Social media platforms and intellectual property

Author: Preslav Baldzhiev

Everyone has heard of the Land of Opportunities. Now, these opportunities are increasingly provided by the Internet and its social media platforms, which are extremely convenient for all artists, amateurs, and producers. The wide range of people reached by the generated content creates various issues, and one of the most important questions is how to guarantee the rights of authors.

What are Social media platforms?

Simply, Social media platforms are a virtual society in which individuals interact with each other, most commonly exchanging text messages (it is also possible to exchange text files, audio files, or video files). The most popular social media now are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and the platform “TikTok” has a growing market share.

Intellectual property and Users of Social media platforms

Social media solves intellectual property problems in a similar way. The Terms and Conditions of each platform mention that each user is obliged to upload and share copyrighted content or to upload and share content for which he has permission from the author.

To ensure the protection of copyrighted content, all Social media platforms use the simplest system – the Reporting System. It is based entirely on subjective judgment – a user sees content that he/she is the author of, but which is shared by another user without his/her permission. In this case, the author of the content may signal the Social media platform by reporting the shared content under the pretext that this publication infringes his copyright / intellectual property rights.

It is important to note that once content is reported, the user who illegally uploaded or shared it will be notified. With this notification, the Social media platform will enable the reported user to explain his actions – this is an opportunity for the user, not an obligation. It is also possible to have a conversation between the two users, in which they can jointly decide on the use of the content in question.

Platforms such as Facebook and YouTube also use more sophisticated copyright protection systems – a clear example of this is YouTube’s Content ID, which recognizes content registered on it when uploaded by another user.

Social media platforms and Intellectual property of users

In addition to copyrights on content between users, different Social media platforms regulate their relations with the users in the same way for the same intellectual property rights.

It is wrong to believe that publishing content (photo, text, video, or audio file) is a transfer or waiver of copyright or intellectual property rights. In fact, with such uploading of copyrighted content, the user continues to be the holder of copyright/intellectual property rights, but he establishes in favor of Social media platform a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license, which may be subject to subsequent sublicense. The license will remain in effect until the content is deleted or the user account is deleted.

Although the user account is deleted, it is possible that that the content will continue to appear on the platform for various reasons – one of the possible hypotheses is that the content is shared by another user. In this case, the license will remain in effect until the content is deleted by the user who shared it.

It also matters whether the content is published as a private or public publication (or through a private or public account). According to the decision of the case brought before a court in New York, public posts or posts made through public accounts allow Instagram (Social media platform) to give permission to use the published content without infringing the author’s copyright.

Although the US legal system is based on case law, this decision would be crucial to the way other Social media platforms govern relations with their users.


At the moment, Social media platforms can easily be called the stronger party, as they unilaterally regulate the relationship with their user through pre-established Terms and Conditions. Such a decision seems logical, given the huge number of user accounts that have been registered so far, but it is also possible to create relations that are not between equal parties.

This material prepared by Preslav Baldzhiev aims to provide more information about social media platforms and intellectual property. It does not constitute a legal opinion and cannot be interpreted as individual consultation on any concrete facts or circumstances. The advice of a specialist should be obtained for specific questions and situations. For more information on the above-mentioned issues and individual consultations, please contact the team of the law firm of Krasimira Kadieva at 00359 882 308 670 or make an inquiry using the contact form of the website. Since 2017 Preslav Baldzhiev is a law student at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski “, having previously graduated from the High School of mathematics and natural science “Acad. Nicola Obreshkov” in Burgas. In February 2020 he took a course for industrial property representatives at the Patent Office of the Republic of Bulgaria in the field of trademarks, geographical indications, and industrial designs. He is interested in intellectual property, personal data protection, commercial and law on obligations and contracts and also regularly attends conferences, practical courses, seminars, and webinars.

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