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Special Tweet: Who Owns the Intellectual Property of Social Media Content?


With millions of messages posted every day across multiple platforms, social media plays a crucial role in how we communicate, which is even more evident during lockdowns related to COVID-19.

Content creators on these platforms rarely take into consideration the rights they retain over uploaded content. In this article, we’ve provided an overview of the size of a byte answering the question ‘who owns what after it’s downloaded’ for each of today’s most relevant social media platforms.


With more than half a billion users worldwide, LinkedIn (owned by Microsoft since 2016) is the world’s largest and most active business-oriented social media platform.

LinkedIn users own the content and information they post on LinkedIn. By posting content and information on LinkedIn, users grant to LinkedIn a non-exclusive, transferable, and sublicensable license to use, copy, modify, distribute and publish the content and information. LinkedIn acknowledges that the license to use specific content or information ends if the user deletes the content or closes their LinkedIn account. LinkedIn will not use a user’s content or information in advertisements without the user’s consent.

LinkedIn provides an intellectual property complaints process, to ensure that users can complain if they believe there is abuse or violation of intellectual property rights, including copyrighted works. author and trademarks on the LinkedIn platform.


The world’s most popular social media site notes that users own the intellectual property rights to any content they create and share on the platform. However, Facebook’s Terms of Service contain the same license clause as Instagram, granting Facebook a non-exclusive, transferable, sublicensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, perform, copy. , perform or publicly display, translate and create derivative works of your content. Likewise, Facebook may also use your name, profile picture, and ad interaction information without providing compensation.


Launched in 2010 and acquired by Facebook in 2012, Instagram dominates online photo sharing with 95 million photos and videos posted every day. Although Instagram’s terms of service state that Facebook does not own the content posted on the platform, Instagram has a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensed worldwide license to host, use, distribute. , modify, perform, copy, publicly perform or display, translate and create derivative works of User Content. This broad license does not give Instagram an exclusive license to exploit your content. Still, that gives Instagram the right to do just about anything with your content, anywhere in the world, without having to provide you with royalties or license fees.

Instagram’s use of your data may include the sub-licensing or transfer of content rights to a third party without your permission. In addition, Instagram reserves the right to use a user’s profile information for its business activities, including advertisements, offers and other sponsored content, without having to provide compensation. Due to the ownership of Instagram by Facebook, it may also use your Facebook data in order to target advertisements to users. Creatives who rely on Instagram to promote their work (like photographers) should be aware of the implications for rights to their data due to the breadth of permissions granted to Instagram each time the platform is used.

Other problems can arise if users post material they do not own. For example, celebrities such as Katy Perry and Justin Bieber have been prosecuted for posting images of themselves in public that they were not allowed to post because they were taken by photographers who weren’t allowed to post. have not authorized the publication of the photos. It also violates Instagram’s Terms of Service, which prohibits users from posting content that infringes any intellectual property rights.


WhatsApp is a cross-platform messaging system with over 2 billion users worldwide. Like Instagram, WhatsApp Inc was acquired by Facebook. Despite continued operation as a separate service from Facebook, some information is shared between the Facebook family of companies. The information shared includes the phone number used to verify the user’s WhatsApp account, device information such as the user’s operating system, and certain usage information, such as the date on which the users are registered for the first time and used WhatsApp for the last time, as well as the frequency and type of use. However, unlike Facebook’s use of Instagram data, WhatsApp data is not used to enhance Facebook’s targeted advertising.

According to the WhatsApp Terms of Service, users grant WhatsApp a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, create derivative works, view and execute any information downloaded, submitted, stored, sent or received on WhatsApp. However, despite this broad license, WhatsApp states that no information shared on the platform, including messages, photos and account information, is shared on Facebook or any other application owned by Facebook for others to share. users can see them. However, some information (like a user’s phone number) will be shared with Facebook. One of the convenience for users is that WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption. Messages can therefore only be read by people who are part of the conversation; not by third parties, including WhatsApp or Facebook.

WhatsApp’s IP policy prohibits users from violating the IP rights of another party while using the platform. It allows to report copyright and trademark violation to WhatsApp, including a request to remove illegal content such as a profile picture, name or status message. The company also encourages users to consider resolving the issue with the infringer on their own by contacting the affected user before reporting the issue to WhatsApp.


TikTok is an app available for iOS and Android that allows users to create and share lip-syncing, comedy, and talent videos up to 15 seconds long. It was launched in 2017 and has become one of the most downloaded apps in the world. It has also become one of the most contested, with many countries banning or threatening to ban the platform.

When using TikTok, you remain the copyright owner of any downloaded content, but grant TikTok (owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company) an unconditional, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, fully transferable worldwide license. and perpetual which covers a range of activities, including the use, modification, adaptation, reproduction, creation of derivative works, publication and / or transmission and / or distribution and authorization of ” other users of TikTok and related websites and applications and other third parties to view, access, use, download, modify, adapt, reproduce, do derivative works, publish and / or transmit your User Content in any any format. This license extends to any platform that currently exists or will exist in the future. TikTok users also grant the Company a royalty-free license to use their username, image, voice, and likeness to identify the user as the source of any User Content.

What does all this mean? This incredibly broad license grants TikTok the most important rights of any social media company to use content created by its users in any way it sees fit, and to use their image and likeness for commercial purposes. Users should therefore consider and balance any concerns they may have regarding the use of their content with the usefulness of the platform.

Some users have used TikTok to their advantage, such as rapper Lil Nas X who used the platform to promote his song “Old Town Road” to number one on the music charts. However, there are also many everyday users who have licensed TikTok to use their content and information in any way the company sees fit, without making the gain that Lil Nas X enjoyed.

Should I “go social” or not?

Whatever social media sites you choose to engage with, it’s important to know your rights regarding your data and the licenses you grant to the companies that own those websites. This is especially important for businesses that rely on social media platforms to market their business; you don’t want to inadvertently give away your hard earned IP for free.

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