The business side of social media influencers is not exactly glamorous, and the legal side even less so. That being said, arming yourself with the appropriate legal tools can help prevent a lot of headaches and lost revenue down the road. Below are a few legal tips and best practices for social media influencers to protect their brand and business.
ONE. Trademark Your Personal Brand.
Trademark registration protection is key in order to build and protect your brand’s value. Trademarking your brand may help prevent others from using your branding, or confusingly similar branding, in the same space. A trademark gives you the right to take legal action against anyone who infringes upon your brand or uses it without permission.
If your personal brand is a vital aspect of your influencer business (which is likely the case), you should consider seeking trademark registration protection for your influencer brand names, social media handles, blog name, personal brand elements (e.g., logos, taglines) and/or other identifying marks that are often used to promote your business. The earlier you pursue this process, the better.
TWO. Copyright Your Content.
Copyrights protect original works of authorship, such as photos, videos, written text, blog posts and website content. If you create an original work and memorialize it in some manner (e.g., posting it online), you are the copyright owner. Although not legally required, adding a copyright notice may help deter others from stealing your content. A copyright notice should include the copyright symbol (i.e., ©), the year of first publication and the name of the copyright owner (which, ideally, should be your LLC – see THREE below).
THREE. Form an LLC.
Forming a limited liability company (LLC) for your influencer business can help shield you from liability. Generally, if you properly treat your LLC as a separate entity, your personal assets (e.g., bank account) would be off limits for purposes of satisfying any of the LLC’s debts or obligations. Once formed, you will want to open a separate bank account for your business, enter into contracts in the name of your business and title any assets of the business (e.g., trademarks) in the name of the business. Note: there are other business entity options available, but LLCs are the most popular, particularly in this space, because they are generally straightforward and inexpensive to form and maintain.
FOUR. Review Your Contracts/Lawyer Up.
Influencer agreements often include legally binding language pertaining to intellectual property ownership (e.g., specifying who, as between the brand and the influencer, owns the content created by the influencer in connection with a collaboration or campaign). Generally, these types of agreements are structured in one of two ways – either the influencer will retain ownership of the content and license it to the brand for a limited purpose, or the brand will take ownership of the content in which case it can use the content in any manner, sometimes forever, without further compensation to the influencer. An attorney can help you navigate these issues and ensure that your interests are protected.
If you need assistance protecting your brand from a legal perspective, feel free to reach out to Lauren Carey.