GEAR UP FOR FALL! Now Is A Good Time To Take A Look At Those Contracts

Contracts

One of the most important tools to protect your business – your ideas, customer relationships and talent pool – is your written contract. A solid contract is the foundation for a reliable relationship for you, your customers and your employees. More importantly, it helps to prevent misunderstandings and false expectations that can lead to a breakdown in your customer relationship, jeopardize the project and result in litigation.

Many companies start with a model or “form” contract adapted from forms available online or drafted when the business first started. As businesses develop over time, you may have revised your contracts, adding a little here, removing a little there. Maybe you read an article about an important case in your industry and decided to add some text from the contract discussed in the court’s legal opinion. In many cases, over time, the agreements become “Franken-contracts” an odd amalgamation of trade lingo, inconsistent terms and even contradictory conditions. At best these are ambiguous and confusing to read. At worst, they become unenforceable.

At some point, you should review, revise and generally “tighten” existing contracts. You should have your lawyer review them to make sure that there are no mistakes, ambiguities or omissions that could cost you or your customers. I urge clients to have their contract forms reviewed on an annual basis. Depending on changes in the law, changes in the industry or changes in your own business, this process should only take a few hours.

The following are six things to consider as you review your existing contract forms and business practices.

First, are you using a written contract? Simply having a written agreement in place will help prevent the often difficult, time-consuming and expensive dispute that comes down to a “he said / she said” situation.

Second, make sure that the key terms of your contract are consistent and understandable. Pricing and payment terms, clear descriptions of the services to be performed or the goods to be delivered, as well as due dates and acceptance criteria will go a long way toward preventing breach of contract claims. More importantly, ambiguous and internally-contradictory terms may expose you to fraud claims or claims under an unfair business practices act. These types of claims are typically much more difficult and more expensive to defend against.

Third, create a mechanism for changes in your contract. Circumstances change. When they do, make sure that you document them and that your customer initials and dates any additions or changes to the contract after it is signed.

Fourth, don’t overlook intellectual property (“IP”) rights, Many business relationships involve collaborative sharing or development of knowledge, skills and protectable IP assets such as copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets. Intangible assets are often the most important drivers of revenue creation and value. Overlooking creation, ownership and control of IP rights may result in the loss of these assets.

Fifth, ensure that your contracts are up-to-date with respect to local laws and industry regulations. Recent developments in technology, e.g., BYOD, Social Media, Mobile commerce, and online privacy had produced a raft of state, federal and industry specific laws, rules and regulations. Do you regularly update your forms to make sure they comply with changes to local laws?

Sixth, understand your “escape” options. Not every relationship is meant to last forever. Your contracts should have clear and concise terms for ending the relationship such as failure to perform, failure to pay or adverse business conditions.

To find out more about how the Adler Law Group can help you tighten your contracts, or even draft new ones, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Social Media Legal News Roundup

1. Content & Marketing

MutualMind Signs Agreement With LexisNexis to Offer Advanced Social Media
MarketWatch (press release)

PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — MutualMind, an award-winning social media technology developer based in Dallas, Texas, announced an agreement today with LexisNexis, a leading provider of legal content and technology solutions.

Facebook: Should Law Firms Bother?
Business 2 Community

While consumer brands have embraced Facebook as a key tool in building deeper customer engagement, the biggest social network largely remains terra incognita in the legal world. The sector has certainly harnessed professional networking sites.

2. International

Bahrain may act against social media abuse
Trade Arabia

Legal action could be taken against people in Bahrain, who incite violence and spread sectarianism on social media, said a top official. The initiative comes as a new code of honour for social media users is set to be launched by the Bahrain Bloc.

3. Law Enforcement

Infographic: How police investigators are using social media
Police News

An overwhelming majority of investigators using social media for investigative purposes are “self taught,” according to a new survey of 1200 Federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals.

Social media for investigators: Why Police departments should invest in training
Police News

That’s but one of the many conclusions found in a comprehensive new survey — conducted in a partnership between PoliceOne and LexisNexis Risk Solutions — focused on the impact of social media on law enforcement in criminal investigations. Among the …

4. Employees & Workplace

What your social media profile is telling future employers? (Take our poll)
Plain Dealer

The State of Maryland already has passed a law forbidding employers from asking job candidates for their passwords to Facebook and other social media sites, and California is considering a similar law. 01fgSCREEN2.jpg View full size · The Society for …

Social Media in the Workplace – July 2012
JD Supra (press release)

With an understanding of some of the relevant issues, employers can implement meaningful and reasonable policies and guidelines for employees and respond appropriately and legally to social media issues that arise. Below are a few of the discrete issues …

5. Financial Services

Quest IRA, Inc. Develops New Interactive Website & Social Media Campaign
Equities.com

The trick for us is trying to provide legally correct information, in such a way that is easy to understand, to the American public so that investors truly understand their options with retirement savings.” “Internet, the online experience and social media are the 21st Century.”

The New Social Metrics
Bank Technology News

Below are methodologies and metrics for determining the ROI of these specific social media use cases. The metrics roll up to three major categories of benefits: revenue impact, operational efficiencies, and legal and compliance risk avoidance.

David M. Adler, Esq. is an attorney, author, educator, entrepreneur and partner with Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler, LLC, a boutique law firm in Chicago, Illinois created with a specific mission: provide businesses with a competitive advantage by enabling them to leverage their intangible assets and creative content in order to drive innovation and increase overall business value.

We meet this challenge by providing legal counsel on issues related to creation, protection and commercialization of intangible assets, our comprehensive understating of the relevant law, our team of seasoned professionals and our client service philosophy.

Social Media Legal News Roundup

Into the data jungle – in association with Huron Legal
The Lawyer
Technological developments such as cloud computing, social networking and mobile apps mean EU law is no longer fit for purpose. The EU claims current laws often conflict and cost businesses a total of nearly £2bn a year.

Saudi Arabia considers law against insulting Islam
Bangladesh News 24 hours
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, July 16 (bdnews24.com/Reuters) – Saudi Arabia is studying new regulations to criminalise insulting Islam, including in social media, and the law could carry heavy penalties, a Saudi paper said on Sunday.

Mind the missteps in online job dance
Lawyers Weekly
With some background check firms specializing in social media searches (U.S.-based Social Intelligence Corp. for one), how do third-party recruiters use social media when screening or finding clients for law firms in Canada?

Saudi Arabia looking to criminalize Islam insults on social media
Bikya Masr
DUBAI: The Saudi Arabia government is looking to ensure users on social media networking sites do not insult Islam or the Prophet Mohamed, al-Watan newspaper reported on Sunday, citing officials who said a new law could bring “heavy” penalties.

Watching the detectives: the case for restricting access to your social media data
Delimiter
That debate tells us something about how Australians and the media conceptualise privacy and business-government relationships in a world where mobile phones and social network services such as Facebook are ubiquitous.

10 Tactics for Integrating Photographs into Content Marketing
Business 2 Community
Acquire digital rights for images. Remember when using images, especially photographs, your legal team is your best friend. Ensure that you’ve got the right to use the photos by incorporating outtakes and additional shots for social media.

Syracuse Neighborhood Watch plans to increase social media outreach
CNYcentral.com
New program coordinator plans more email, social media contact. … CNY Biz Central – Legal. Helpful advice about finding the right attorney for your legal needs. CNY Biz Central. Get information from our team.

Reasonable Expectations of Privacy in the Digital Age
Mondaq News Alerts (registration)
In this digital age of smart phones, global positioning systems, cloud computing, and social networking, determining what constitutes private information and what lengths our legal system will go to protect it is increasingly challenging.

Sale Of Digg Reminder Of Potential Risks To Facebook And Other Social Media …
Seeking Alpha
In 2011, social media watchers may recall reading in Bloomberg that Myspace, which had been purchased by News Corporation (NWS) for $580 million in 2005 had reportedly been sold for just $35 million to private investors, including Justin Timberlake. In …

Your Social Media Tweeting & Posting Legal Rights. TV … – YouTube
Find out how legally liable you are for your Twitter Tweets and Facebook postings.

Learn more about me here: www.ecommerceattorney.com and follow me here

Your Money or Your Life: Mobile Marketing & Privacy (Part 1 of 3)

Free content is not without a cost.

As our lives have become more digitally enmeshed with content, immersive entertainment and devices, the economic bargain that makes it possible has gone largely unnoticed. Simply put, the collection, analysis and sharing of personal data is driving the digital economy. Mobile applications (Apps), digital content and entertainment – from TV shows to games – are available for “free” but subsidized by income from online ads that are customized using data about customers. Vendors, advertisers and platforms compete for “eyeballs” based, in part, on the quality of the information they possess about users to whom the ads are targeted.

Across this interconnected landscape of users, content providers and devices, the issue of online privacy has become a major talking point for app developers, marketers, consumers and legislators. Recently, a wide range of stakeholders, from large institutions to smaller developers, have been accused of mishandling personal data. As the volume of public debate has increased, legislators have introduced a raft privacy initiatives. The Obama administration has called for a Privacy Bill of Rights, an industry consortium of leading web sites and search engines has proposed its own privacy best practices and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a consumer-oriented Mobile User Privacy Bill of Rights.

Part 1 of this article looks at several recent and high-profile revelations about how personal information is collected and used, often without the user’s knowledge and consent. Part 2 discusses the legal risks faced by vendors that don’t take adequate precautions to protect consumer privacy and Part 3 concludes with strategies and tactics that help leverage the power of personalization while avoiding the pitfalls of privacy and data security.

1. The current state of information gathering

The scope of personal information gathered is unprecedented and largely unknown. For years, “free” web-based content has been available because of the implicit compromise between content providers and content consumers. Advances in technology have made it easier to track a user’s web browsing habits, mobile browsing habits, and even real-time geospatial location (check in apps and GPS). In the last few months, we have learned that some apps not only gather this mostly non-personally-identifiable data, but also upload a user’s address book contacts and even photos.

On Wednesday Feb. 2012, software Developer Arun Thampi “outed” Path, the purveyor of a self-titled journaling app, for sending users’ address book contents to the company. Path lets users share what they’re doing with a select group of friends and gives users the option to find friends on the app through contacts or other social networks. Thampi disclosed the clandestine data transfer in a blog post after discovering that his phone’s entire address book, including full names and e-mail addresses, was being sent to Path without his explicit consent. According to Path, this data was necessary to in order to quickly notify users when people they know join Path.

Not too long ago, Google earned itself a similar PR (and legal) black eye when it launched its social network, Google Buzz, in 2010 through its Gmail web-based email product. At launch, users were not informed that the identity of individuals they emailed most frequently would be made public by default. Google Buzz automatically disclosed the email addresses of a user’s contacts by default. Google settled with the FTC over allegations that Google used deceptive practices and violated its own privacy policies.

On Feb 17 2012, WSJ reported that Google Inc. and other advertising companies have been bypassing the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.’s Web browser on their iPhones and computers—tracking the Web-browsing habits of people who intended for that kind of monitoring to be blocked. The companies used special computer code that tricks Apple’s Safari Web-browsing software into letting them monitor many users. Safari, the most widely used browser on mobile devices, is designed to block such tracking by default.

A major topic for discussion just this week is the “Target Snafu.” As originally reported in the New York Times, Target used customer data and predictive analytics to determine that one of their customers was pregnant, and even her specific trimester. The girl’s father learned of the pregnancy when the retailer emailed her promotional material and coupons.

It used to take days or even weeks to gather, synthesize and extrapolate data about a customer’s buying habits and receptiveness to particular products or services. Now it takes milliseconds. A targeted ad can be sourced and served in the time it takes to hit “refresh” on a web browser. Companies are using massive amounts of data to predict what their customers are going to want next. More importantly, gathering that data is getting easier, cheaper and more ubiquitous as the source of that data moves from the desktop to mobile devices.

So where is the middle ground between privacy and targeted advertising? Is it spying simply because the user doesn’t know what data is being collected even though the user accepted a broad and ambiguous Terms of Use agreement? Is knowingly contributing data without boundaries sufficiently transparent?