All information on this website is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Ninomiya Law, PLLC and Kent Ninomiya only provide legal advice to clients when there is a valid engagement agreement signed by both attorney and clients. The principal office of Ninomiya Law, PLLC is located in Round Rock, Texas. Ninomiya Law, PLLC is responsible for the content of this website.
keeping you and your family safe
Social media websites make clear in their user agreements that original postings on their websites are owned by the poster. For example, Facebook does not own your content nor do they want to own it. If your content turns out to be threatening, defamatory, or infringe on intellectual property rights, Facebook can argue that they did not perform the law breaking act, you did. Social media user agreements also make clear that you are granting the websites a license to utilize your content. This can include moving it, altering it, and displaying it for their own purposes such as advertising. This way social media websites get the best of both worlds. They get to use what you post, but if what you post turns out to be a problem they have a legal loophole. Deleting your content or closing your account does not necessarily remove your content from the Internet. If you shared it with anyone on social media or it was downloaded, you can't get it back.
This content ownership disclaimer has not stopped lawsuits attempting to hold social media websites responsible for some content. In October 2015, the Israeli legal rights groupShurat HaDin filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 20,000 Israeli plaintiffs against Facebook for allowing Palestinian terrorists to post inciting threats against Israelis. Thelawsuit claimed Facebook had a "legal and moral obligation" to block the content. It was filed in New York state court and did not demand damages. Instead it called on Facebook to remove the content in question and monitor the website for similar posts in the future. From a legal perspective, the lawsuit is asking for much more than this. It is essentially demanding that Facebook be responsible for the content that appears on it and possibly responsible for the acts performed by users who view that content. This is a legal longshot for many reasons, primarily because it seems to contradict Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that immunizes websites from certain liability resulting from the publication of information provided by another. It is likely that the smart lawyers at Shurat HaDin are attempting to provoke dialogue on the issue and perhaps prompt an effective compromise that Facebook and other social media websites could agree to. The issue continues to evolve.
Social media websites reduce their liability for content with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"). In order to get DMCA protection, the website must do is "adopt and reasonably implement" a policy to terminate accounts of repeat infringers "in appropriate circumstances." 17 U.S.C. § 512 (i)(1)(A). If the social media provider does not prove that they fulfill this requirement on a regular basis, the protection could be forfeited. Users should be informed that they can only post content they own or copyrighted material if they have permission from the copyright owner. There should also be a clear warning that termination is the penalty for repeated DMCA take down notices. If the website did not identify their DMCA agent and contact information in the terms of service, and make it easily accessible to not registered users, it could be argued that the website is nor protected by DMCA.