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On intellectual property and viral videos

Some people have dreams of creating content on the internet, so that they can earn some of that sweet "internet money." These people make videos, GIFs, images, blog posts and many other forms of content to reach their dream. In these cases, they do so intentionally. If they are lucky, one of their pieces of content will "go viral" and sweep the globe at a rapid pace as friends share the content with friends, who share it with other friends -- and so on.

But not every "viral" meme or video is created intentionally. Sometimes everyday people just happen to capture an incredible moment on video or in a picture, and when they share it with a few people, it quickly spreads like a wildfire without them even intending for it to do so.

So the question here is: how are viral videos and viral internet memes affected by intellectual property law?

First, it is important to establish the owner of the video or the meme. This is obviously the person who shot the video or created the content -- but if you share that content to a wider audience using social media, the ownership becomes a bit more complicated.

Your video or meme will suddenly become subject to the terms of use and service that those social media companies make their users agree to. In addition, your content would be subject to licensing agreements. That gives the social media site -- Facebook or YouTube, as examples -- certain rights and grants them the ability to take certain actions with your video or meme.

Ultimately, whether you created a viral meme or video on purpose or by accident, it doesn't matter: you could run into legal issues with your content. Social media sites may take action against you, or certain parts of your content (the music in the background, for example) may have violated copyright or IP law. Knowing your rights and having an attorney on your side to protect you during these complex times is important.

Source: B2C, "Is A Viral Video Subject To Intellectual Property Law?," Stephanie Reid, Sept. 29, 2016

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