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Legal issues facing social media influencers

by | Dec 18, 2023 | Intellectual Property

The relationship between social media influencers and brands is an ever-evolving landscape. While it started fast and loose, both parties have formalized these arrangements in recent years. When starting a new marketing campaign, it’s essential to define the scope, restrictions and intellectual property (IP) rights of these partnerships while adhering to the growing regulations for influencer marketing.

Expectations and deliverables

From the beginning, the brand/influencer marketing partnership has revolved around brand expectations and influencer deliverables. The tug-of-war between companies accustomed to complete creative control and influencers wanting to stick to the marketing tactics that made them influencers in the first place was a frequent source of conflict.

Years of frustrating trial and error led both sides to develop legally binding agreements, minimizing misinterpretations and clarifying goals. While some might argue that dizzying legal restrictions choke creativity, these agreements have resulted in better protection for all parties.

Intellectual property pitfalls

Most brands have in-house attorneys who can fend off possible IP issues, but influencers often work with a small team of people performing multiple, attention-splitting job functions or even working alone. Without a crash course on IP law, influencers are potentially more exposed to missteps and violations.

Influencers must also protect their brand from misuse or unintentionally relinquishing the rights to their IP. Recognizing that many influencers have limited resources, it’s still a good idea for them to spring for a lawyer who can at least create a boilerplate document that protects their image and content from exploitation.

Legal limitations on influencer marketing

While many countries haven’t gotten around to locking down restrictions on influencer marketing, many key countries in the English-speaking world already have laws on the books, including the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

Violating these laws can bring harsh penalties, so brands and influencers must limit their liability when crafting campaigns through guidelines and creative boundaries. An influencer has a certain degree of creative freedom by posting their opinions versus being compensated for a product placement or review. To reduce potential consumer confusion, the countries above now require hashtags and disclaimers that distinguish between honest reviews and sponsored content.

Most social media influencers did not enter this field due to their undying love for rules and legal agreements. Unfortunately, these details are crucial to growing and protecting their businesses. For each influencer, a time will come when getting their legal ducks in a row becomes unavoidable. Rather than considering this step an expensive ticket to ride, view it as a sign of success and a door to better opportunities in the future.