User generated content (UGC) is a highly valuable marketing asset that has become most relevant in the age of modern technology and social media. UGC is a versatile entity that includes photos, videos, blog posts and even independent articles.
User content has many applications in the marketing world. For instance, UGC in the form of photos and videos can be applied to visual commerce where photos are made shoppable by linking product and purchasing information directly for a photo. UGC is also great for gaining consumer trust. 93% of consumers say that user generated content can help them in making a purchasing decision.
Meanwhile, the rift between brand and consumer trust has also led consumers to rely on reviews over traditional advertising. Studies report that 84% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal friends, and over 90% of consumers check reviews before purchasing a product.
With the ease at which individuals can now post photos, videos, reviews, and comments, there is plenty of UGC available for companies to work with. However, before a company can take advantage of UGC, it is extremely important to have in place a user generated content moderation platform that allows your company to obtain usage permission. Here is what you need to know about UGC usage rights and permissions:
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Who Owns the UGC?
UGC is ethically and legally owned by the creator of the content. Copyright laws still apply, even in the age of social media where it is tempting to assume it is public domain. This concept was upheld in a ruling by the U.S. District Court in the case of Agence France Presse v Morel in 2013. Morel, a professional photographer, brought the suit against the news source Agence France Presse for using his photographs without permission. The court ruled in favor of Morel, thus upholding the idea that social media content is not common property and that permission must be obtained from the content creator before use.
When it comes to VC, not obtaining the permission of the subject or subjects in the photo or video can also be a major faux pas. In 2014, Katherine Heigl successfully sued a pharmacy chain for six million dollars for posting a photo of the actress without her consent.
Implicit Permission vs. Explicit Permission
Implicit permission is based on the assumption that an individual that uploads the photo or video to a company website or tags the photo with a brand-related hashtag is thus providing permission for the company to use this content. This type of assumed permission is a legal gray area, and companies are encouraged to include terms and conditions when embarking on any content collection campaign that relies on implicit permission. To avoid running afoul of the legal system companies should:
- Clearly, state their terms and conditions in any campaign
- Keep images online as downloading images tests the limits of implicit permission
- Keep up with users because if a user pulls the image offline, your company must also pull that image from your campaign
Explicit permission, on the other hand, denotes specifically obtained consent. In this method of permission, the person who submits the photo is specifically asked by the company for photo usage permission. Explicit permission is best in general as this allows your company more freedom with the content. However, explicit permission is also required for any content involving children.
- Select the photos that will be solicited for permission.
- Comment on the photo requesting explicit permission and include a link to your terms. For Instagram photos, identical comments will be flagged as spam, so it is important to have some variability.
- Use a hashtag to catalog affirmative user replies to make available photos easier to collate.
- Host images on your own servers. Explicit permission allows you to host UGC on your own server and use the content to best benefit your company.
What Needs Additional Permissions?
While obtaining UGC from the web with user permission allows marketers to utilize the content, there are a few limitations that require additional permissions or clarification. For instance, converting UGC into an advertisement requires that marketers follow the Committee of Advertising Practice Code by obtaining written permission from the content creator. Inlining, or making your UGC shoppable will also require additional consent.
How a UGC Platform Can Help
A good user generated content moderation will have several features that allow for a smoother content collection process. The system can allow marketers to:
- Manually grant the rights:
- Send the special “Claim URL.” This allows users to grant or deny permission quickly while also tracking “Pending Rights.”
- Automatically contact the user by tweeting or commenting with the Claim URL.
While UGC permissions are complex, they are also a necessary aspect of individual rights protection. As a marketer, it is important to respect the rights of content creators and to obtain clear permissions for all UGC use.