Is Your Company on Instagram? 3 Things GCs Should Watch For

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on November 20, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The potential legal pitfalls of a company's social media presence are matched only by the seemingly endless variety of social media platforms about which to worry.

Facebook and Twitter should certainly be in your wheelhouse by now, but you may or may not be familiar with Instagram, a mobile-based video and photo sharing platform. Even if you're not entirely up to speed on social networking, you may remember Instagram as the company Facebook purchased in 2012 for a cool $1 billion.

Despite being owned by Facebook, Instagram is still operated as a stand-alone social network. As such, it has its own set of potential issues for general counsel to be aware of. Like what? Here are three things to watch out for on your company's Instagram profile:

  1. FTC disclosure requirements. Like another increasingly popular social media platform, Pinterest, Instagram has become a popular place for companies to stage promotions, directing users to promote the company's brand on their personal profile for the chance to win a prize. However, the Federal Trade Commission's response to a recent contest by shoe brand Cole Haan on Pinterest indicates that the commission may view these sort of social media contests as endorsements subject to the FTC's disclosure requirements for digital advertising.
  2. Copyright infringement. Although the unlicensed use of copyrighted images and music has practically become an institution on personal social media accounts, corporate social media profiles are far more likely to be targeted with copyright infringement lawsuits. Even popular Internet memes can result in an intellectual property fight when used for commercial gain.
  3. Right to publicity. Instagram may also present potential invasion of privacy issues. For example, candid photos of celebrities which may be construed as acting as an advertisement for your business or product may result in a right to publicity lawsuit if your company does not first obtain that celebrity's permission.

As with any social media account, limiting access to employees who have received the proper training on these and other potential issues is essential to avoiding legal problems associated with your company's Instagram account.

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