Legal perils to avoid when using social networks

Sharon Givoni Consulting Consumer Law, Copyright, Intellectual Property, Internet Law

This article considers copyright for businesses in relation to social media. Issues explored include:

  • Who legally owns a business’ social networking account?
  • Recommendations for drafting social media policies and what they should cover
  • Resolving other issues that can arise from social media use such as bad publicity

Social media can both help and hurt businesses. The meteoric rise of social media over the last few years means that in-house counsel must now consider the potential legal issues that can arise from its usage. As the intellectual property law in this area is still developing, businesses need to take a proactive approach to mitigate the risk of litigation and protect their reputations.

Firstly, there is the issue of whether businesses own their social media accounts. Various cases have established that the person, i.e. the employee for our purposes, who creates the social media account is the owner of that account. This remains the case regardless of them having created it during their course of employment.

Therefore, social media policies should be adopted so as to prevent issues, such as the ownership issue, that could arise from the use of social media. This would be an effective and efficient strategy to minimise the risk of, if not avoid altogether, litigation. These policies should be comprehensive and, at the very least, define what kinds of conduct and behaviours and conduct are acceptable or unacceptable, as well as the consequences for breaching the policies.

Bad publicity is another issue that can arise from social media use. Regular workshops and training on appropriate conduct with regards to social networking can really help in this respect. Employees need to be cautious how they present information so as to avoid making misleading statements. Employees should be aware that comments made on any public platform, even on personal Facebook accounts can be misleading under the law.

If you need advice on social media policy including writing a social media policy for your company,  our firm will be able to assist.

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