How to Avoid Social Media Compliance Lawsuits: An Influencer’s Guide

Social media compliance is an extremely important part of being a content creator or influencer. Unfortunately, failing to adhere to social media law could mean the end of your social accounts – or worse, the end of your career 😨.

Believe it or not, penalties for violating Internet laws often amount to upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars! Obviously, a charge like that would be extremely detrimental to many creators.

Therefore, it’s important for your brand that you stay up to date on social media compliance.

If you’re looking for some guidance on social media law and avoiding copyright strikes, privacy lawsuits, and other potential hazards ⚠️, check out some tips and tricks below:

✔️ Utilize the doctrine of fair use ✔️

If you ever use copyrighted material on your social media pages, blog posts ✍️, website, or other digital platform, you must be familiar with the copyright doctrine of fair use.

“Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances” (via copyright.gov). 

More specifically, the “certain circumstances” of fair use depend on the following:

Purpose and character of use

Fair use allows creators to legally use copyrighted content without the original artist’s permission provided that they transform 🌀 the art and make it their own. 

Appropriate forms of transformation include critique, commentary, reaction, education, and news reporting.

For example, a YouTuber using a clip from a popular television show to comment 💬 on the script and educate viewers on screenwriting would probably pass as fair use.

Furthermore, non-commercial uses of art are much more likely to pass as fair use than commercial or for-profit purposes. For instance, using copyrighted material in a promotional Instagram post is much riskier than doing so in a post that is not associated with a brand deal.

Nature of the work

Fair use also depends on what kind of material you’re using. For example, educational or instructional material, such as newspapers 📰 or other nonfiction writing, is much less likely to incite copyright infringement charges than creative content like films or music.

Amount used

Typically, social media platforms will flag copyrighted material that appears in a post for longer than 10 seconds ⏱️.

As a result, I always recommend that my clients use no more than one to three seconds of audio or visual material when depending on fair use for protection.

Effect of use on the market

Finally, social media compliance law and the doctrine of fair use state that your use of copyrighted material should NOT 🙅‍♂️ take away any revenue from the original artist.

Likewise, you should not be earning profits as a direct result of the copyrighted material.

✔️ Update your privacy policy ✔️

As a content creator, you have the responsibility to protect 🛡️ your followers when they navigate the web. 

While your social media accounts are almost always protected by the platforms’ policies, you are responsible for creating appropriate privacy policies for any website to which your social account directs your followers.

Therefore, ALL influencers should be comfortable with and up to date on major privacy laws, including the following:

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

Passed by Congress in 1998, the Children’s 👶 Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires all websites that collect data from children under the age of 13 to disclose and obtain permission from the children’s guardians. 

Most typically, FTC penalties for COPPA violations result from mislabeled or mischaracterized websites and social accounts. 

For example, many self-proclaimed adult-oriented websites have faced million dollar penalties 💰 by the FTC after the government agency decided that the websites did indeed appeal to kids.

In other words, even if you have not labeled your YouTube channel as “safe for kids”, characteristics like animated characters could alert the FTC of child-directed content.

Therefore, all content creators should consult a social media lawyer to ensure their content is COPPA compliant ✅. 

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

While intended to protect Californian consumers, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is not ❌ only applicable to content creators who live in the state of California. 

In fact, any brand of a specified size whose followers live in California is legally required to comply with the CCPA.

As a result, if you direct your followers to a website on which you sell merchandise or otherwise conduct business, contact ☎️ a social media attorney to learn if you must abide by CCPA guidelines.

✔️ Read everything ✔️

Whether you’re a Twitch livestreamer, a fashion influencer, or another type of content creator, you should get in the habit of reading the terms of use and conditions of every platform and piece of content you use.

For example, many online gamers fail to recognize that livestreaming their game play 🎮 may in fact be in violation of social media compliance laws!

Think of it this way: video games have a plethora of copyrights attached to them, including video, images, characters, sound effects, and music .

Therefore, if you fail to read the terms and conditions on a game developer’s website, you may be violating copyright law by broadcasting your game play. This noncompliance subjects your videos to possible DMCA takedowns ⬇️ and potentially even channel termination! 

That being said, if you take a look at the terms and conditions of the games you want to livestream, you will probably find the option to obtain a direct license or use a general license. 

While gamers must request direct licenses with a lengthy application process, a general license may automatically grant you the right to publish the game online. However, it’s impossible to know whether a game comes with a general license without referring to the terms and conditions first ☝️.

Similarly, all social media platforms come with extensive terms of use that nearly ALL users fail to read. That being said, any creators who depend on their social accounts as a source of income MUST become familiar with these guidelines and rules.

For example, ignoring Instagram’s terms of use could have a negative impact on your posts’ performances! 

According to the platform’s terms and conditions, hiring services or using bots 🤖 to enhance your likes, shares, or comments will alert the algorithm to take action against your account. 

Likewise, “spammy” activity such as overusing the most popular hashtags, tagging people who do not appear in photos, and comments such as “Follow for follow?” are against Instagram’s rules, and could have a negative effect on your account’s success.

✔️ Consult a social media attorney ✔️

Overall, the simplest way to avoid social media compliance lawsuits is to consult a social media attorney 💼. 

Legal professionals are trained to catch compliance mistakes you may not even know you’re making! Plus, we can provide guidance on a plethora of legal issues.

Ultimately, all social media influencers and content creators should schedule at least one legal consultation to learn how an attorney could help protect their brand. At the end of the day, we could all use someone on our side, right 🤷‍♂️?