Registering your trademarks provides creators with a number of different benefits, chief among those being the ability to take legal action against potential infringement. And given the amount of theft that is seen surrounding trademarked material, that's nothing to be taken lightly. But one unconsidered benefit to having your trademarks on the books with the federal government is the ability to stop your content from spreading around social media without your consent.
The idea of virality is a double-edged sword. With the exception of the most obtuse creators, everyone who creates a work and puts it out for public consumption would like to see it reach as large an audience as possible. The problem that can arise from such an increase in visibility is having others attempt to use your marks or branding without authorization in an attempt to create an association with your company or work for their own benefit. Fortunately, social media platforms have a remedy for those issues by allowing users to report trademark infringement on the part of other users.
The rub, as is pointed out in this Legaltech News post authored by Vanessa A. Ignacio and Matthew Hintz, is that like the court system, many social media platforms require some sort of registration of your marks in order to take action against the offending user. Different platforms require different amounts of proof of ownership; Twitter and WordPress need a trademark registration number, while Facebook or Instagram will accept a pending trademark application or common-law use rights in order to remove any infringing content.
Infringement isn't necessarily the one-way street that may people might think it to be. The average person might make an assumption about the nature of intellectual property misappropriation on the internet that it is individuals using work created by companies or brands to associate themselves with that particular entity. But there is ample evidence of both companies and individuals with a considerable social media presence using others' creations for their own purposes without crediting or receiving permission. As with most things on the internet, the distance that technology creates allows many people to do things that they never would consider doing in real life. But the nature of such a vast, interconnected network creates a degree of anonymity, for both the perpetrator and victim.
That is why preparation and vigilance are amongst the best defenses against infringement. Having trademarks or copyright for your material is a great first step for those who are able to pursue that, but mindfulness of your work and where it is being used is the key to protecting your rights.