ICYMI, beauty and fashion influencers were up in arms earlier this month--and for good reason. It came to light that media and technology company   PopSugar had   repurposed millions of images and bios from influencers' social media accounts to create their own dedicated pages on PopSugar.

While influencers rarely turn down free publicity on such a large site, there were two key issues that made this a violation: this content was repurposed without the influencers' consent, and (most damaging) the content was stripped of its affiliate links that work as a source of income for these influencers. The links--originally on the rewardStyle tool--were swapped out for ShopStyle links that sent earnings directly to PopSugar.

While PopSugar claims this was a mistake resulting from a hackathon, and that the total income generated from these repurposed images was less than $3,000, this snafu put a spotlight on how vulnerable influencers can be to this sort of intellectual property theft. Specifically microinfluencers, who aren't as commonly generating enough money from their blogs and social accounts to have a legal team on retainer.

So, what can influencers do to protect themselves against intellectual property theft or other common violations? Here's where you can start.

State Your Terms

If you have a blog or other website, create a very clear "terms of use" page stating that your content cannot be used without your express permission. If you are open to your images being shared with the proper attribution, include that in the terms of use--just make sure to indicate that they may not be altered in any way (including removing or changing affiliate links).

Spot Check

Set up an admin day every month where you check to make sure your content is only appearing on your platforms or other authorized channels. For written content, this can be as easy as setting up a Google Alert with your name (it only sounds vain), but if you produce lots of written content you may want to consider a subscription service. When it comes to images, go full Catfish investigation by spot checking a handful in a reverse image search.

Call Out Violations

Even when you set yourself up for success with a terms of use page, your work may still be repurposed against your will. The first step when you find your content somewhere you have not authorized is to write an email to the company explaining your content has been repurposed without your permission, and requesting it be taken down in a timely manner. These are most likely to be observed if you include a deadline for removing the duplicate content, after which you will make a formal complaint.

Hire an Attorney

It's probably not your first choice, but if you've tried everything else on this list and your content is still being used, it might be time to talk to an attorney. There are even attorneys who specialize in the law around influencer deals that are more affordable than large corporate attorneys.

And while we're on the subject of protecting yourself, let's not forget to take a look at how you're sharing intellectual property with potential and current clients...

Put Everything in Writing

When you're trying to finalize a deal with a new client, you want to make them happy, and that often means springing into action as quickly as possible. Trust me, as a business owner, I get it. But the urge to appease can't come at the expense of hammering out a contract that represents everything you will--and won't--do for your clients. How will your content be used--and shared? Who owns it? Having your deliverables, what's expected of you, and what's expected of your client in writing and signed ensures not only that you're treated fairly, but also that you're on the same page for the project.

Trust Your Gut

Just as there are plenty of questions brands should ask influencers before inking a deal, influencers should also have a checklist of requirements (beyond monetary) before they sign on with a brand. If you feel that the client doesn't have a clear sense of goals, they miss calls, or don't respect the assets that you'll be creating, it's probably not going to get easier to work with them. It's never easy to step away from a payday, but it may be the best thing you can do to protect yourself from a legal headache later.

Published on: Apr 30, 2018