Illinois Passed a Game-Changing ‘Kidfluencer’ Law. Here’s What You Need To Know.

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On Friday, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker signed a bill that fundamentally changes child labor law in the state, extending additional protections to kid influencers. The new law goes into effect on July 1, 2024, and will apply to any minor under the age of 16 considered to be “engaged in the work of vlogging” under a highly mechanical set of standards.

“The rise of social media has given children new opportunities to earn a profit,” said Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) in a press release. “Many parents have taken this opportunity to pocket the money while making their children continue to work in these digital environments.”

The law, SB 1782, was originally the idea of 15-year-old high school student and advocate Shreya Nallamothu. It amends Illinois Labor Law by adding two new clauses and a couple of definitions to bring the law into the 21st century and protect kid influencers who are born into family vloggers.

The law has a specific focus on regulating video content defined under the broad term of “vlog” in the act. It establishes the standards that must be followed by parents and guardians, plus obligations for reporting and recording keeping.

“The influencer world is the Wild West,” Avi Gandhi, media entrepreneur and former Patreon executive, said about the news. “I have no doubt that many of the kids you see on your kids’ favorite YouTube channels or your favorite parenting blogs are not having a good time, and/or won’t reap the benefits of their work in the long run.”

Understanding the Obligations for Family Vloggers

In short, the standards under which a minor is considered to be working as an influencer are as follows:

  • 30% or more of a single piece of video content includes the name, image, or likeness (NIL) of the minor;
  • A per-view compensation rate of $0.10 or greater on the video is achieved.

It’s also important to note that the law does not apply to minors that are producing their own online content—the focus is on kid influencers working as part of a family group or on behalf of a family member. The standards are based on a rolling 12-month period, meaning at any time during the previous year in which any influencing activity takes place.

Failure to follow the law would allow a minor to sue for the enforcement of any parts of the law that were violated, plus any damages and legal costs associated with enforcing their rights. As such, records and documentation are a critical obligation placed on online content producers that feature minors under the new law.

The following records must be maintained as part of the production process for any minors under the age of 16 featured in content:

  • Name and proof of age;
  • Number of content pieces that produced compensation under the standards outlined above;
  • Total number of minutes of content produced and that generated compensation;
  • Total number of minutes each minor was featured in content;
  • Total compensation generated from content featuring a minor; and
  • An employment certificate.

The law also requires that a trust fund is established for any minors that are part of a family vlog and that records are maintained regarding the amounts deposited during each reporting period. The funds would become accessible to the minor once they reach the age of 18, or they are emancipated.

Beyond Illinois: Other Kid Influencer Laws

In 2021, New York legislators began reviewing a labor law amendment that would expand protections to cover child performers “who participate in online videos.” The bill remained active in 2022 but hasn’t moved out of the early committee stages of review. It’s possible a renewed focus following the Illinois regulatory updates could spur New York and other states to take action.

Washington lawmakers are taking a privacy-driven approach to regulations that address the exploitation of minors by family vloggers which often involve sharing deeply personal and intimate aspects of the children’s lives. HB 1627 is a 2023 bill that aims to amend existing laws to add similar language as that of the Illinois law, requiring compensation and the creation of a trust. 

However, it includes a clause that creates the right for a minor, upon reaching the age of 18, to request that the content featuring their NIL be deleted. This same provision was part of the Illinois kid influencer law until it was removed as part of a Senate floor amendment in March.

Outside of the U.S., France passed a law in 2020 that regulated the number of hours minors under the age of 16 are allowed to work and required parents to establish a trust fund for earnings which can be accessed when they turn 16. French law also requires companies hiring minors to obtain permission from local authorities.

The recent explosion in the exploitation of NIL rights for student-athletes presents an additional opportunity for child influencer laws to have a broader impact on sports. Retired NFL player Michael Oher, widely known as the subject of the Oscar-winning film “The Blind Side,” recently filed a lawsuit against the family that he claims lied about adopting him and took advantage of the rights needed for the book and film. It’s a timely example of potential issues that can stem from children (biological, adopted, or otherwise) and their parents and guardians when the money starts to come in.

Growing Pains: Navigating Potential Challenges for Brands and Platforms

For now, Illinois law does not extend liability or risk to brands, production companies, or other content partners working with kid influencers under this new law. Instead, it explicitly notes the obligations in the law are only applicable among family members, and not third parties.

There is also no liability on internet platforms, such as social media companies or video-sharing platforms. However, the proposed Washington law would create an obligation for internet platforms to work with minors on removing content once they reach the age of 18, which also includes a statutory requirement that platforms update their terms or privacy policy to address this consideration. The platforms would also be required to update their terms or privacy policies to address this new right.

Potentially, an important contract addition for brands and production companies to consider is an explicit call out to these types of laws or other methods of ensuring any kid influencers that are featured in the content are properly compensated and taken care of.

Otherwise, there could be public backlash.

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