The trend of user-generated content (UGC) on social media has changed the landscape of how consumers discover products and make purchase decisions. In addition, it has shifted the landscape of earned media, as consumers are more open to sharing their experiences on social media. Rather than looking directly to brands for information, they increasingly depend to their social circles or favorite influencers for trustworthy opinions and reviews.

All social media impressions of your brand are not made equal. Organic impressions that your brand earns through @mention or a branded hashtag tell your brand’s story through real consumers’ eyes. In this blog, we’ll discuss methods of leveraging these interactions for your brand’s marketing.

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Avoiding Legal Issues with UGC Rights Management

UGC holds a powerful purpose in marketing, as it’s easier to curate and drives more results in lieu of expensive brand-produced content. However, there are often risks involved with the consumer-produced content - avoiding complications like copyright fights, it’s important to understand the legal rights for both the brand and consumer.

What is UGC Rights Management?

Rights management with UGC is when a brand requests consent to use a piece of content from its original author or creator. Brands need to acquire permission due to the nature of how the content will be used, which is often outside of Fair Use when re-used for marketing and commercial purposes.

There are services available that can automate and handle this process for you, and ensure that your brand is up-front with your customers about what content you will be using and how you intend to use it. For example, our UGC Promotions Platform can make getting permission much easier.

It’s recommended to reach out to an agency that can provide thorough knowledge on UGC Rights Management in order to ensure full protection of your brand and company. A rights management platform like ours allows you to contact individuals and request their permission to feature their content in your marketing.

Why is UGC Rights Management Important?

As stated earlier, you want the proper permission to legally protect your brand and your consumers. The benefits of proper rights management allow you to turn earned media into owned content. Having full control of curated content gives your advertising and marketing team a larger pool of media to work with for current and future efforts, and can often offset the complications that come with calling for user-generated content.

What Legal Issues Can Arise With User Generated Content?

Unlawful or Undesirable Content

Obscenities, defamatory content, and stolen content cause sometimes be tagged, submitted, or posted to your website or social media page by users. UGC Rights Management services will protect your brand’s image by screening submissions or posts and reporting or disqualifying them.

Copyrighted or Trademarked Content

Despite being public domain, a user owns the copyright to a piece of content created and shared by them, as explained by the US Copyright Office. Copyright exists the moment the work is created. UGC Rights Management includes getting the proper Terms of Service or permission to re-use or redistribute someones content for marketing or promotional purposes.

User Privacy

Protecting your consumers who submit user-generated content is critical to avoiding pitfalls. With rising needs to comply with laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that impacts EU citizens, or the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA), it’s important to include statements such as a Privacy Policy.

Running a promotional contest or sweepstakes is an effective way to avoid many of these scenarios, since posting social channels they can be subject to the terms set forth in your Official Rules when your promotion hashtag contains “sweepstakes” or “contest”. This is similar to the #ad used by influencers when they are compensated to post content on behalf of a brand.

In addition, there are services including legal administration and contest management to aid you in avoiding common mistakes and complications.

Will consumers give me permission to use their content?

Most consumers enjoy being noticed by their favorite brands and will be excited to be featured - as long as the intended use is clear and purposeful. Their effort of sharing your brand is valuable to your goals, and your brand sharing their content exposes your audience to them. This scenario benefits both ends.

However, many brands have found themselves in trouble, assuming they can take images from consumers or influencers without any mutual agreement. Influencers, in particular, tend to be more protective of their content. Their motivations may be different from the average consumer and some may ask for payment or incentives.

It’s not uncommon for users with strong followings to ask brands for payment for their user-generated content, so be sure to still work out an agreement or seek influencers who will ask for less to gain exposure in return.

Overall, launching a UGC Promotion is a powerful way to generate an abundance of valuable content. The right incentive pool can attract all types of influencers - from everyday consumers, to high-profile influencer or industry leaders. In addition, a UGC Promotion can turn participants into your best marketers and snowball the amount of UGC being generated.

Closing Notes: UGC Rights Recap

User-generated content has the ability to boost brand authenticity with user-submissions, driving efficiency in your marketing and decreasing CPM of impressions, lowering the cost of driving your reach and producing branded content. However, you must be aware that content creators are entitled to how their content is used.

UGC rights management can seem no-brainer, but knowing the proper ways to gain permission will protect your brand. There are platforms available that make the process easy and efficient. You can extend these capabilities and avoid the need for Rights Management by running a promotion. This incentivizes more participation, gives you rights through official rules and participation agreements, and prizes that support your traffic and goals.