Use Policy. Social Media.

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Social networking is the hottest discovery since email. It’s fun, fast paced, interesting, and allows you to connect with friends, colleagues, and clients in a way that you never could before. And for entrepreneurs and small business owners, it levels the playing field by allowing you to develop a network and marketing plan at a fraction of the cost. BUT don’t be lulled into thinking you can act with impunity. With all the good social networking can accomplish and the ease in which you can use it, there are landmines to be aware of.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll address a number of legal issues you should be aware of when playing in the social media sandbox, and actions you can take to side-step them. The first issue is the most basic and the easiest for you to comply with–having a social media use policy.

Have a social media use policy.
Do you have a social media policy in your work place? Do you think you need one? The average small business person does NOT have a policy on what’s acceptable behavior in their office, with regards to  social media use. Yet without a policy, which let’s people know what your expectations are, you can’t hold them accountable.  Whether you are a large or  small business, or sole proprietor, you should have a written policy letting people know, what you expect, in terms of their behavior in your workspace.

Communicate your policy.
Having a policy is essential to the effective running of your business.  But a policy alone is useless, unless everyone with a need to know, knows about it. So who needs to know about your social media use policy? At a minimum, the following people need to know about your social media use policy:

  1.  Full time staff
  2. Temporary staff
  3. Part-time workers
  4. Independent contractors
  5. Consultants
  6. Clients who visit and access your computers

Enforce your policy.
Having a policy and communicating that policy are all well and good.  But if you have a policy and don’t enforce it, or you enforce it against only certain people, then it is as if you have no policy at all.

Until next time, beware of social networking landmines!

Social Media Use Policy?

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Social Media.

Social media. Social Networking.

Social media. Social Networking.

Social networking is the hottest discovery since email. It’s fun, fast paced, interesting, and allows you to connect with friends, colleagues, and clients in a way that you never could before. And for entrepreneurs and small business owners, it levels the playing field by allowing you to develop a network and marketing plan at a fraction of the cost. BUT don’t be lulled into thinking you can act with impunity. With all the good social networking can accomplish and the ease in which you can use it, there are landmines to be aware of.

One of the legal issues you should be aware of when playing in the social media sandbox, is the most basic and the easiest for you to comply with–having a social media use policy.

Have a social media use policy.
Do you have a social media policy in your work place? Do you think you need one? The average small business person does NOT have a policy on what’s acceptable behavior in their office, with regards to  social media use. Yet without a policy, which let’s people know what your expectations are, you can’t hold them accountable.  Whether you are a large or  small business, or sole proprietor, you should have a written policy letting people know, what you expect, in terms of their behavior in your workspace.

Communicate your policy.
Having a policy is essential to the effective running of your business.  But a policy alone is useless, unless everyone with a need to know, knows about it. So who needs to know about your social media use policy? At a minimum, the following people need to know about your social media use policy:

  1.  Full time staff
  2. Temporary staff
  3. Part-time workers
  4. Independent contractors
  5. Consultants
  6. Clients who visit and access your computers

Enforce your policy.
Having a policy and communicating that policy are all well and good.  But if you have a policy and don’t enforce it, or you enforce it against only certain people, then it is as if you have no policy at all.

Facebook. Baby Pictures. Photos.

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Photos. Social Media. Facebook.

Do adults have rights over photos taken of them when they were children? Can children sue their parents to remove their photos from platforms such as Facebook or Instagram? These are some of the questions that will need to be answered in the not too distant future.

Camera. Photos.

Camera. Photos.

In Austria, an 18-year-old woman is suing her parents for posting roughly 500 images of her to their Facebook page without her consent. The woman told an Austrian newspaper, “They knew no shame and no limit — and didn’t care whether it was a picture of me sitting on the toilet or lying naked in my cot — every stage was photographed and then made public.”

The woman not only wants her parents to remove the photos from their Facebook page, she is also seeking monetary damages. Facebook does require its users to be at least 13 years of age, but it does not have a specific policy prohibiting the sharing of children’s photos. Will Facebook and other social media sites have to adjust their policies in this regards? They may very well have to.

Taking and Sharing Photos.

The father of the woman at the heart of the lawsuit simply states that he has rights to the photos because he took them. On its face, that statement may be a bit simplistic. The woman’s attorney stated that they have a very good chance of winning the case, which is scheduled to be heard by an Austrian court this November.

Many parents and grandparents post and share photos of their kids and grandchildren on social media. Many believe this is harmless, while other parents are reluctant to make photos of their kid’s public due to the threat of improper use by potential predators and other unsavory people.

The Austrian decision on this case will surely have world-wide ramifications. The social media phenomenon is still in its early stages, relatively speaking, and there will be many issues, legal and otherwise, that will ultimately have to be addressed. Meanwhile, if there’s an embarrassing baby photo of you out there somewhere on the Internet, you may finally have some recourse.

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.

 

Social Networks. Defamation. Facebook.

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Social Networks. Defamation. Facebook.

Social media networks, such as Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, FacebookLinkedIn, and others have found a safe harbor in the United States, when it comes to allowing users to do and say anything they want. Thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, these sites are almost never held liable for the content their user’s post online.  Essentially, the responsibility for libelous posts, infringing content, or simply outrageous and offensive rants generally fall on the poster of the material, not the platform that permits the dissemination of the content. It appears that defamation is supported and encouraged. "<yoastmark

Facebook.

However, that is not the case in other countries, where social networking sites are held to a higher standard. For example, as we speak, Germany is deliberating whether to hold Facebook accountable for its posters actions. German prosecutors are seeking to compel Facebook into holding its users accountable by removing racist and threatening posts. Is that fair? Some say Facebook and other social networking sites should not be held accountable ford the action of their users. Others say, why should they not?

Are we too lenient with people who take what does not belong to them? Do we give too much freedom to people who spew racist and defamatory content? Does our first amendment need to be changed?

What are your thoughts?

Join the conversation on my Facebook Fan Page. Twitter page, in one of my LinkedIn discussion groups, or send me an email through my website.

Groupon. Instagram. Social Media.

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Social Media Lawsuits.

Social media. Social Networking.

Social media. Social Networking.

Our society is awash in social media. Millions of people use some social media platform daily. Many use more than one platform. Furthermore, social media has become a near necessity for businesses, especially small business owners. These platforms allow people to market and build their brands without paying marketing experts thousands of dollars, as in years past.

However, as with any good tool, people need to be very careful that you are using it correctly and legally, or you may find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

Recently, Groupon, the global eCommerce giant, which connects customers with locals, was hit with a class action lawsuit. Filed by more than 1000 users of Instagram, the lawsuit claims that the company violated their right of publicity by taking photos from their Instagram account and posting them on the company’s website – without permission.

Lawsuits involving use of content from social media are becoming more and more common. Way back in the early stages of social media, the music-sharing website, Napster, was sued for allowing users to download copyrighted music, free of charge. Lawsuits eventually caused the site, in its original form, to close down. In a more recent case, Agence France-Presse (AFP), an international newsfeed company was sued for copyright infringement for using photos of the 2010 devastating earthquake in Haiti without permission. The photos were taken from the Twitter feed of photographer Daniel Morel. AFP was ordered to pay Morel 1.2 million in statutory damages.

Groupon’s line of defense against the suit is yet unknown, but often defendants in these types of suits use the argument of “transformative work” under the Fair Use doctrine. Transformative Work refers to copyrighted material that is transformed by the user, then published in its new form.

The fact is that many people still don’t understand that using other people’s social media content, even when giving credit to the owner of the content, can be a violation of federal copyright laws. As they say, ignorance of the law is not a defense, even if the infringement is not intentional. The sad reality is that big companies with lots of resources will often risk lawsuits gambling on the chance that the average person will not know of the infringement or challenge them on legal grounds. Sometimes they get away with it, sometimes they don’t.

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.