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Sponsored social media content (i.e. YouTube videos, Instagram photos, Snapchat Stories, and blog posts) can be powerful marketing assets. According to eMarketer, over half of all consumers trust the advice of bloggers when making purchasing decisions, and 60% of YouTube viewers listen to content creators when choosing what product to buy (Google). Determining exactly who owns influencer-created content, however—as well as who has the right to distribute it—can be a confusing component of influencer marketing campaigns.
Many brands believe that, because they conceptualize, script, and fund an influencer marketing campaign, they ultimately own the sponsored social media content (as well as the rights to use it as they see fit). Not true. In fact, it is the influencer, not the brand, who legally owns the videos, photos, Stories, blog posts, and any other type of sponsored content created during/for an influencer marketing campaign.
Although Scott helped make Roman Atwood’s YouTube video a success (the video has accrued more than 9M views to date), Atwood ultimately owns the rights to use this sponsored YouTube video on his channel. Because Scott has not included Atwood’s sponsored social media content on any of their digital properties, one can assume that the tissue company chose not to purchase the video’s distribution rights.
To maximize the impact of content created through an influencer marketing initiative, brands may choose to pay an additional fee for the right to use sponsored social media content on their own brand channels, websites, television commercials, and on other advertising assets. A company may not use an influencer’s likeness or content before acquiring permission first; doing so would violate copyright laws and jeopardize the relationship between brand and social influencer.
This sponsored Instagram post originally appeared on social media influencer Casey Holmes’ Instagram, and though Holmes’ originally owned the content, Smashbox Cosmetics likely included a stipulation in the influencer agreement that let the company reuse (or #regram) the post on their brand channel.
While brands may elect to work with a social media influencer directly, many companies choose to enlist the services of an influencer marketing agency to navigate the legal complexities associated with influencer marketing campaigns. Because these firms are acclimated to working with social media stars and have already established the legal framework to ensure campaigns run smoothly, influencer agencies provide a valuable link between digital stars and the brands seeking to partner with them.