Technology Continues to Test The Bounds of Copyright Law

The Internet is an unprecedented source of disruption. From retail services (e.g. Amazon) to media and entertainment, almost every industry has been forced to rethink its business model due to the accessibility, ubiquity and democratizing force of the Internet. Aereo was positioned to disrupt the traditional media distribution model by giving consumers greater control over what were otherwise “free” over-the-air transmissions.

The Aereo service was premised on the idea that consumers should be able to watch and record over-the-air broadcast television programming via the Internet. Major broadcast networks that owned the content made accessible through Aereo challenged the model on the grounds that Aereo was violating the exclusive “public performance” right guaranteed by the Copyright Act.

Copyright law provides copyright owners six exclusive rights. One of those rights is the exclusive right to publicly perform the copyrighted work. Because this right is a statutory construct, one must look to the statute to determine its meaning. To “perform” and to perform “publicly” means “to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display the work to a place … or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.”

While many reacted by asking whether the case would stifle innovation and have a chilling effect on start-ups, this case does highlight the increasing tension between technological advances and copyright law.

From a practical standpoint, one need not be alarmed about the impact of the decision on most types of innovation. For one thing, the Court went to some lengths to craft a reasonably narrow decision, which applies only to broadcast TV retransmitted over the Internet.

As with any type of innovation, there are different types of risk. On the one hand, there is technology risk: the risk that whatever technology is necessary for some business plan simply won’t work. On the other hand, there is legal risk, highlighted by the Aereo decision: the risk that the entrepreneur’s interpretation of some act or case law won’t ultimately prevail. That’s what happened to Aereo.

As an IP lawyer, I am somewhat perplexed. It is hard for me to understand why Aereo made such a bold move. However, at least the district court agreed with Aereo’s interpretation.

Oklahoma and Louisiana join Wisconsin and Tennessee in recent laws restricting access to applicants’ and employees’ personal online content by prospective and current employers. Adoption of Social Media platforms continues to grow as do new legal and business risks arise as well as state legislatures provide new rules, regulations and guidance. As state by state compliance requirements develop, businesses need to review frequently overlooked elements of key social media guidance, such as how to approach specific areas like Monitoring, Content Approval, Training and Information Security.

This latest round of bandwagon-jumping follows efforts by most other states that have addressed the issue. The key take-away is that business need to take a state-by-state approach to social media legal compliance.

Generally, most of these types of laws prohibit employers from requesting or requiring that applicants or employees disclose a username, password, or other means of authentication for their online accounts.

Employers should be on the lookout for laws that address whether an applicant or employee must accept a “friend” request, change privacy settings to permit access by the employer, or otherwise divulge personal online content.

Another area of concern is the definition of “personal,” “social media” and “account. ” these definitions vary and often cover far more than common notions of social media.

Some laws apply to any online account, including e-mail, instant messaging and media-sharing accounts. Some laws address the scope of use such as “exclusively for personal communications” as opposed to “business purposes of the employer” or “business-related communications.” This carve-out further narrows the scope of the Oklahoma and Louisiana laws.

While these laws generally prohibit adverse actions based based on a refusal to provide user name, password or other authentication information, each law should be scrutinized for broader prohibitions, such as those against penalizing or threatening to penalize an employee or applicant for refusing such requests.

Technology continues to evolve and so does the legal and regulatory environment. Businesses need to continually assess and address the risks created by new laws and new uses of tech in the workplace.

Contact us for a free consultation to learn what we can do to help your business navigate the ever-changing regulatory minefield. What you don’t know can hurt you. We are here to help you avoid getting hurt.

Online marketing continues to evolve and affiliate marketing can be a great method of building brand awareness. Online marketers need to stay ahead of legal and regulatory compliance trends. This article looks at recent Federal Trade Commission (“FTC,” “Commission,” or “agency”) activity that impacts online marketing.

Given the lack of a comprehensive federal regulatory scheme, and the increasing awareness of deceptive marketing practices, it is not surprising that the FTC has ramped up enforcement efforts against entities not covered by existing, industry-specific federal regulations over the last decade. Notably, one company has defended itself against the FTC by challenging the FTC’s authority to pursue such broad enforcement.

Jurisdiction

The widely-watched case of FTC v. Wyndham Worldwide Corp is not just about Cybersecurity.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has just won the first major round of its fight with Wyndham Hotels over data security. However, the importance of the case has more to do with the FTC’s jurisdiction, challenged when Wyndham moved to dismiss the FTC’s case. Affirming the FTC’s broad jurisdiction, the federal judge overseeing the controversy noted that the case highlights “a variety of thorny legal issues that Congress and the courts will continue to grapple with for the foreseeable future.”

Affiliate Marketing: A Roadmap for Compliance: Text Message Marketing

The Commission is cracking down on affiliate marketers that allegedly bombard consumers with unwanted text messages in an effort to steer these consumers towards deceptive websites falsely promising “free” gift cards.

For example, in eight different complaints filed in courts around the United States, the FTC charged 29 defendants with collectively sending more than 180 million unwanted text messages to consumers, many of whom had to pay for receiving the texts. The messages promised consumers free gifts or prizes, including gift cards worth $1,000 to major retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart and Target.

By now, many in the Affiliate Marketing industry are familiar with the Legacy Learning Systems case. In March, 2011 the FTC settled charges against Legacy — which sells instructional DVDs — that Legacy represented, directly or indirectly, expressly or by implication, reviews of their products were endorsements reflecting the opinions of ordinary consumers or independent reviewers, when many of the favorable endorsements were posted by affiliate marketers who received a commission from Legacy for sales they generated.

Regardless of the form of affiliate marketing – email campaigns or text message campaigns – there are a couple key take-aways here.

First, identify and disclose a material connection between a product user or endorser and any other party involved in promoting the product. A “material connection” is a relationship that affects the credibility of an endorsement and wouldn’t be reasonably expected by consumers. See our article about complying with the endorsement guides here.

Second, set up and maintain a system to monitor and review affiliates’ representations and disclosures to ensure compliance. For example, Legacy looked at its top 50 revenue-generating affiliates at least once a month, visiting their sites to review their representations and disclosures. It has to be done in a way designed not to disclose to the affiliates that they’re being monitored.

Third, understand he requirements for conducting legally-compliant text message marketing. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) makes it unlawful to make any call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party) using any automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice … to any telephone number assigned to a . . . cellular telephone service … or any service for which the called party is charged for the call. The prohibition on calls to cell phones applies to text messaging.

AUSTIN, Texas — A divided House vote provides momentum for Texas employees who wish to shield personal text messages, email passwords under a bill backed by Democratic State Rep. Hellen Giddings and given preliminary approval Thursday.

Proponents say Texas workers need the same social media protections provided in several other states. The bill prohibits employers from asking job applicants or employees for passwords to access their Facebook, Twitter or other personal accounts. Opponents argue it will provide “safe harbor” for employees to steal proprietary information at the workplace through their personal accounts.

No specific penalties are spelled out for employers who would violate the law.

The Texas law is another reminder of the ongoing evolution of Social Media law and regulation as legislators and private businesses struggle to understand how these technologies affect everyone’s rights, obligations and remedies.

If you or your business is concerned about social media legal and regulatory compliance, contact David Adler at Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler. 866-734-2568 dadler@lsglegal.com.

REGULATORY COMPLIANCE
17a-4 llc Provides Free Social Media Capture Service
Virtual-Strategy Magazine

By using a hosted version of 17a-4’s DataParser for Social Media schools, financial institutions, government agencies and other regulated institutions can now avail themselves of this free option to capture social media public profiles and other web content into their email archive. (PRWEB) July 24, 2012 … Most regulated institutions have archival systems in place to support the monitoring of textual content, the retention of the data, and the facilities to run legal holds and e-Discovery productions.

SOCIAL MEDIA E-DISCOVERY
Personal Injury Attorney Social Media Marketing Program Offered by Social Media

July 22, 2012 – Social media agency Maximize Social Media LLC announced its social media marketing program today for personal injury attorneys, providing needed support to law firms nationwide.

Mid-Year Report: Legal Cases Involving Social Media Rapidly
As part of our ongoing effort to monitor legal developments concerning social media evidence, we again searched online legal databases of state and federal agencies.

HOT TOPICS IN AUSTRALIAN SOCIAL MEDIA & THE LAW
Get a new perspective on social media
Dynamic Business

Join us after work on 1 August at the Vibe Hotel in Sydney’s Milsons Point to hear from super connector Iggy Pintado, Switched On Media’s head of social media Hannah Law, and Amelia Zaina, director of Small Business Services at American Express.

YOUTH LEADERSHIP IN SOCIAL MEDIA
The So-Called Arrogance of Gen Y Social Media Managers
Business Insider

So if she had just toned it down a bit, perhaps suggesting that younger people shouldn’t be ruled out for their youth, or that age and experience are different qualifiers in the context of social media, I might actually agree with her. What I believe, firmly, is that the 25-year-old should not be excluded from leadership.

SOCIAL MEDIA USE BY LAW ENFORCEMENT
LAwS Communications Announces ConnectedCOPS Awards Finalists
PR Web (press release)

Quote start The ConnectedCOPS Awards were created with the intent of recognizing the great work being done with social media in six categories, by individual sworn officers and law enforcement agencies.

Officer’s Facebook post sparks uproar
Detroit Free Press

A 2011 survey of 800 law-enforcement agencies conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that 88 percent of the agencies used social media, mostly for investigations. Almost half of those agencies have a social media policy.

Role of Social Media in Law Enforcement Significant – LexisNexis

LexisNexis® Risk Solutions today announced the results of a comprehensive survey focused on the impact of social media on law enforcement.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND CYBERSECURITY
Workplace Diversity, Social Media Implications, Cybersecurity
CHICAGO, July 19, 2012 — Ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace, the implications of social media on law practice and privacy, cybersecurity, and access.

Newsmakers Q&A | Law slow to address workers’ social-media privacy
Columbus Dispatch

Colorado shooting: Public calls on Christian Bale to swoop in
Los Angeles Times

July 21, 2012, 12:04 p.m.. People are calling upon the caped crusader in the wake of the Colorado theater shooting with the 21st century bat signal: social media.

Afghan social media war steps up with new campaign
Reuters UK

And with the government mulling a media law to tighten its grip over the fledgling but lively Afghan press corps, Nai hoped social media could help safeguard political and social freedoms, as occurred during the wave of uprisings across the Middle East.

A social media win on merger
Philadelphia Inquirer

It’s a bracing lesson, on a local stage, in the power of social media to create community around an issue and ratchet up pressure on key players – in this case, the members of the Abington board and its president and CEO, Laurence Merlis. “It’s amazing to me just how fast word spread,” …. A community-conscious and activist community, with a high concentration of concerned, committed people who work in industries such as law, medicine, public relations, and journalism.

Valley reacts via social media regarding Colorado shooting
KGBT-TV

Once new information began streaming in about the shooting, over 100 viewers began responding to the Action 4 News Facebook page and Twitter feed. As the day progressed, over 500 comments came into valleycentral.com andAction 4 social media

Media Wise Parents to the rescue
Windsor This Week
Media Wise Parents helps parents, educators and churches become more aware with social media and the internet. Tweet · Bookmark and … It’s certainly in my background with law and marketing, it’s always something that interests me.

We Want To Hear From You: Take This Two-Minute Social Media Survey
Business Insider

This Is The Gun Used In The Colorado Shooting That Everyone Can’t Believe Is Actually Legal

In Focus: Social Media & Law Enforcement

Busted! Police Turn to Social Media to Fight Crime
CNBC.com (blog)

Law enforcement is taking to social media because criminals are changing their behavior and using social media to facilitate crime. In response, law enforcement officials are using it to track down criminals and as a predictive policing tool, said Haywood.

Role of Social Media in Law Enforcement Significant and Growing
Business Wire (press release)

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–LexisNexis® Risk Solutions today announced the results of a comprehensive survey focused on the impact of social media on law enforcement in criminal investigations.

Police Make Wide Use Of Social Tools
InformationWeek (blog)

The survey, of more than 1200 law enforcement professionals with federal, state, and local agencies, found that 83% of the respondents are using social media, particularly Facebook and YouTube, to further their investigations.

Crime Busters Embrace Social Media
BusinessNewsDaily

It’s not just prospective customers, partners or employers who may be scanning the social media landscape to glean information about you and your organization. The long arm of the law has joined the party as well, a new survey shows.

How Law Enforcement Is Using Social Media (Infographic)
Law enforcement officials are using social media to solve crimes and will continue to do so in greater numbers. In an online survey conducted by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, four out of five law enforcement officials used social media.

Law professor says social media can pose legal problems in Courtroom
Winnipeg Free Press
SASKATOON – The dean of law at the University of Saskatchewan says using social media can have negative consequences in the Courtroom – Business – Winnipeg Free Press.

Eight Ways Your Employee Social-Media Policy May Violate Federal law
AdAge.com (blog)
All employees have certain rights under federal law that social-media policies can’t restrict.

New Law to Force Identification of Trolls Set to be Unveiled
Technorati
Home / Social Media / Articles / New Law to Force Identification of Troll. … is behind the attacks on them online without having to resort to expensive legal action.

A blue wave of change Cleveland County law enforcers join move toward social media alerts
Norman Transcript
Lauri Stevens, a social media strategist at LAwS Communications, a Boston-area company, said law enforcement agencies nationwide are beginning to embrace social media.

Social media helped, hurt in hunt for suspect in triple shooting
Washington Post
Social media at times was a help, other times a hindrance in the search and eventual arrest of a suspect in the triple fatal shooting at an Alabama apartment complex.

Use social media, but use it responsibly, UAE conference hears
gulfnews.com
He said, “We do not monitor social media networks. People have the freedom to speak within the legal framework. There is no law specifically for twitter, but …

Police: Street gangs embrace social media, too
Kansas.com
Beard gave a presentation on gangs, the Internet and social media at last week’s Midwest Law Enforcement Conference on Gangs and Drugs, held in Wichita.

And…don’t forget to check out my presentation on the Law & Social Data panel at #TechWeek Chicago 2012.

The past few years have witnessed an explosion of legal and regulatory activity involving social and other new media. This session will examine several key areas, including copyright, trademark and related intellectual property concerns; defamation, obscenity and related liability; false advertising and marketing restrictions; gaming; data privacy issues presented by social media; and impacts of social media on employees and the workplace. Attendees will learn how to identify legal risks and issues before they become full-scale emergencies and how to develop appropriate policies and guidelines covering social media activity.

If you can’t make it, check out the Slideshare presentation here.

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