The Legal Risks of Social Media
Social media has become a very effective marketing tool. However, you do not have to try too hard to find examples of where social media has resulted in poor publicity for a business. Whilst some say any publicity is good publicity, business operators need to be careful on a number of legal fronts when engaging in social media activities. Some key issues include:
There have been a number of situations where businesses have breached copyright laws using photos off the internet on their own websites. Whilst search engines will generate numerous pictures, these engines do not often distinguish those images that are protected by copyright. If you then use one (or more) of these images without paying for it, you may find yourself receiving a letter regarding a breach of copyright. There are organisations out there that scan the internet looking for unauthorised use of copyrighted images.
Another key issue that keeps arising in the social media sphere is defamatory comments being made against a business operator or even their employees. Defamation cases involving social media are on the rise however you need to be careful to know the difference between defamation and a negative review. Defamation involves publishing imputations the effect of which lower the reputation of the person in the eyes of the public at large. Importantly, defences to defamation include truth and honest opinion and the general position is that you cannot defame a company (albeit there are some limited exclusions), therefore taking some time to consider an appropriate response on social media is required. Sometimes a heated response to a negative review will generate more publicity than a considered response.
Privacy Laws regulate how personal information is used, stored and disclosed. Therefore, prior to collecting and releasing personal information on social media, you need to consider the purpose for which that information was collected, how it is to be stored, who will have access to that information and for what purposes it is to be used.
The Spam Act 2003 applies to offers, advertising and promotions by way of emails, SMS, MMS and instant messaging. Prior to utilising these electronic platforms, it is important to ensure that you have consent to contact the person in that manner, it is clear who the sender is and that the receive an ‘opt-out’ of receiving the communications.
With the rise of social media in the business context, it is important to know your legal position and how to minimise the risks. If you have any queries regarding social media issues, please contact Jarrod Ryan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Alyce Cassettai (email@example.com).