Cook urges social media marketers to obey laws
HERSHEY, Pa. — At the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention, Nicole Cook enlightened her workshop audience regarding numerous laws that apply to social media marketing.
Cook is the Environmental and Agricultural Faculty Legal Specialist at the Maryland Agriculture Law Education Initiative, University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
Cook began, “Just because something is on the Internet, it doesn’t mean that you can use it.”
The rules and regulations on intellectual property, including trademarks and copyrights, privacy and data collection, plus the Federal Trade Commission and other consumer protection bodies apply in the digital as well as in the virtual world.
Copyright and trademark infringement are the most common risks connected with using social media in sales and marketing.
Copyrights give the owner the exclusive right to that work unless it is in the public domain or has been deemed ‘fair use’ by a court.
Copyrighted material need not have the symbol ‘©’ to be protected.
To use copyrighted material, one should obtain the creator’s permission, attribute him, quote or cite him, or provide a link to his original work.
Cook pointed out that if you are using pictures that you did not take yourself, you are using copyrighted material.
A trademark can be a word, name, symbol, device, sound, fragrance, color, or ‘trade dress’ of a food product packaging. Get express permission or license to use another’s trademark, and do not imitate it.
Privacy laws, Cook noted, are complex, especially regarding the process of collecting data.
Jurisdictions around the world have privacy restrictions that require notification before personal data are collected.
In this country, the FTC and state attorneys general have acted to protect rights of those online. Plus, California has legislation that covers online privacy.
The clickwrap method (where the user clicks ‘I Agree’) can be used.
Security mechanisms such as SSL, which specifies a secure connection between one’s and the user’s browser, should be enabled.
Storing customer data with cloud storage providers must be with a reputable provider.
Cook mentioned that a provider in one’s own jurisdiction may be preferable, particularly due to local laws. She stressed careful assessment of the provider and ensuring no liability to oneself in case of a data leak.
Although photographing people at events and sharing the photos on social media is fairly low risk, Cook warned that using photos of children is riskier.
She said clearly posting signs that caution that attending the event implies consent unless otherwise stated.
Also, one should be familiar with the terms of service or other guidelines posted by one’s social media platform(s).
They are private companies and can take down one’s page or post if they determine their policy was violated.
FTC regulations prohibit unfair, deceptive or misleading advertising. This means that any marketing must tell the truth and not omit any relevant information.
A claim can be misleading if relevant information is left out or if a claim implies something untrue.
If any trouble occurs with the FTC or other consumer protection body, Cook said be prompt and clear in any communication with them, and work together toward a solution immediately.
Endorsements, too, must reflect honest opinions. When bloggers and others write online about products and services, disclosure is important. If they are family or employees, or if they were paid or received free items, that must be clearly disclosed. The FTC’s Endorsement Guides include social media.
The ability to build brand awareness through social media contests have become popular. Cook pointed out, however, that contests can be dangerous because of the wide variety of laws applicable. Some states prohibit certain raffles; others require that games involve knowledge rather than chance; still others require a gambling license.
Cook informed the audience that her presentation is not to be construed as legal advice and cautioned the group that in many instances they should seek an attorney.
More information on these instances can be accessed at the websites umaglaw.org and agrisk.umd.edu.
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P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925