To regram or not to regram? Legal implications of reposting content to social media

Most of us are familiar with Instagram – a social media engine, primarily utilized in its all-too-familiar form of a phone application, that allows users to share images and videos of themselves or others for public viewing and potential recognition.

With the increased popularity of photo-sharing social media tools like Instagram, users have begun to wonder more about what, if any, intellectual property rights they may own to the content they publish to such sites. In a previous post, we discussed the legal implications of posting content to social media and found that the user is often the primary owner of their content.

This begs the question – if each user is the owner of the content he/she posts, what, if any, are the legal implications of reposting the content of another user? Continue reading

Without proper enforcement, even the strongest social media policies may not protect employers

In a March 8, 2019 post titled “New California laws may require review of social media policies,” we explored how a host of new California laws would require a close review and revision of corporate social media policies.

That post discussed the role social media policies play in helping employers sidestep legal landmines by preventing wage and hour violations, unauthorized disclosure of the company’s trade secrets and other confidential information, violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act arising from an employee’s promotion of company products, infringement of third party intellectual property rights, employee harassment, and privacy violations.

Equally important, if not more so, is the enforcement of those policies. Simply put, even an airtight social media policy may not protect a company from liability for employee violations of that policy. Two recent cases in California federal district courts illustrate some of these potential pitfalls. Continue reading

Social media and corporate executive responsibility

Corporations that sell to consumers and are subject to consumer lawsuits commonly receive deposition demands for top executives. Corporations can frequently defeat these demands by showing that the executives did not participate or have control over the matter at issue. But a recent ruling from a federal trial court in California demonstrated how controlling social media content can help change that result, leaving a CEO as a defendant in a consumer class action alleging fraud and false advertising. (Kamal v. Eden Creamery, LLC, No. 18-cv-01298-BAS-AGS (S.D. Cal. June 26, 2019).) Continue reading

The Right to Write

How important are online reviews in your shopping experience? Many rely heavily on consumer reviews in order to generate business. But what happens when instead of providing customers the candid information that they deserve, companies try to silence their critics in order to improve their online reputation?

In recent years, companies selling products and services have included non-disparagement clauses (“gag clauses”) in their contracts in hopes of curtailing online criticism. Gag clauses are aimed at discouraging customers from writing honest reviews that criticize the company—and punished customers for their negative reviews in the form of liquidated damages. The problem is such clauses are illegal. In 2016, as we had previously written, Congress passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which prohibits companies from implementing gag clauses in non-negotiable consumer form contracts. In so doing, lawmakers sought to encourage free speech, consumer rights and the integrity of truthful criticism regarding goods and services sold online. Continue reading

Doxing the age of social media

Online privacy is a fantasy for many people. We voluntarily post information about every aspect of our lives. Information we do not publicize can often be extracted from website data or our personal accounts (email, social media, etc.). Our privacy and sensitive information is often in jeopardy. What happens when our private and sensitive information is disseminated online to millions of people against our will? This is known as doxing. Continue reading

Federal judge limits advertisement on social media in trade dress lawsuit

On April 10, 2019, a Texas federal judge granted Sparrow Barns & Events an emergency temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in a trade dress and copyright infringement case, preventing defendant Ruth Farm from advertising its venue rental business on social media and the internet. Sparrow Barns & Events, LLC v. Ruth Farm Inc., No. 4:19-CV-00067 (E. D. Tex. Apr. 10, 2019) (2019 WL 1560442).) Continue reading

California companies should reevaluate how they classify social media freelancers

With companies increasingly turning to social media to meet their advertising needs, employers must take a closer look at how they classify social media consultants and freelancers. Although larger companies may have internal social media departments, many small companies contract outside social media consultants who work on an hourly basis. Typically, companies were able to classify these social media consultants as independent contractors provided that the consultant had the right to control the manner and means of their work.

Last year, in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, the California Supreme Court threw out this standard in favor of a new, more strict test called the “ABC test.” The “ABC test” makes it significantly more difficult for a business to classify their workers as independent contractors. In order to classify a worker as an independent contractor, a company must prove that: Continue reading

Fore! An Interesting Copyright and Trademark Default Judgment

On March 15, 2019, a federal trial court judge ruled in favor of famous golfer Jack Nicklaus’ company in a case that may be of interest to copyright and trademark owners. (Nicklaus Cos. LLC. v. Bryan Hepler Golf LLC, No. CV-18-01748-PHX-ROS (D. Ariz. March 15, 2019) (2019 WL 1227198).)

The case began in a way that is probably all too familiar with copyright owners: photos and videos owned by the plaintiff began appearing without permission the defendant’s website and were posted by the defendant on social media sites. The plaintiff sent a demand letter to the defendant, but the conduct did not stop. Continue reading

Uncharted territory — the UK sets sail towards regulation of ‘Online Harms’

Last week, the UK Home Secretary unveiled tough new plans to regulate social media platforms in the White Paper ‘Online Harms’ (the Paper). The Paper sets out a regulatory framework to tackle illegal and harmful online activity, in a flagship move which will require careful attention from social media platforms operating in the UK. Continue reading

Monkeying around on social media could land you with a defamation suit

As a wise person once said, truth often is stranger than fiction. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth District of Texas (the “Appellate Court”) recently decided Hosseini v. Hansen, a bizarre case involving the intertwining of a tax preparation business, primate trainers and enthusiasts, and a defamation claim. Despite the unique factual circumstances, the case provided good general insight into social media use as it relates to defamation. Continue reading

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