Authors. Libel. UV-a


Authors beware when writing about people you know.

Old typewriterLast year, a federal jury sitting in Virginia awarded $3 million to Nicole Eramo, a former University of Virginia (UV-a) associate dean. The jury found Rolling Stone magazine had committed libel. The magazine published an article that tarnished Ms. Eramo’s reputation by alleging she was indifferent to allegations of gang rape on UV-a campus.

What’s the message here? Be careful what you write.

Yes, the First Amendment has certain guarantees regarding free speech and freedom of the press, but even the First Amendment has its limits. The Eramo jury found those limits.

So, as authors wanting to write about people that can potentially be recognized, here are a few things to take into consideration:

Understand the concept of libel. It’s a false statement published as a fact, which harms the reputation of a person, business or organization.

  1. Defamatory Statement. In breaking down the definition, know that the alleged libelous content must contain a defamatory statement that harms the reputation of someone.
  2. Easily Recognized. If the party you speak about can be identified, you risk being sued. This applies even if you change the name. It also applies to both fiction and nonfiction works of authorship.
  3. Published to a Third Party. The work must be seen by a third party, not just the author of the work and the person written about.
  4. Must be False. Finally, truth is a defense to libel. For a claim of libel to be successful, the statement must be false.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Feel free to join my conversation on my Facebook Fan Page, on my Twitter page, in one of my LinkedIn Groups.

FTC Advertising Rules. Testimonials.



http www browser bar, Internet addressA client recently got upset when I told her she needed to change her marketing tools (e.g., websites, social media profiles, and blogs) in order to comply with the updated FTC advertising rules on testimonials and endorsements.  A die hard information marketer, she insisted that I was wrong.  She said, “My coach—a very successful info marketer—told me those advertising rules don’t apply to me, because I’m not paying anyone to give me an endorsement.” “Plus,” she said, “I have ‘Results Not Typical’ everywhere on my site.” I told her that the information she’d been given was inaccurate, and that the FTC advertising rules, in fact, DO apply to her.  As an information marketer, I said, you are exactly who the FTC is targeting.

She is not alone in having a vested interest in believing inaccurate information about the new FTC Rules on endorsements and testimonials.  Many internet marketers want to believe that the internet rules, more specifically the advertising rules, don’t apply to them, because it means changing their business model.  It means in some cases significantly altering the way they do business, which can dramatically affect their pocketbook.  But like it or not, the FTC is serious about tracking down violators.  Marketers who, through a variety of advertising mediums on the internet, disseminate false and misleading information about their products and services are the focus.

At a minimum, the FTC Rules require that an advertiser disclose any material relationship between it and an endorser, whether or not you paid them to endorse your product or service. A posting on your social media site, wiki, a blog, chat room, discussion board, forum, or any other internet venue may be considered an endorsement. Transparency through disclosure is key.  Failure to comply can subject both the advertiser and the endorser to liability, particularly if the claims were unsubstantiated or in any way, misrepresented the product or service.

So what can you do to protect yourself:

  1. Take the FTC Rule on endorsements & testimonials seriously!
  2. Review all of your marketing materials with a view toward FTC Rule compliance
  3. Ask yourself, “could an endorsement of your product/service, when viewed objectively, be perceived, by consumers, as sponsored by you, therefore an advertisement?
  4. Disclose all “material connections” between the advertiser and endorser.
  5. Make sure you disclose in a conspicuous manner what the average consumer can expect to gain from use of your product/service
  6. Make sure you have reliable evidence of any claim made about your product/service
  7. Don’t rely on “Results Not Typical” to satisfy the FTC requirement, because it won’t (See Footnote 1, pg. 5,
  8. Accurately represent customers expectations
  9. Review this FTC Rule pronouncement carefully, especially  §255.2 if you use consumer testimonials (
  10. Consider hiring someone to help you interpret the New FTC rules in light of your product/service

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

Difference Between a Trademark & Copyright



Many online business owners confuse trademark registration with copyright registration. Trademark registration refers to protecting the brand name, color, design, and/or logo of your business, and provides a means to distinguish your product from others in the marketplace. Copyright registration refers to protecting original creative content, such books, articles, blog posts, photos, website content, videos, music, plays, movies, cartoons, and a number of other items. While both are forms of intellectual property, they are handled differently. Understand the difference.

If you need someone to perform a trademark search or if you need help with filing a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, CLICK HERE NOW.

Copyright? Free Legal Advice. Website Links.


copyrightBelow is a list of links that can help you with your copyright efforts:

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

The Oakland Raiders. NFL Football


To fans of NFL football, The Oakland Raiders are truly an iconic team. They are known for their gritty play, as well as their eclectic and sometimes eccentric players – where the rebels and castaways of the NFL frequently wind up, and often make big on their second chance.

DecisionThe Oakland Raiders franchise began back in 1960 as members of the now defunct AFL, which merged with the NFL in 1970. The Raiders stayed in Oakland from 1960 to 1981. In 1982, they moved to Los Angeles and became the Los Angeles Raiders. Then in 1995, they moved back to Oakland where they have played to this day.

After several years of pushing for construction of a new stadium, now there is a deal is in the works to move the team to Las Vegas. It is not a done deal quite yet, but there is a chance the team may stay in Oakland. This is obviously good news for the die-hard fans. As for the critics, not so much.

Oakland Raiders.

I get that the fans of the Oakland Raiders want them to stay in Oakland, CA and not move to Las Vegas. But one issue that seems to escape those who just want their football team in the Bay Area is debt. A group led by former Raider Ronnie Lott is trying to work out a deal with the county for a new stadium estimated at a cost of $1.3 billion, of which $350 million would come from public funds, while a $91 million debt still exists on the coliseum from the 1995 renovation.

We are so much a culture that wants to spend until we are in debt way over our heads. Then, we blame someone else for our trouble. They are willing to spend money on a football team when the city itself needs help. Who can honestly deny that Oakland needs financial help for infrastructure? Not any reasonable person.

San Francisco Chronicle.

A few months ago, the San Francisco Chronicle published a story titled “Homeless tent camps sprouting all over Oakland.” Another story appearing in the World Atlas lists Oakland as one of the top 3 cities with the highest violent crime rate. Of course, these problems plague a lot more cities in America besides Oakland.

Getting back to sports stadiums, according to MarketWatch 22 cities have given an average of $250 million to the NFL for stadiums since 1997. That’s a total of $5.5 billion – and that’s just for football! Partial financing for many of these deals came through property taxes, which usually go towards infrastructure and schools.

Hey folks, I believe the time has come for us to think long and hard about our priorities.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.