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Social Networks on the Internet and Intellectual Property.

  • 15 September 2011
  • Articles

Technological, social and cultural processes mean that we are facing globalisation now more than ever. This increases day by day and facilitates communications worldwide, unifying markets, societies and even cultures. Now more than ever, the world is passing through a stage of global knowledge.
With the rise of Web 2.0 the model for the content of websites is not only generated by the website creators, but instead any user can generate and disseminate their work, which is protected by copyright.

Accordingly, social networks have been created which group together users from all over the world through websites, chats and any service which the Internet and other networks can provide.

These users come together because of a need: the need to grow intellectually, economically and/or culturally, from a starting point of participation and the opportunity to share with other people worldwide.

This participation is developed by means of computers, smart phones, blogs, chats e-mail, videos, p2p networks, portals etc. All of this enclosed in one world: cyberspace and within that: social networks.

Social networks have transformed the world in terms of generating innovation, business models, sources of contracts, interaction etc.

This transformation is also reflected in Intellectual Property, and especially in the protection of copyright. The ease with which users can reproduce or distribute content makes the Internet one of the means of communication which is most liable to breaches of Intellectual Property rights.

We should remember that the copyright protects “all artistic, literary and scientific works”, which from the moment they are born generate moral and proprietary rights protected by the law throughout the world.

One of the main problems faced by cyberspace nowadays is precisely that: breaches of copyright. This is because the contents are in a digital format and so copying and subsequent distribution are much easier than for any other type of format.

We can see two risks for copyright breaches which can be generated with relation to the contents of social networks: i) that content which is published by any third party without authorisation from the holder of the copyright (e.g. a friends poem) and ii) the legal scope for original works.

In the first case, the user breaches the moral and proprietary rights of the works author and may have to compensate the damages caused.
In the second case, when the social network must cease publication of the authors works. Either because the author has withdrawn from the social network, or because he/she has made a request etc.

These breaches mean that the owners of the social networks arbitrarily include in their terms and conditions clauses such as those in which the user irrevocably and perpetually assign and license the authors rights over the content which they disseminate or which are which are generated therein .

Consequently, uses must know the legal consequences resulting from publishing their works on the social network.

In conclusion, the world faces a major task: creating regulation which protects the copyright on social networks and, furthermore, re-evaluating whether current legislation is sufficient to regulate Intellectual Property in cyberspace.

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