A legal expert recently urged online businesses to ensure that they understand intellectual property (IP) legislation when utilising social media platforms. Verastar investigates:

Intellectual property

IP refers to the unique literary works, symbols, designs, etc. that you utilise to establish a business. Data from the Federation of Small Businesses, an organisation which represents UK-based small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), highlights the importance of IP. The Federation found that a third of small organisations with IP rely on it to generate 75% – 100% of their revenue.

Using an application programming interface

Since IP is protected by legal instruments such as copyrights, designs, patents and trademarks, companies must be careful when utilising other business’ IP. Shireen Smith, IP lawyer at London law firm AZrights, recently warned UK digital start-ups to be especially careful when using an application programming interface (API), for example. An API refers to a set of programming instructions, which enable businesses to access web-based software; APIs are protected by US copyright law.

This legal precedent was first established in a 2012 legal battle between software developer Oracle and global search engine Google. At the time, Oracle suggested that Google had used their API without permission; the US courts found in Oracle’s favour.  Reporting on Smith’s comments, online publicationSME Insider explains that a similar ruling has not been issued in the European Union but US law is likely to apply to UK digital businesses here. The majority of APIs used by British companies are US-based, so businesses should ensure they’re protected to prevent exposure to IP misuse.

“Unprecedented and dangerous power

Commenting further, Smith explained: “The courts ruled that APIs are in fact protected by copyright in the US. According to the US-based digital rights group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, this gives tech firms ‘unprecedented and dangerous power’ over developers by making it substantially more difficult for upstarts to create new software.

“The upshot is that you may need permission from the owner of a platform if you want to create another system which is compatible with it, for example Facebook. The legal protection of computer software is a complex and fast-paced area of law. Securing a range of intellectual property rights in different elements can combine to provide the most powerful protection as each IP right protects you in subtly different ways and situations.”

All business owners should be aware of IP law. First, this will allow you to safeguard your company’s IP and second, it’ll ensure you don’t expose yourself to an unacceptable degree of legal risk. APIs are vital to utilising social media platforms, so UK-based digital SMEs need to be especially aware of US copyright law when working with APIs to ensure they build lucrative operations.


Verastar is a leading provider of essential business services to micro SMEs, operating under the following brands: kinex, Clear Business Water, Titan Telecom, Marble Telecom, Economy Gas and 118777 Limited. Our business model is focused on providing a spectrum of consolidated services that disrupt traditional markets and create great savings, efficiencies and value for our customers.