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate and create derivative works of your content. The same goes with Pinterest.

This makes it easier for other people to use the work or exploit the work.


Counterfeit products are sold on social media pages using advertisements, business trademarks, products having the same packaging, or design of reputed e-commerce websites.


The extent of increase in Facebook accounts, AdWords, and copyright piracy becomes complex to find when, where & who infringed the IP. It pushes the role and liability of intermediaries such as search engines, web hosts, internet service providers intermediaries, and trade portals into the spotlight.


The risks of sharing on social media aren’t just restricted to content creators or brands. If someone posts a video or image online without mentioning the source correctly or without the permission of the creator, one could be infringing on their IP rights.


Often brands or businesses add licensed music in the background to their videos, which they were uploading on social media accounts to advertise their products or to promote themselves. One can get it with fees for using the music itself.


● By registering your copyright on Copyright Office & then, including a ‘copyright notice’ when you post your work on any social media platform. i.e. using the copyright symbol © with your name and possibly the year of creation, next to your work. This encourages people to seek permission if they wish to use or reproduce the work.

● By adding Digital Watermarks i.e. Place your brand name and/or logo somewhere on the image or video or any other work.

● Sharing low-resolution digital work but not unobtrusive, no one wants to be unnoticeable if someone goes looking for it.

● Read all the terms of services/ use a platform mentions and accordingly, post the content. Link work back to your website, where you have control of your terms and conditions. Otherwise, you’re just operating under their terms and conditions.

● Keeping track of the work, images you publish, and which social media platforms you’ve published them on. This may help you in the event of an infringement and file complaints faster.

● Before taking legal action, you may consider contacting the third party responsible in an attempt to resolve the dispute or by using the report options available on the platform or by filling the takedown form/ procedure on the help option.


While one might argue that a brand, business, or people just take inspiration from the original idea, the bandwagon can help another one become more popular and even viral but this leaves the brainchild behind the trend’s idea feel betrayed and bubbling in rage.

The same law that we apply to the analogical world is also applicable to the online world in the context of social media sites, we require to protect our IP rights and respect others’ rights as well.

[1] Sec. 2(y) of Copyright Act 1957

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