Every country and culture has laws and codes of conduct that are understood by their citizens, especially the laws that can be regularly broken or bended without major consequences. Here in Canada, most of us have likely jay walked, parked illegally, not accurately declared all the goodies stowed away in our luggage, and perhaps been creative with our tax declarations. We have a collective confidence that despite our actions technically being illegal, we won’t likely be audited, busted or ticketed for these minor offenses, so we take the calculated risk.
How do we know that what we do online is legal and worth the risk? The Internet is global, and many countries have different international laws on matters such as copyright and privacy acts that protect their citizens. How can we be sure that what we post isn’t about to cause a lawsuit, or the picture posted by an employee isn’t in fact copy-written material and an infringement?
My one take away from Law 12 way back in high school was that “ignorance was not an excuse for breaking the law”. So assuming this to still be true, if you don’t know all the laws that apply to your online presence, it is of course up to you and your agency to figure out exactly what laws are applicable to you and yours. Stating you didn’t know something was copyrighted probably won’t cut it in a suit. Copyright is apparently always to be assumed, even if material isn’t posted with the familiar ©.
So how can you tell if your agency’s online presence is legal? Where might you find out? You can turn to online guides written by lawyers (and of course, the guide listed below is for sale). According to their testimonials however, they may be worth the money. Going through just one litigation, can be a very expensive endeavor indeed.
You can take a free webinar on "Social Media and the Law" on April 21st, 2015 where according to their website you will learn how to:
- Stay compliant with copyright law
- Tips to ensure contests and sweepstakes are legal
- Using endorsements, testimonials, and advocacy programs in your marketing
- Important concerns about targeting millennials on social media
- How to lawfully use social data that you’ve gathered
You can read this online article written by a panel of lawyers with great advice and many things to consider.
My favourite quote in their article was the following by lawyer Amie Krone “There is a ton of gray area – it all comes down to the details of each case. It’s best to use your best judgment and common sense. If you have a doubt, don’t post it. Once you do, it’s out there for good. It’s all about risk assessment.”
Which actually reminds me of another abbreviated lesson from my old high school law teacher, who would regularly warn us future citizens that: “When in doubt – ask first – or don’t do it”
I guess I actually learned two things in Law 12. Who knew they would still apply over 20 years later to a technology that didn’t even exist at the time.