Are You Covered for Social Media Issues?

Social Media and the Law: Time to Get With the Program

Take a look at these recent examples of companies’ brushes with social media and the law from the website Virtual World Law Blog:

– In March 2011, a California court ruled that Facebook messages sent to friends’ walls, news feeds or home pages are “electronic mail messages” under the CAN-SPAM Act. “While the court did not address the underlying merits of the CAN-SPAM claims, companies using social media in marketing should verify that they (and any marketing services they engage) comply with CAN-SPAM’s requirements for commercial messages sent via social media platforms.”

– Also in March, a company selling a popular series of guitar-lesson DVDs agreed to pay $250,000 to settle FTC charges that it deceptively advertised its products through online affiliate marketers who falsely posed as ordinary consumers or independent reviewers.

– And in Chicago recently, a woman working for an interior design firm, as part of her job, created a work-related blog that was hosted on her employer’s website. She also posted to both her Facebook page and Twitter. Long story short, she got in a serious automobile accident and the case became a legal mess when the employer accessed those sites without her knowledge. “This case deals with something employers should deal with in their social media policy—personal social media accounts. Like most other issues regarding social media, how a given employer deals with a given question depends a lot on the employer, its industry and its culture. Some businesses prohibit employees from having personal work-related social media accounts, while some encourage it. Consider what the right position is for your business, discuss it with your employees who are active in social media, and document the decision in your social media policy.”

Better yet, sign up today for the free-for-members SIPA Webinar: Managing Your Company’s Social Media Exposures and Insurance Coverage Issues, on Thursday, May 19 at 1 p.m. The speakers will be Mike DiSilvestro, V.P. Claims from AXIS PRO, Christopher Beall from SIPA counsel Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schulz, LLP and a well-known publisher. It is very important to ensure that your use, and your employees’ use, of social media are done in ways that does not create legal liability

In today’s society, social media creates a whole new assortment of unique legal entanglements that are very hard to fully comprehend without some help. Businesses leveraging these social platforms need to understand the rules and ensure that uses of platform do not create a liability (platforms/partners are getting sued together).

Simply put, companies need a digital media strategy that takes legal issues into account. The legal landscape is rapidly changing, and many issues are just starting to be addressed. Several good questions will be addressed during the webinar:
– Should your trademark registrations cover digital goods?
– Do descriptions of goods/services for real world items cover virtual goods/services?
– Is your company at risk of being left exposed?
– Should personal accounts be allowed to debate organizational issues? (What if personal opinions get picked up by the press?)
– Should—or can–organizations monitor private staff blogs?
– What about hiring? Can employers take into consideration every social network outlet for prospective employees?
– How do you draw the thin line between private and professional when it comes to social media?

U.S. courts have expanded the definition of commercial speech, and the litigation over copyrights and trademarks is exploding. Many companies rely on their general liability insurance policies for advertising coverage. But these general liability policies are shrinking. It’s time to implement an organizational social media policy before risk arises. Sign up today for Managing Your Company’s Social Media Exposures and Insurance Coverage Issues on May 19. Remember, it’s free for SIPA members!

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