I am at New York for the BlogHer Business conference. The conference will answer the question: How can Businesses Succeed in a Social Media World?
The Day Two track “How Do I Get It Right the First Time? ” has three sessions that will be live-blogged. The first, “Should I blog?”, is listed on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog. Session two is here, listed below is session three.The full list of live-blog posts and Speaker bios are listed on the BlogHer site.
A closer look at those top legal and P.R. questions every business
owner or exec has before kicking off a social media program. Cautionary
tales and how to avoid becoming one.
- Nina Kaufman, co-founder of Paltrowitz & Kaufman LLP as well as founder and President of Wise Counsel
Press LLC. Her blog is called Business Partnership Central.
- Megan Belcher, a lawyer for Blackwell Sanders.
- Karen Wickre, Senior Editor on Google’s Corporate Communications team. She oversees
all 40 of the Google corporate blogs and is managing editor of the
Official Google Blog, which attracted 8 million unique visitors last
Marianne Richmond: How many people blog? How many people
blog for a corporation? How many own their own businesses? People that run their own business (blog)
have different needs then a corporate blog. There are legal and ethic issues,
and crossing the line is a big issue. Best practices are important. How to stay
out of trouble means that you plan to stay out of trouble.
Audience member: I know I can get sued for anything, but
what can I be sued for?
Karen Wickre: Context is everything.
Nina Kaufman: Two categories that independent
bloggers need to be concerned about:
Be careful that you are not libeling people, be truthful. If you say “In my
opinion George Bush’s policies in Iraq
are just a front for business deals”, then you may be in trouble. You want to
temper it for a business context.
You need to be judicious on what you use from other people. You need to be
original. Copyright laws want to encourage debate, but not taking someone’s
work in whole.
Roxanne Darling: The video community produces their content
with creative contents. They are grabbing our RSS feeds, embedding them in
their sites and putting advertising to make money.
Megan Belcher: We live our lives by case law. You are seeing
these new issues that have not been sorted out yet. There is not a definitive
opinion on that.
Elise Bauer: People take my content and link back, that is
fine. But if they just aggregate it and put up ads using Ad Sense, I contact
them and ask them to take it down. Then I threaten to file a Digital Millennium
Copyright Act complaint to Google.
Karen Wickre: We will get to that immediately and take it
Audience Member: Copyright gives you the best protection.
Nina Kaufman: If you want to seek a remedy against a blogger
it will be expensive. The smaller blogging companies can’t afford to defend
Julian from Redbook Magazine: I oversee Redbook’s blogs. We
don’t moderate comments. What if one of our writers puts negative feedback, is
Karen Wickre: Do you have any provision that the blogs are
opinions of the individuals, that you do not accept liability for their
Julian: If you have a completely open policy, you may have
Nina Kaufman: It is more related to if you change the
comments. Instead, if you have a inappropriate comment, just take it down.
Julian: What are our rights for intellectual property on fan
Nina Kaufman: If you make a knock-off (and not a parody).
Then you are making a derivative which is liable.
Angela LaSasso from HP: We are a multi-national company, how do we
protect our company and content? How do you protect the brand?
Karen Wickre: We have trademark attorneys that handle brand
Megan Belcher: My opinion is that it is about managing risk:
insuring that you are being proactive internally (with guidelines). Sometimes
companies jump into blogging without the infrastructure. The next step is being
aggressive through in-house or outside counsel. Be proactive for risk
management to make sure you are not doing something that is liable. Think in
the bigger picture on how you manage your people and content. People need to
always be looking at the policies and revising them.
Megan Belcher: As a corporate lawyer that has a personal
blog. It is locked down, my clients do not want to know about me going out with
Nina Kaufman: The issues they are facing are not different
then those in the non-blog world. I think employees are just looking for
guidance. It should be an outgrowth of what you are already doing. I had a
client whose manager posted their client list on his My Space blog.
But they had no policies.
Karen Wickre: Make sure there are good conduits in the
company to find out the right information and guidelines.
Audience Member: I am creating a blog targeted towards
teens, what are the issues?
Megan Belcher: We also represent school districts. We get complaints
about the internal websites are schools. My Space has been the biggest
development that has changed sexual harassment policies.
Nina Kaufman: No one should post something anonymously. Then
you don’t have to go through many layers to find out who posted.
Megan Belcher: There have been a lot of demand letters
flying around. If you are in federal court it could be years before you go to
Nina Kaufman: Medialaw.org listed all the cases that include
blogs recently. Listed by state. The vast majority include individual bloggers
that are sued.
Audience member: What legal representation should a small publisher
Nina Kaufman: Electronic Frontier Foundation
is a good source of information and has links to other resources. I
they have a legal fund. Why are they sued? One woman slept with all
the Washington brokers and wrote a book about it (including male body
part size). You need to
be judicious about what you say.
Audience member from Amazon: What is our liability if Amazon
licensed information from bloggers?
Nina Kaufman: If you are using fair use of works of 5,000 photographers
then it is not like a creative commons license. The courts look at it in
Audience member from Amazon: They signed on a piece of paper that Amazon has the
rights to use that picture..
Megan Belcher: You need to put in the right infrastructure
to protect yourself, get the paperwork.
Nina Kaufman: It is not whether you are incorporated or not,
it is still the individual.
Audience member: If I was a free lance reporter would the
corporation protect me? I assume the media company has a general counsel that would
Megan Belcher: I assume the general counsel would point the finger
back at you. Because you would have independent judgment is the issue. If you
are an employee, it would be different.
Nina Kaufman: Major corporations are clear, that if you are
blogging that it is your responsibility.
Audience member: I have a personal blog that supports me. It
is a cooking blog. What if someone cooks one of my recipes and then burns their
hands. Would incorporating help?
Nina Kaufman: It is the insurance that is important.
Megan Belcher: Maybe you should say “Make it at your own
Nina Kaufman: Once you have a blog, you are a publisher.
Audience member: Am I liable if I do a negative product
review on the blog?
Nina Kaufman: If you have had an experience with a product
that is the truth, then that is appropriate. But if you say the product is
dangerous and can hurt children then you can be sued. Route your post in fact
“It is too small, it does not function well because X, Y, and Z”.
Audience member: You mentioned earlier that you need to be
aggressive in protecting your copyright. My question is, what if someone
violates my fair use after I write a post? The corporate team does not come to my
aid. What can I do to defend the copyright when it is the company has the
rights but it will also become mine in 60 days?
Megan Belcher: Contacts are important “ If I raise an issue,
they need to respond in 10 days etc….”
Nina Kaufman: DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) allows you to put in a request because they are infact violating your
Audience: I have advice for product reviews. You are not
often going to say, I did not like this product but it was fatal. Don’t be
funny about products you don’t like. A lot of bloggers are funny and clever,
which is dangerous for product reviews. Something that says ludicrous and cute
can send you to court.
Nina Kaufman: Make it relevant, stick to the facts.
Audience member: We are a web hosting company that has terms
of service agreements. We can take down sites of people that violate the terms,
but if they don’t violate the terms but are still inappropriate – how can we
help those having privacy issues? For example, a doctor had an affair with a women and blogged about us
because we host the blog. He asked her to take it down, then asked us.. He had
money for an attorney, but what about those who don’t have money.
Nina Kaufman: If they are not public figures, they have the
rights of privacy. When there is a lawsuit about to brew, there are stages. The
first may be “if you don’t take this down by xxx”.
Megan Belcher: You should not insert yourself in the issue
because you can be sued.
Nina Kaufman: You can have a list of bar associations that
they can find lawyers to help.
Audience member: A question came up in the keynote, is there
a level of employment that what a persons says represents the company?
Karen Wickre: It is not the level of employment as far as
blogging goes. In the PR group, we vet people doing public speaking. It is
media training for how they present, to stick to the facts and give the
corporate message. Employees are free to have blogs, except for sharing
Megan Belcher: Any manager that has been deemed with
authority for a message could “bind” a company as speaking for that company. The implication of an executive talking about
a company has legal issues.
Nina Kaufman: Be professional, watch your mouse, and think
seriously for the purpose of the blog. What is the tone? How will this enhance
Megan Belcher: Be proactive; think about the things to be
ahead of the curve. Don’t be afraid to take something new or exciting, take
Marianne Richmond: This is the first lawyer I heard say to
take a risk.
Megan Belcher: Lay out the problems first and then take the
risk (to blog). Most of my clients have been happy they took the risk.
Karen Wickre: It is the value of your information you have
provided that governs what is on your blog. The quick publishing button is tempting.
Audience: How do you know that your disclaimer is valid?
Megan Belcher: You won’t know, so that is why you should get
counsel. I have a client that sat for the LSAT so he thinks he can draft
contracts. Do research ahead of time to prepare, but then seek counsel. Make
sure you are getting what you want.