Social Media and the Law


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A discussion of some of the most common legal issues that arise in the "social" web environment. Given at Social Media Club Detroit's February meeting.

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  • Social Media and the Law

    1. 1. Law and the Social Web<br />Karen Evans, JD<br />
    2. 2. Disclaimer<br />Photo: Nikkitambo via flickr<br />
    3. 3. Free Speech Online<br /><ul><li>Do ISPs/networking sites violate your 1st Am rights when they terminate your account/change items for violating ToS? (e.g., HJ_Heinz to NOTHJHeinz)
    4. 4. What if your child’s school suspends her for speech on Facebook, etc.?
    5. 5. Can you say anything you want online?</li></li></ul><li>Free Speech Online<br />Since public schools are government actors, they have to respect rights to free speech<br />If speech involves prohibited conduct (drug use, etc.), probably okay for school to enforce rules<br />If speech involves opinion (“Mrs. X sucks”), probably not okay for school to enforce – but this is a developing area still<br />
    6. 6. Free Speech Online<br />Defamation (ex: Horizon Realty)<br />False statement of fact, made negligently or with intent to harm<br />About another person/company (“changing names to protect the innocent” might not help)<br />That is harmful to that person/company<br />And is published to at least one 3rd party<br />Defense: Truth<br />
    7. 7. Free Speech Online<br />Defamation of a public figure:<br />“Public figure” can mean what you think it means (government official, celebrity, etc.) or a “limited purpose public figure” (someone w/ access to media, who voluntarily put self in a controversy)<br />Public figure plaintiff must prove actual malice<br />
    8. 8. Free Speech Online<br />What if someone defames another person on my blog or community site?<br />You’re protected as long as you didn’t personally select that comment/material for publication<br />No liability if user simply posts<br />Probably no liability if you tend to edit/remove posts<br />
    9. 9. IP Issues: Trademarks<br />Starbucks, McDonald’s and 7-Eleven marks are property of their respective owners.<br />
    10. 10. IP Issues: Trademarks<br />More than 1 person can own the same mark for unrelated goods<br />(e.g., SABRE for boats and spectrometers)<br />It’s all about first use in commerce<br />(courts may allow 2 users for same mark, but divide geographic territory)<br />
    11. 11. IP Issues: Trademarks<br />Common law trademarks: The Gene & Betty Hoots story<br />Burger King logos are trademarks of respective owners. Photo by Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace<br />
    12. 12. IP Issues: Protecting Your Mark<br />Don’t misuse it or you might lose it<br />Risk: Genericide (aspirin, trampoline)<br />Risk: Losing rights (abandonment)<br />Monitor (Google Alerts, Twitter search, etc.) and warn infringers<br />Enforce (ask nicely, C&D letters, arbitration through ICANN’s UDRP, civil suit)<br />
    13. 13. IP Issues: Cybersquatting<br />Anti-Cybersquatting Protection Act<br />Can’t register a domain name containing another person’s name (or trademark) with bad faith intent to profit<br />Does not prevent “gripe sites” (<br />
    14. 14. IP Issues: Using Others’<br />Twitter is a registered trademark of Twitter, Inc. and Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook, Inc.<br /><br />
    15. 15. IP Issues: Copyright<br />A Copyright is…<br />A Copyright is not…<br />Rights: Exclusive right to publish, modify, license, etc. for the life of the author plus 70 years<br />Image from flickr user MikeBlogs<br />
    16. 16. IP Issues: Copyright – Using Others’<br />Best practice: ask permission<br />Applies to photographs, blog posts, articles, sound recordings, etc.<br />Licenses/assignments require a “signed writing”<br />
    17. 17. IP Issues: Copyrights<br />Bloggers’ concerns<br />Infringement by others (have terms on your site explaining whether others are free to share; can use CC license, too)<br />Liability for commenters/users infringing on your site (Sec 230 applies here, too)<br />Reproducing articles in their entirety (refrain)<br />
    18. 18. IP Issues: Copyrights – Fair Use<br />A defense, not a right<br />Courts consider:<br />Purpose and character of the use<br />Nature of the copyrighted work<br />Amount of the work used vs work as a whole<br />Effect of the use upon potential market value for the copyrighted work<br />
    19. 19. I can put this logo here to talk about the show…<br />But I can’t create a Seinfeld Aptitude Test book and sell it<br />IP Issues – Copyright – Fair Use<br />
    20. 20. IP Issues: Trade Secrets<br />Social media encourages more employees to use their voice – the risk is the one-to-many communications could result in intellectual property being compromised. <br />
    21. 21. Issues in the Workplace<br />Employee posts on social media sites may constitute constructive notice of harassment…<br />
    22. 22. Issues in the Workplace<br />…perhaps especially if employer claims to monitor employee use of social media<br />
    23. 23. Doing Business Online: Contracts<br /><ul><li>Most types of contracts do not need to be in writing.
    24. 24. Exceptions include sale of goods for more than $500, contracts that cannot be performed within one year, and promises to pay someone else’s debt
    25. 25. Still, always best to get it on paper while the relationship is still good</li></li></ul><li>Doing Business Online: Contracts<br /><ul><li>Terms of Service on a website – if a link is available, and they are fair, are enforceable. Just be careful when changing them, and try to have a click-through agreement if practicable
    26. 26. Contracts must have definite terms – so they can be formed through e-mail and other communication media </li></li></ul><li>Doing Business Online: FTC Disclosures<br />Karen’s Food Blog<br />My Doritos Experience<br /><ul><li>They were AWESOME!</li></ul>(I didn’t even open them) <br /><ul><li>They made my hair 10 times thicker!!</li></ul>(No, no they didn’t)<br />(oops…forgot to mention that Doritos sent them to me for free…)<br />Doritos is a registered trademark of FritoLay, who hasn’t given me any for free. Yet.<br />
    27. 27. “What happens in Vegas stays on Google” – Scott Monty<br />…and on your hard drive. Tweets, Facebook posts and other communications are subject to electronic discovery rules<br />
    28. 28. Lessons Learned<br />Think before you put your message out there<br />Disclose relationships when necessary<br />Watch out for infringement – and infringers<br />Let your employees talk, but be aware of what’s going on<br />Monitor your brand<br />
    29. 29. Questions?<br />Karen Evans, JD<br />e.mail:<br />Twitter: @KarenEvansTM<br />Many thanks to PriyaMarwahDoornbos of PMD Legal e.mail: and the SMCD organizers<br />
    30. 30. Do you have any questions?<br />Thank you.<br />