Thursday, April 8, 2010

Finally, Social Media and the Law

From the better-late-than-never files...

I am finally getting around sharing some key take-aways and a brief interview from the Greater Fort Worth PRSA chapter February lunch speaker, Dr. Chip Stewart from TCU on Social Media and the Law.

I completely grasp why you should do something like this immediately after so the content and ideas are fresh, but alas my notes and memory will have to be our guide. (Image credit: roboppy)


Social Media and the Law
Just a few simple points that may or may not be obvious for social media users:
  1. Defamation - If you or your employee say something bad and untrue, you're responsible for it.
  2. Privacy - Unless you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, it's public. And remember, you're never truly anonymous.
  3. Copyright and Trademark - If you don't own it, you need permission to re-publish or distribute. This is a bit of a cultural shift as with many new technologies and social norms, laws haven't completely caught up.
  4. Regulations - The FDA and FTC can regulate commercial speech, even on the web.
But don't forget...

Social media and media-sharing tools are also governed  by Terms of Use. Dr. Stewart mentioned basically these terms of use are adhesion contracts. You have to accept them or no deal. Believe it or not, you have a duty to read these terms. They apply to you even if you don't read them before clicking "accept."

For example, with Facebook you are granting a license for them to share your intellectual property uploaded to the site, royalty-free. By contrast, with YouTube, you retain intellectual property rights, but not control of the commentary.

I appreciated some final thoughts from Dr. Stewart:
  • In social media, once you're in, you're in.
  • You need to monitor, police, and engage. 
  • Have a corporate social media policy in place.
  • Remain connected, stay engaged, and when in doubt, ask your lawyer. (Disclosure, he's an attorney with a good sense of humor.)
Lastly, I'll leave you with a post-luncheon video interview I conducted with Professor Stewart to get some additional thoughts from his presentation. Stewart provides a few fundamental issues for social media and the law; why it's so important to have a social media policy; and what PR professionals should know about communicating on behalf of clients in the social sphere. (Sorry for the background noise, the staff was cleaning up after the luncheon.)

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