As Social Media continues to grow we begin to see many pre-established laws making their way into the online world. Here are some key things to keep in mind in today’s ever-changing business environment:
Right of publicity- legal right to control commercial use of personal likeness-
12/16/11- federal judge allowed a class action claim against Facebook despite prior similar cases previously being rejected by other courts. In question is Facebook’s practice of running “sponsored story” ads that include user’s friends’ names that like the ad. The claim is for “commercial appropriation” of the friends’ likenesses. Since many platforms “share information” about individuals it is possible that other users will try to use Right of Publicity in order to control their personal likeness and use of their private information. Recently Facebook agreed to donate $10 million dollars to charity as part of a settlement that is currently awaiting approval by a Federal Court judge in Northern California.
Concerted Activity- Dozens of employers were taken to court for dismissing employees based on Social Media posts they had made. At one time, employers believed they were in the right for firing employees that posted negative remarks about their co-workers and bosses on Social Media sites where the public could see, however the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) has categorized several of these cases as “concerted activity” (protected by federal labor laws) from employees with the intention of improving their workplace conditions. While many of these cases have settled, a more clear and precise picture will be painted when the federal courts have decided on some of these disputes.
Standardized Privacy Rules- Online privacy law is steadily gaining strength with privacy-related bills in Congress as well as a case regarding GPS and geo-location privacy that is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Even Facebook agreed last November to submit audits of its’ privacy practices for the next 20 years to the FTC. These standards will most likely be thought of as a guideline to other social media sites that are not yet under the microscope. (Click Here for more information)
Social Media Evidence in Courts- In recent years more cases that include the use of Social Media evidence are establishing the framework for the way for liberal discovery is interpreted as is apparent in the case Zimmerman v. Weis Markets. (Click Here for more information) Protection of First Amendment “Free Speech” is also a popular subject of interpretation as was demonstrated in the case of Bland v. Roberts (Click Here for Case) where a Sheriff’s motives regarding staffing was questioned upon his re-election.
This is a somewhat controversial topic since the word is still out on whether or not students in Public Schools can be held accountable for what they write online in terms of discipline based on First Amendment rights. Every day new issues and policies are being addressed and expect significant changes to be made in the near future as the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) is set to meet in Washington D.C. on July 12, 2012 to discuss Obama’s digital “Privacy Bill of Rights”.