Social media law


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Law, Ethics, and Social Media: A Primer on Copyright Law, Fair Use, and Defamation in a Digital World

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Social media law

  1. 1. Law, Ethics, and Social Media: A Primer on Copyright Law, Fair Use, and Defamation in a Digital World Dr. Matt J. Duffy Kennesaw State University
  2. 2. Mission Statement • To give you practical information that can help you make good decisions related to your digital communications Photo by Lougan Manzke
  3. 3. You can be sued for libel on… • Twitter • Facebook • Pinterest • Tumblr • Youtube • Anywhere anything is “disseminated” –But know your rights
  4. 4. Defamation • The US Supreme Court has said that “in the context of defamation law, the rights of the institutional media are no greater and no less than those enjoyed by other individuals and organizations engaged in the same activities.” Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. v. Greenmoss Builders (1985) Photo by Arbyreed
  5. 5. Obsidian Finance Group v. Crystal Cox • And in January 2014, the courts official ruled that bloggers are journalists • Appeals court noted “with the advent of the Internet and the decline of print and broadcast media . . . the line between the media and others who wish to comment on political and social issues becomes far more blurred.”
  6. 6. Defamation • US defamation law is among world’s best in protecting wide latitude for speech NY Times vs. Sullivan, 1964 • Generally, 3 things needed to prove libel: – Statement was false – Statement was disseminated – Statement caused injury • So, just make sure what you’re saying/publishing/blogging is true… Photo by OZinOH
  7. 7. Public vs. Private figures • In US, you’ll receive more defamation protection if you’re talking about public figure – Public official, someone who speaks about public issues – Good for public debate – Fact errors OK as long as no “reckless disregard for the truth.’ • But private figures receive more protection
  8. 8. What about opinions? • In general opinions are more protected • But, opinions stated as facts are not Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 1990 • “I think” or “I believe” better than no qualifier • But, don’t fret too much… Photo by A River Runs Through
  9. 9. Because lots of speech is protected • Making a list of “Top 10 Dumbasses” was ruled as protected speech in California – Just an expression of contempt, not factual meaning • Parody is completely protected – Hustler Magazine v. Falwell (1988) • Public figures harder to libel than private figures – should be open to more criticism – NY Times vs. Sullivan
  10. 10. Specific examples (from • Ruled as Libelous – Charging someone with being a communist (in 1959) – Calling an attorney a "crook" – Describing a woman as a call girl – Accusing a minister of unethical conduct • Ruled as not-libelous: – Calling a political foe a "thief" and "liar" in chance encounter (because hyperbole in context) – Calling a TV show participant a "local loser," "chicken butt" and "big skank" – Calling someone a "bitch" or a "son of a bitch" – Changing product code name from "Carl Sagan" to "Butt Head Astronomer”
  11. 11. Defamation • Strong protections for republishing: Section 230 of Communications Decency Act provides cover for “intermediaries” who republish – Very strong protections for… – Retweeting, Tumblr, Sharing on Facebook
  12. 12. Venting tweets? • “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon Realty thinks it’s okay.” – Illinois woman tweeted to 30 people • Horizon sued for $50,000 • Local judge summarily dismissed case, so no precedent
  13. 13. What about reviews? • Va. contractor filed $750,000 defamation suit over YELP review • Member comments: “My home was damaged the "work" had to be re-accomplished; and Dietz tried to sue me for "monies due for his "work." I won in summary judgement (meaning that his case had no merit). Despite his claims, Dietz was/is not licensed to perform work in the state of VA. Further, he invoiced me for work not even performed and also sued me for work not even performed … This is after filing my first ever police report when I found my jewelry missing and Dietz was the only one with a key. Bottom line do not put yourself through this nightmare of a contractor.” • Jury found both sides were defamers, awarded no damages (2/2014)
  14. 14. Fair Comment and Criticism • In 1903, the Cherry Sisters performance was ridiculed in Des Moines Leader Newspaper • “… the mouths of their rancid features opened like caverns and sounds like the wailings of damned souls issued therefrom.” Source: Rootsweb
  15. 15. Fair Comment and Criticism “A public performance may be discussed with the fullest freedom, and may be subject to hostile criticism…” Cherry vs. Des Moines Leader (1903) Iowa Supreme Court Ruling
  16. 16. Georgia Anti-SLAPP law • Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation • In brief, Georgia Statute provides limited relief for people sued while discussing a public issue • Allows libel lawsuits to be summarily dismissed
  17. 17. Other lawsuits • San Francisco man sued by chiropractor after review accused biz of over-charging him. Settled out of court. • In Rahbar v. Batoon, Calif. courts sided with reviewer who wrote of “most painful dentist ever!” Dentist’s suit thrown out using anti- SLAPP statute. Made to pay attorney fees for defendant.
  18. 18. Which way will courts rule? Why? • Woman complains on Yelp about terrible service at restaurant. She never went there but has a grudge against the manager. • Local blogger writes scathing review of local production of “Annie.” Says it was the “worst production of ‘Annie’ ever put on stage.” Has no formal training in theater. • Tweeter says: “I think the DA is a liar.” • Tweeter retweets above statement.
  19. 19. Copyright • Copyright power granted in US Constitution “promote the progress of science and the useful arts.” • “Copyright exists from the moment the work is created.” – But must register to sue for infringement – Adding © helps
  20. 20. Copyright • Important to society – must allow authors to benefit from their work • But, much of copyright law written in different era • Boundaries still being explored • Some call for wholesale rewriting of law • Worry that corporations are making copyrights last too long, too burdensome – “Mickey Mouse” copyright extension act of 1998
  21. 21. Artwork and copyright • Not OK (ethically, probably legally) to just Google images and put them on your website, presentations • Don’t know if they are protected by copyright – Instead, try Flickr. Here’s how – Search for “some rights reserved” photos – Or free stock photography • But, that said, …
  22. 22. Fair use and copyright • Copyright law states that “fair use...for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” • Copyrights shouldn’t be overprotected
  23. 23. Fair use guidelines • Purpose and character of the use. – Transformative more than just a copy • Nature of the copyrighted work. – Unpublished more protected • Amount and substantiality of the portion used. – Copying nearly all of a work, or copying its "heart" is less likely to be fair. • Effect on the market or potential market. – Most important factor. In short, did your borrowing cost someone else money?
  24. 24. What else is allowed? • Anything US government makes is in public domain (not protected by copyright) • Facts are not copyrightable, just ideas –So you can copy facts from another site, just not their exact words and structure
  25. 25. What else is allowed? • Creative Commons – “some rights reserved” – Generally allows for copying as long credit given • Publicity photos – Generally not copyright enforceable since original intent was dissemination • So, you know, don’t go too crazy
  26. 26. Linking and scraping • Linking: Always OK • Scraping: Cutting and pasting someone else’s copy on their website – illegal violation of copyright • Officially, sites like Pinterest are illegal because you’re copying others photos and putting them on your site. But… • Don’t forget to watermark your images
  27. 27. • Publishers sued after profs put sections of books in electronic reserves for students • GSU won 95% of lawsuit, big loss for publishers • Basically, court ruled that providing less than 10% of book fit within fair use standard • Effect on market was big – publishers won few instances where e-version available to buy GSU digital reserve case
  28. 28. The End! • Any questions? • Presentation available at: – • Twitter: @mattjduffy Matt J. Duffy Georgia State