Social Media Username Jacking

The Joys of Social Media

Social media represents a wonderful opportunity for businesses to connect with their customers and to get the word out about specials, promotions and new products. It seems like there are new social media platforms cropping up all the time, and though it probably isn’t necessary to join them all, it certainly makes sense to choose one, two or even three that align comfortably with your company’s image and the product or service that it provides.

However, what do you do when you discover that another entity or individual has already registered your preferred company name on a particular social media platform? Sometimes this is merely the result of two companies having similar names. At other times, another user has registered your company name in a scheme known as username jacking.

What Is Username Jacking?

In some ways, username jacking is a bit like domain squatting. An entity or individual scoops up likely domain names for well-known celebrities or brands then hopes to cash in when said celebrity or brand wants to take over the domain for their own use.

The Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy, Or UDRP, is the accepted mechanism for resolving disagreements over the registration of domain names. However, there is no such mechanism in place when someone sets up a fake social media account using your name or the name of your business. Sometimes, these accounts are set up with the goal of criticizing your company. On other occasions, someone is seeking to malign your good name. It also is possible that another entity, perhaps your competitor, wants to make it difficult for you to gain prominence on that social media platform.

The idea of some unknown entity using your name to make social media posts can be troubling. There’s always the chance that your customers will see that username and believe that it belongs to you. You definitely don’t want to deal with any fallout from customers believing that they are interacting with you when they are actually interacting with someone who’s only pretending to be you.

What Can You Do About Username Jacking?

It’s vital to protect your intellectual property, especially since your name and brand help to solidify your reputation in the minds of consumers. When you find that someone has jacked your username, go straight to the complaint department for that social media platform. Their terms of use probably set up guidelines for complaining about false accounts. Some platforms have more clear-cut rules than others. Accordingly, this may not provide all of the help that you need. If the rules are sufficient, then the administrators at the social media platform will likely shut down or transfer the rogue account to you.

However, if the administrators say that they cannot help you and the owner of the account ignores your demands, then you may be forced to file a lawsuit. This may seem like an extreme response, but it also is a response that gets noticed. It typically is not advisable to sue the platform itself, as the administrators will argue that they generally are not responsible for posts made by users. Your intellectual property attorney will probably recommend suing the individual or entity behind the bogus account, a process that may involve subpoenaing the social media platform for data concerning the owner.

Speak with an Intellectual Property Attorney

A lawyer who focuses their efforts in this area of law is uniquely qualified to guide you through the process of identifying and potentially suing someone who is misusing your name or brand in the cyber world. While there is not as yet a great deal of case law in this area, legal precedent is growing by the year. Contact a skillful attorney today to learn more about the options that may be available to you.

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

Social Media and Intellectual Property

November 18, 2015
Social Media and Small Businesses

Many businesses are still reluctant about using social media. Some of this comes from not keeping up with the various forms of social media as the technology changes quickly. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to have a presence in every forum. However, as a business owner you may find it difficult to compete with more tech-savvy organizations if you ignore social media. Even worse, your absence may open the door for a competitor or unscrupulous user to represent themselves as you. They can begin to negatively influence the public against you. Alternatively, they can drive potential customers to their own company, effectively poaching business from you.

If you’re interested in putting social media to work for your business, then you need to understand it. The concept of social media began with social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. These forums went from ways to make social connections to becoming places to generate business in a remarkably short time. Before long, businesses were also diving into social media services like Twitter and Instagram as additional methods of connecting with customers.

Typical Social Media Pitfalls

Social media is a great way to connect with a target audience, but it does have pitfalls. It’s easy to run afoul of someone else’s intellectual property rights when using it. Perhaps copyrights are the most frequently infringed intellectual property in this context. It happens when your company copies and posts someone else’s photograph on your Facebook page without giving proper credit or asking permission. You may be setting yourself up to receive a cease and desist letter and perhaps even a demand for financial compensation.

Your Intellectual Property Rights on Social Media

By the same token, it pays to be vigilant of your own rights. If you see that someone is using your copyrighted image, you are within your rights to demand that they remove it. You are entitled to seek full legal remedies if someone infringes on your copyright. Of course, first you must seek copyright registration for all content that you publish on social media. This provides you with the right to go after infringers to the fullest extent of the law.

Trademarks can also be endangered when used on social media platforms. It’s not unusual to see a startup company using a copycat mark that changes one or two small elements of a mark. If that company is operating in similar trade channels as you, then they are trying to steal some of your customers. Once again, this is the type of infringement that it’s important to be vigilant about.

Having consistent trademark usage guidelines and following them is an excellent way to make certain that you maintain control over your intellectual property. Make certain that all of your social media posts link back to your website so there’s no confusion about who owns that content.

Social media can be a chancy proposition for those who are unprepared to protect their intellectual property. Meet with an intellectual property attorney to discuss more strategies for protecting some of your company’s most valuable assets. The Law Office of Jeff Williams provides intellectual property development and litigation.

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