A YouTube video claims falsely to have been shot by a media consulting firm and trashes one of the firm’s clients. A Facebook post cuts and pastes copyrighted material. A Tweet makes a slanderous claim about a person. The result of any of these could be a lawsuit and, if deep pockets are involved, an expensive settlement.
Social media are opening up new ways to incur legal liability for both individuals and companies. All the old concepts apply – slander, libel, plagiarism, trademark infringement – but the possible ways of committing any of these offenses are expanded, and as a result, so are the potential consequences, as well as the difficulty keeping track of it all.
Social media have this effect for several reasons. It has become quick and easy, thanks to the Internet and social media, to copy and paste words and images and to transmit them to the world. A casual remark made on line can be picked up, copied and pasted, or re-Tweeted to a wide audience. The proliferation of cell-phone video cameras, together with YouTube and similar video publication sites, create an environment in which film footage can be published about anyone doing almost anything.
The number of legal cases involving social media has been small to date, but that is likely to change according to experts in liability law. Several insurance companies, including Fireman’s Fund, Travellers, and Chubb Insurance, have been writing liability policies for newspapers, radio and television broadcasters, and movie producers for years, and are now expanding that side of their practice to include companies outside the media business. As social media turn everyone who uses them into a publisher, the liabilities publishers have faced since the dawn of publishing are now extended to everyone. In addition, non-publishers actually face some additional hazards not faced by those who would normally be considered publishers.
A business outside of publishing that puts up a Facebook page or puts out Twitter messages may be considered to be promoting its brand. That puts their publications under the rules governing advertising and promotion, which, among other things, increases a company’s exposure for making false statements. On top of which they are naturally exposed for the usual libel, slander, copyright infringement, and trademark infringement issues, and are likely to have routine legal counsel, to say nothing of insurance, only in regard to the last of those.
As social media proliferate and the use of them for promotional and branding purposes becomes more and more a necessity of doing business, so will the risks and exposures involved in doing so, and managing that risk will become more and more a cost of doing business. How that will be managed by the legal profession and the insurance industry remains to be seen. As often happens, the norms of society lag behind developments of technology.
The internet can truly assist you in so many ways, thus giving you a positive effect in your life due to its convenience and real-time capabilities. But what about the disadvantages that it can hold? Read on to learn more about this at http://www.findermind.com.