Social Media & the Law, Here Comes Everybody

CEB Business Law Quarterly (A publication of the University of California & California State Bar), p. 52, Spring 2010

16 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2014

See all articles by Arthur H. Neill

Arthur H. Neill

New Media Rights; California Western School of Law

Date Written: February 17, 2010


Following a basic background and introduction to social media, this article focuses on the application of copyright law to social media, including direct and intermediary copyright liability of a variety of User-generated content heavy services. Particular attention is paid to the DMCA Section 512 Safe Harbor defense for intermediary websites. In addition, the article discusses liability of social media websites for the actions of their users under other areas of the law like defamation and invasions of privacy, with particular attention paid to the broad immunity provided under Communications Decency Act Section 230.

From the introduction: The “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” Wikipedia, defines social media as “media designed to be disseminated through social interaction,...[using] Internet and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers.”

Social media is defined in large part by the presence of user-generated content (sometimes referred to as “UGC”), which refers to different types of media content that is produced by end-users and is available to the public on the Internet. Wikis, blogs, podcasts, social networks, image-, video-, music-, and news-sharing websites, and countless other types of websites (including Wikipedia) are based on user-generated content. A few of the well-known UGC-based social media websites include: Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace,, Viddler, Jamendo, Veoh, and IndabaMusic.

In this new arena, the Internet is used as a publishing tool that allows for widespread and inexpensive dissemination of information. Social media is the next step in the Internet’s evolution, providing for further democratization and decentralization of the means to share information and ideas with the world. The Internet has provided a more efficient alternative to the printing press and traditional content distribution methods. Social media empowers even more people to access the means to publish.

The rate of technological and social change that our world is now experiencing is astonishing. Social media has become part of our daily lives in just a few years. The term “blog” was not widely used until the 2004 election, and YouTube did not exist until February 2005. Today, Facebook — a social networking site that embodies the definition of social media services as platforms for user-generated content rather than producers of original content — boasts more users than there are citizens of the United States. Once passive consumers, conditioned to receive news and culture created and distributed by centralized media, we now have the power to insert ourselves into the flow of information and the process of creativity, fostering a more participatory culture.

Keywords: social media, internet, law, copyright

Suggested Citation

Neill, Arthur H., Social Media & the Law, Here Comes Everybody (February 17, 2010). CEB Business Law Quarterly (A publication of the University of California & California State Bar), p. 52, Spring 2010. Available at SSRN:

Arthur H. Neill (Contact Author)

New Media Rights ( email )

1855 1st Ave., Suite 102
San Diego, CA 92101
United States


California Western School of Law ( email )

225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
United States


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