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IP Quick Intellect

Samsung’s #LiveInTheMoment social media photo competition results in major IP scandal

Posted by on 2 Sep 2013

Given the ease with which people can tweet, filter, gram, re-gram, upload and share digital images on social media platforms, many have no hesitation in stealing someone else’s original image and claiming it as their own. The perils of copyright infringement via social media have once again been highlighted as a result of Samsung’s #LiveInTheMoment photo competition run via Statigram, Instagram and Facebook.

Hengki Koentjoro’s original image
Hengki Koentjoro’s original image pictured above.

The Competition

Samsung’s #LiveInTheMoment competition was conducted from June through to August of this year. There were four different categories open for entrants (#mycommute, #jumpstart, #mydogjustwokeup and #pigeoninmycity). The intention was for entrants to use each of the categories as photographical inspiration for the #LiveInTheMoment competition. According to Samsung’s competition Terms and Conditions, entrants simply need to upload an image via Statigram, Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #LiveInTheMoment and the appropriate category hashtag (e.g. #mycommute) and tag “@samsungcamera” in the photo caption.

The competition Terms and Conditions required entrants to also adhere to the Terms and Conditions of each of the respective social media platforms. Each of these platforms contains similar provisions that require users to ensure that any of the media they upload does not infringe on the intellectual property rights of any third party.

The Scandal

The #LiveInTheMoment scandal arose when competition entrant, Instagram user @Bogdan, was awarded first prize in the #mycommute category using a photograph that he never actually took. The photo he used was a slightly altered version of one of famed photographer Hengki Koentjoro’s shots.

Image uploaded by Instagram user
Image uploaded by Instagram user, @Bogdan, pictured above.

Koentjoro was apparently unaware of the alleged infringement until a friend tipped him off almost a month after @Bogdan uploaded the image. Samsung had posted the winning photo alongside a congratulatory message on its social networks. Koentjoro immediately took to Samsung’s social media pages to set the record straight about the true ownership of the image and just like that Samsung was caught in the middle of the copyright ownership debate.

Surely with thousands of entrants nobody would reasonably expect Samsung to have taken measures to verify the ownership of every image entered into the competition? Not so according to the court of (very) public opinion. Many social media followers subsequently took to the social media platforms to denounce not only the alleged infringer, but Samsung too for not doing what many believed was its due diligence in checking the photo’s validity.

The Response from Samsung

Samsung has recently removed the infringing image from all of its social media channels and disqualified the user for copyright infringement and violation of contest terms. Additionally, Samsung has made the following statement in response to Koentjoro’s correspondence:

“Thank you for alerting us in regard to this issue. We take copyright infringement very seriously and it is very unfortunate that present case has taken place. We have disqualified the applicant of this picture and he is no longer the winner of the contest neither will he receive the prize. Further we have taken down the winner announcement posts from all our channels.”

Even though Samsung had required competition entrants to comply with each of the social media platform’s intellectual property policies and had responded swiftly once the scandal erupted, Samsung has not escaped ongoing criticism that it should have done more.

This public backlash against Samsung once again highlights the potential risk of brand damage (not to mention suggestions of liability for infringement) that a business may face when it engages with its consumers via social media by conducting similar competitions.

What can we learn from this?

The top tip here is to make sure you have your social media polices in place before engaging in social media interaction. If you are operating a social media business page or conducting a social media competition, ensure that you also have appropriate terms and condition in place to protect yourselves from a legal standpoint. In addition to this, as with all things social media, ensure you also have your PR bases covered so that if you ever find yourself in Samsung’s shoes you can respond quickly and minimise potential damage to your own brand.

If you have concerns about your policies on social media, in particular, if you need guidance with terms and conditions for competitions please contact one of our experienced Intellectual Property Lawyers on (02) 9895 9200.

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