Elizabethtown College’s campus was filled with excitement when a new Geofilter on Snapchat was unveiled in early October, 2015. That excitement quickly subsided after said Geofilter was removed only a month later.
Snapchat allows users to send pictures, videos and messages to others for a set amount of time before they “disappear.” Geofilters, according to the Snapchat website, are “location based overlays” that users can choose to incorporate with their media. These Geofilters are used by other colleges, cities and regions. Any user can create a filter and submit it according to Snapchat’s guidelines and have it approved for their area. An Elizabethtown College junior who wished to remain anonymous, noticed the popularity of Geofilters and decided to create one himself.
After following the guidelines provided on Snapchat’s website and noting that no logos or trademarks were permitted, except those from colleges and universities submitted by “authorized officials from those schools,” the creator hesitated. He said, “but Snapchat makes it clear that if you submit a filter with a school logo, they will check with the school before putting it live. Once I saw that I knew it would be pretty easy to get one out there.” With that reassurance in mind, the creator submitted an Elizabethtown logo to Snapchat, and a few days later, after receiving an email saying the school had approved it, the Geofilter went live.
Paige Williams, a junior communications major, commented that, even with an older phone that “couldn’t get any of the fun filters like when you vomit rainbows,” she could get the Elizabethtown filter. She said, “It was so cool coming back after break and seeing everyone update their stories with the logo so you knew they were back in town.”
But those happy Snaps came to a halt after the filter was removed after only one month of use. The reason? Copyright infringement.
For Williams, “Part of my Etown story is putting pictures of me and my friends and what we’re doing on my Snapchat story. Even though the Etown filter doesn’t make my story or my college experience, I’d still like to see it back. It might be insignificant, but I think it helps shape our community and give us school pride.”
Rachel Vandernick, Elizbethtown College’s Web Content and Social Media Manager, could not agree more. “We really liked having the filter, and we want to have it back,” she said, but repeated problems with Snapchat is preventing that.
Vandernick was only contacted twice by Snapchat while the Geofilter was live. The first was notification of the existence and approval of the Geofilter, and the second was notification that it had been flagged and taken down. When asked about the timeline she stated that, “No one from our office had been contacted by Snapchat prior to the company’s legal team notifying us of copyright infringement.”
Vandernick’s statement reveals a problem. As Snapchat told the Geofilter creator that someone from the college would have to approve the filter first and that he received the needed approval, but no one from the Office of Marketing and Communications (OMC) gave said approval, there seems to be some missing pieces to the puzzle. Although the athletics logo used in the filter is copyrighted, Snapchat explicitly stated that exceptions could and would be made.
Since the filter’s removal, the OMC has petitioned Snapchat to accept a filter coming from their “official” office. Vandernick and her team have tried submitting Elizabethtown Geofilters to Snapchat four times. With each submission the office receives a “generic” email back from the company that gives a list of why the filter might have been rejected, nothing specific. The OMC has submitted original works and tweaked logos, but nothing seems to be working. Vandernick stated, “Right now we’re just trying to get anything. Until we can get Snapchat to cooperate, there isn’t anything from our end that we can do. We’re going to keep submitting and submitting until something goes through.”
For more information on Snapchat or creating your own Elizabethtown Geofilter, visit Snapchat’s website at https://support.snapchat.com/a/geofilter-guidelines.