With the widespread adoption of social media, file sharing and user content generation, lawyers and lawmakers are constantly adapting to protect the rights of users, employers, content producers and many others. To explore this important topic we featured Jeff Schultz, Partner and Chair of Armstrong Teasdale’s Social Media Practice, at our latest TXCHANGE event. Here are some major points from Jeff’s presentation.
Online Actions, Real-World consequences
Increasingly, social media activity is tying in with our professional lives. Copyright infringements, intellectual property (IP) theft, and wrongful discharge claims are just a few ways social media activity can bring legal repercussions. Jeff emphasized the need for caution in all areas of social content generation.
Sharing isn’t always caring
While the social web is designed to encourage sharing, not everyone wants his or her content bouncing around the internet. Content creators, such as photographers and musicians, can have trouble maintaining rights to their content with myriad blogs and YouTube videos reposting their work. While the DMCA does help sites like YouTube protect these artists, Jeff admitted that IP rights online are still evolving.
“You are what you tweet!”
Jeff was kind enough to point out that the U.S. Library of Congress is logging every single tweet in a permanent public database. This certainly puts things in perspective! Content on social media is written in ink and anyone can see it including clients, employers, and the government.
Know the Terms
Most of us turn on auto-pilot when social networks ask us to agree to their “terms & conditions”. However, Jeff revealed the shocking amount of rights users give over to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others without thinking. Many of these networks completely own (and derive value from) the information users post on their network.
When in doubt, write a contract!
Social media accounts are valuable assets for businesses, as Jeff highlighted with the @phonedog_Noah case. Thankfully, Jeff offered a simple solution to ensure social media account ownership and clear expectations: use a signed, written contract. This simple step can save businesses a lot of hassle in the social media gray area between personal and professional.
Have any other thoughts or tips to share regarding social media and the law? Sound off in the comments!