Intellectual Property in the Social Media

21 04 2015

So, we have a new addition to Alchemy, and even though this is extremely difficult for such a control freak (yes, me), she should get to write some stuff, too. And so she has…KMO

On April 26th every year, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) celebrates World Intellectual Property Day to promote discussion of the role of IP in encouraging innovation and creativity. I was just reflecting upon this while advising copyrights to a potential client regarding the promotion of her children’s music and story books. Then our office experienced a social media etiquette faux pas during an online marketing campaign for one of our retail destination client’s outdoor concert festival events. Part of our job was designing all of the graphic needs for posters, signage, print and digital ads, and a collection of imagery to use on social media that would capture Facebook viewing attention and brand this “Peace Love & Wellness Music Festival” for our client, while making this artwork available for use by any of the participating retail tenants, businesses, vendors, and the bands. This particular client uses events as its primary source of marketing, outside of a year-round general branding campaign, and we have fun creating visual identities for each event. The Peace Love & Wellness campaign proved very successful with image likes and shares growing viewership to its 3rd Annual event page more than 100% over last year’s page. The ROI was worth the effort.

Alchemy's marketing for the event

Alchemy’s marketing for the event

Obviously, the object of marketing through social media is to entice viewers to attach their identity to the event and share it with others to extend the buzz field. Yes, share the original images on their timeline, add their own descriptive announcement with the post, and tag their friends and businesses. But we had one vendor take things a bit further than that. And I’m certain if you asked him he would say that he was just helping out and thought it was okay to promote his business by making his own flyer out of our client’s collateral. After all, he did slide their logo, although poorly resolute and altered in shape, onto his new graphic. So that’s more than okay, right?

Alchemy's marketing before alteration

Alchemy’s marketing before alteration

Well, actually, not. Our client paid for the artwork to be presented in the approved composition. This vendor did not ask for permission to change it. He did not hire Alchemy to make a poster out of this collateral and change it to feature his business. He added his own banner boldly across the top, juxtaposed shoddy font styles in an unprofessional layout of low quality, dropped in a low-resolution logo, and added his own copy. At this point, neither the client nor we would want our names attached to the altered artwork for credit. We had a conundrum: allow him to promote to his patrons or ask him to take it down. Our client made the decision not to offend him.

More of Alchemy's marketing

More of Alchemy’s marketing

Social media is now a balancing act of etiquette and manners. What is acceptable here is not acceptable there, and the rules are bent and stretched to fit a variety of scenarios. Unfortunately intellectual property, once uploaded into the digital slipstream, has very little protection. According to Facebook Copyright Infringements, violations have to be noticed by the author, reported to the powers that be on Facebook by the author, and then the violator must be contacted by the author and agree to take down their post and make amends. Only after these steps are refused is the author advised to claim a lawsuit. Furthermore, it is up to the author to set the privacy settings to limit the viewership and shares. One has limited protection of ownership if they want their work to be seen. So, in the scenario of a visual marketing campaign, images are out there with permission for the public to share until the original is removed. And according to an article written by a local West Palm Beach, Florida-based intellectual property attorney, Joseph J. Stafford, TO PIN OR NOT TO PINonce something is uploaded on to Pinterest, the author must understand that Pinterest takes no responsibility for the image sharing and usage. The artwork will remain on Pinterest indefinitely. And anything without a registered copyright or trademark is seriously at risk for loss of ownership.

...and Alchemy's marketing post-alteration

…and Alchemy’s marketing post-alteration

The increasing cultural trend is to share, save, tweet, or post any image as your own without thought or concern over identifying the true author. This virtually attaches ownership to any pinner for multiple re-compositions. The only protection would be to add a backend code for tracking violations or the application of a watermark across the image that would be difficult to remove or alter. So what can professional social media communicators do? Stay aboveboard and remain very professional for our clients in social media activity. We should set an example by creating our posts with integrity. If we are sharing the photo or work of another author then we should make time and effort to give credit where credit is due. Photos courtesy of…, or original painting by…, etc. Vintage ads and old movie stills are grandfathered for acceptable use as long as you are not selling them. But be very careful in the use of trademarks and brand collateral. I even went as far as to get corporate-level permission to create an original floral pattern reminiscent of Lilly Pulitzer for social media promotions of an event it sponsored for charity. Lawsuits can happen and they can be very costly to settle when they do. It’s better to be respectful and safe than sorry.

Above you see the original pieces of artwork created for our Facebook promotional campaign, and one of the altered and unapproved versions. What do you think about the modification and reuse of collateral materials without permission?

-Lori Herrala, Communications Director at Alchemy


Mom Jeans and Pie

28 04 2011
Hot Mom Jeans -- not an oxymoron anymore.

Hot Mom Jeans -- not an oxymoron anymore.

Nothing mom-like about these, either...

Nothing mom-like about these, either...

They’ve done it again; The Wall Street Journal has written about something seemingly so far afield from the Bernanke press conference and stock prices that I am grinning wickedly. Of course, it actually does have a monetary and advertising/marketing tie-in — women over the age of 35 spend a LOT of money on clothes, and can better afford to spend $200+ on a pair of jeans. But this headline was just too non-WSJ for me to pass up: “A Makeover for ‘Mom Jeans.’

Then there’s the pie. According to via Supermarket News, the pie is beating the cream filling out of cupcakes, and is the next big food crush. So, this is my “mom and apple pie” blog post, albeit turned on its head a bit.

Yummy goodness...

Yummy goodness...

First, an admission — I’m a mom, I’m smack in the target age range for mom jeans, and I love cupcakes. But I’m as likely to buy mom jeans or stop eating cupcakes as I am to start driving a minivan, i.e. never gonna happen. Truly. Never.

But I appreciate designers and clothiers realizing that jeans for skinny little twenty-somethings are just one segment of the market. Levi’s is doing a great print campaign with its jeans, showing cuts for different body types — which include a curvy cut with a higher rise that would fall into the “mom jeans” category, even if they don’t market it as such.

“Women aged 35 to 54 bought $2.29 billion worth of jeans for the 12 months ending in January, up 1 percent from the year-ago period, according to NPD Group data,” the Wall Street Journal notes. “In comparison, women aged 18 to 34 bought $3.03 billion worth of jeans in the same period, down 1 percent from a year ago. The biggest growth in denim in the past year was in the 55 and older demographic, where women spent $1.24 billion, up 17 percent from the year-ago period.” (italics are mine)

And to top it off, many of these new jeans are about a quarter of the price I’ve been paying for my jeans. Huh.

Here’s my favorite quote from the article: “’Women want to continue to hold on to their youth,’ said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group. ‘Older women have invested in Botox and hair coloring. Key fashion items are also part of preserving a more youthful look. Jeans can literally help shape your body.'” Nice going, Marshal — now I know how to order my “feminine” priorities: Save up for Botox, start dying my gray hair, and find a pair of jeans that smoosh me into a shape pleasing to men.

And therefore, we now have Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, Little in the Middle, Kut From the Kloth, Democracy Declaration of Jean Dependence, and new cuts from denim mainstays Lucky Brand, J Crew, and Loft (Ann Taylor). So forget that hilarious/mocking Saturday Night Live commercial parody touting a new line of “Mom Jeans,” as tragically dowdy women romped in high-waisted denim monstrosities, and a voice-over invited: “This Mother’s Day, give her something that says, ‘I’m not a woman any more.…I’m a mom.’”

So, moms are going to be looking both cooler and hotter. As it should be.

Of course, if you’re as hot for cupcakes as I am, you’ll be quite interested in knowing about the “…trademarked ‘Lift Tuck’ technology that lifts and supports a woman’s bottom, while a crisscross panel in the front helps tuck and compress the stomach,” that characterizes Not Your Daughter’s Jeans. No matter what Supermarket News says, I will NOT be trading cupcakes for pie, even if it means I have to rely on Lift Tuck technology to look hot white I eat said cupcakes.

Bootsy Collins circa 1976

Bootsy Collins circa 1976

The stats in Supermarket News are heartening for the purveyors of desserts, but they also reveal another, unexplored angle: “In many supermarket bakery departments, desserts held steady during the recession, with new sizes and new takes on classics such as pies and brownies bolstering sales.” Also, that “70% of U.S. consumers eat dessert at least once a week, and that baked goods on limited services menus rose 20% from 2008 to 2010.” That adds up to a lot of empty calories, and tons of commercials airing for weight loss systems — could there be a causal relationship, perhaps? However, I am in no way judging. Cupcakes are like a little ray of frosted sparkling sunshine and should be enjoyed however you see fit. And pie’s no slouch in the happiness department.

Oh, and if you didn’t see today’s online Wall Street Journal, you missed a great article about bassist Bootsy Collins. Yes, that Bootsy Collins: Parliament, Funkadelic, P-Funk, George Clinton, James Brown. As in “Bootsy Collins Rules ‘The Funk Capital of the World.'” Go that in one.

All of the Good Ones are Taken

17 02 2010
Them Crooked Vultures

One of the more recent bizarre band names; this one's a supergroup, no less.

And no, I’m not actually quoting Ian Drury (Mott the Hoople); I’m quote the Wall Street Journal and an article about the fact that bands are having a really hard time coming up with names — kind of like copywriters with the task of coming up with a new headline for an old product. It’s awfully fun to read about Them Crooked Vultures (John Paul Jones — Led Zeppelin, Dave Grohl — Nirvana and Foo Fighters, and Josh Homme — Queens of the Stone Age) picking a name that means absolutely nothing, and the lengths to which bands nowadays have to go to be original when literally any musician with a MySpace page can claim a name and make a case for it. What makes music so exciting these days makes giving your band a name a lengthy exercise in existentialism. And an often amusing dose of creativity.

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