Social media influencing has become a major business model in Florida and around the world. Individuals and businesses alike recognize the role that these people can play in drawing eyes to a brand or marketing campaign. Online personas with thousands or even millions of followers can have significant power in the marketplace.
However, individuals and businesses working in this capacity need to understand how federal laws create regulations for social media influencers. While the internet has a reputation for being a place where you can say anything, laws exist concerning deceptive trade practices and intellectual property protection. Consult with a trusted social media lawyer who could help you understand how laws affect influencers and develop a plan to remain in compliance with all relevant regulations.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a federal regulatory group that recommends laws to promote fair business practices around the county. With the rise of influencer culture in the 21st century, the FTC created new rules that apply to the sponsoring of products by third parties outside the scope of traditional employment and advertising.
Companies selling a good or service have an obligation under the law to provide truthful information about that product. The same applies to influencers. Social media influencers providing their endorsement of a product on YouTube, Instagram, or other platform must do all they can to provide accurate information about the item. At the same time, they must provide their honest opinions or experiences with that product during their endorsement. The FTC has published a guide that provides more information about the rules that govern online influencer sponsorships as forms of endorsement. Talking with an internet law attorney could help influencers and the companies hiring them to better understand their obligations regarding accurate descriptions of their products.
People working as – or with – influencers also need to remain aware of the questions concerning intellectual property that this arrangement can raise. You should always recognize that the companies hold patent and trademark rights over the products or services in question. For example, a cosmetics company making a new shade of lipstick may hire an influencer to promote their product on a YouTube channel. As long as the company has registered its chemical formula with the USPTO, they retain the sole authority to produce or license out the right to make the product.
However, a more interesting question concerns the content that the influencer is placing on social media. In simple terms, the creators of content on social media own that content and can register it for copyright protection. Still, placing this material on a public forum makes it easier for others to steal or otherwise misappropriate it. An intellectual property attorney like Lorri Lomnitzer could provide more information about IP protection as it applies to influencer and company relations.
Federal law has been scrambling to catch up with recent changes in online practices. A major example of this is influencers who may secure jobs to promote the products of companies. When working as an influencer, the FTC requires these people to follow fair trade practices, which includes disclosing their role as a sponsor and providing accurate information about the product.
At the same time, questions may arise concerning who owns the content that influencers create. While there is no doubt that the hiring company retains rights to trademarks and patents that the products use, the content that influencers create remains theirs and qualifies for copyright protection. Our team of qualified lawyers at Lomnitzer Law could provide you with more information about best practices regarding influencer agreements and postings.