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

Social media influencer advertising in Canada

Influencer marketing is increasing in popularity in Canada and can be an effective way to promote your brand. Influencers are online personalities that use social media to share their expertise and opinion about products or brands with their followers. In order to tap into the influencer’s network, businesses pay or otherwise compensate influencers to share content that features their products or brand. Influencer marketing comes in all shapes and sizes. For example, it includes a social media model promoting a certain brand of makeup or an athlete recommending a particular piece of workout gear. Recently, even the Government of Canada has utilized influencer marketing to disseminate information regarding the dangers of opioid usage among young people. Continue reading

New California laws may require review of social media policies

The use of social media by employees is as fraught as it is widespread, and creates tremendous legal risk for the employer. Indeed, employers are wise to require adherence to a thorough policy regarding employee use of social media both inside and outside of work. The best policies will aim to sidestep potential legal landmines by preventing 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. Continue reading

Social media influencers and “scraping”

On February 7, 2019, a federal trial court in California ruled in favor of a social media influencer’s copyright, trademark, interference with contract, and right of publicity class action lawsuit and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss. As a result, the social media influencer can proceed with their claims that the defendant website copied social media photos and information but removed the links used by the influencer to monetize social media pages. (Batra v POPSUGAR, Inc., No. 18-cv-03752-HSG (N.D. Cal. Feb. 7, 2019) (2019 WL 482492). Continue reading

Banning critics from social media can constitute a First Amendment violation

The question of whether a public official may legally suppress dissent or criticism by banning dissenters from social media pages administered by the public official has recently entered the United States’ legal discourse. The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently answered this question in Davison v. Randall, which was the first decision on the issue made at the federal appellate level. The implications of this decision could prove to be particularly significant, as President Trump is currently appealing a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In President Trump’s case, the district court held that the President engaged in viewpoint discrimination when he blocked individuals from his social media account because the individuals posted tweets that criticized the President or his policies. The Davison case is significant because the circumstances surrounding that case are similar in many ways to President Trump’s case, which is currently being appealed. Continue reading

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