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Socially Aware Blog

The Law and Business of Social Media

Hot Off the Press: The August Issue of Our Socially Aware Newsletter Is Now Available

Posted in DMCA, FDA Regulations, Litigation, Privacy, Statistics, Supreme Court, Wearable Computers

The latest issue of our Socially Aware newsletter is now available here.

In this issue of Socially Aware, our Burton Award-winning guide to the law and business of social media, we examine the use of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to combat web scraping; we explore the launch of Google Glass in the UK and the issues it raises; we analyze the FDA’s latest attempt to provide direction for drug and device manufacturers concerning how and when they may use social media; we report on a recent case concerning whether service providers can avail themselves of certain DMCA safe harbors; we highlight the increasingly important role of social media services in proxy contests; we take a look at how the Supreme Court’s Aereo decision might impact other areas of technology; and we discuss the ongoing controversy regarding website accessibility under the ADA and California’s Unruh Act.

All this—plus a collection of thought-provoking statistics about social media and the World Cup…

Read our newsletter.


Status Updates

Posted in Status Updates
  • Better shop around. In connection with a new staff report, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) examined 121 popular apps used to comparison shop, find online deals and pay with mobile devices; the FTC concluded that many of these apps failed, prior to download, to disclose important information to users, such as how the apps deal with payment-related disputes and how consumer data is collected, used and shared. The FTC urged developers of mobile shopping apps to be more transparent in how they deal with privacy, security and consumer protection issues. If your company is involved with apps designed to facilitate online shopping, you’ll definitely want to check out the report.
  • Social notworking.  Does social media undermine office productivity? Surprisingly, a study suggests that social media is responsible for a mere 5% of wasted time at work, well behind “water cooler talk” (14% of office time wasted), IT problems (12%) and – my favorite – pointless meetings (11%).
  • Chat or Tweet? For years, the direct message (DM) function within Twitter has been dormant – hardly used at all, much less for commercial purposes. Now, Twitter is trying to upgrade DM and position itself as a real-time chat option that will appeal to advertisers who want to communicate directly with consumers.

Status Updates

Posted in Status Updates
  • Ahead of the law? In Hidalgo County, Texas, a former sheriff has been sued civilly over allegedly illegal campaign contributions. (He was also criminally convicted of money laundering.) At a civil deposition in the case, a lawyer for the plaintiff attempted to send live tweets from the deposition room. The judge ordered that the live tweets must stop — saying, “Our technology is far outpacing our ability to formulate rules.”
  • Fake book. A booking agent in the music industry is using California’s cyberbullying law as a basis for a lawsuit that he filed against a former colleague. The lawsuit claims that the former colleague defamed him by setting up a fake Twitter account in the plaintiff’s name that made him “appear to be foolish, inept and sexually perverted.” The defendant says that although the fake account exists, he had nothing to do with setting it up.
  • Principal objections. A New Jersey high school is revising its social media policy after settling a lawsuit brought by a student who was disciplined for tweeting disparaging remarks about the school’s principal. The student’s federal lawsuit claimed that the school violated her First Amendment rights when it punished her for “purely off-campus” speech.

Monkey in the Middle of Selfie Copyright Dispute

Posted in Copyright

The “selfie” is now so ubiquitous that the word is in the Oxford English Dictionary, you can use it in Scrabble and it has spawned a whole new lexicon. Selfies are no longer the preserve of teens and reality stars; you now have politicians, royalty and companies getting in on the act. Selfies can mean big business—indeed, it was recently announced that Kim Kardashian, the reality star and “queen of the selfie,” will publish a book of 352 of her favorite snaps next year at $19.95 a pop.

But unfortunately for our simian friends, it seems that selfies are simply not monkey business.

Monkey Selfie

In 2011, British wildlife photographer David J. Slater was in Indonesia taking photos of macaque monkeys. Some of the monkeys began playing with his digital camera and a female monkey managed to take a particularly excellent self-portrait, reproduced below.

The photo was published in various magazines and on websites around the world. It eventually was added to Wikimedia Commons, a collection of images that are free for public use.

Slater asked Wikimedia to remove the image or pay for its use; Wikimedia did neither. Last week it came to light that Wikimedia had denied a notice-and-takedown request regarding the photograph on the basis that there was no copyright in the monkey’s photo.

Continue Reading

Status Updates

Posted in Status Updates
  • ’Sup? We’ve commented previously about the new social networking app Yo, which transmits only that brief, eponymous syllable to a user’s friends. Yo’s founders may have been onto something good; the app has been downloaded more than two million times, and may be receiving substantial funding. And the Wall Street Journal suggests that coming improvements to Yo may make it more than a mere novelty app. Could Yo be the new two-character Twitter?
  • #YoureUnderArrest. The use of social media in nabbing criminal suspects is truly on the rise. A mother in Charlotte, NC has been arrested for helping her teen son take part in a viral “fire challenge” stunt, after a video of the incident popped on social networking sites. Meanwhile, police are using social media’s rapid reach to track down suspects. In Bedford, MA, police nabbed an alleged bank robber after circulating high-quality surveillance photos of him on social media, and in Stockton, CA, surveillance videos posted online helped police speedily arrest a homicide suspect.
  • Are you for real? Some “members” of social media sites appear to be fake identities, replete with stock-photo profile pics and strange off-topic posts.  Reportedly, some of these fake profiles may have been created by law firms searching for new clients. Although false online personas are not illegal, social networking sites and government agencies alike are cracking down on them with greater vigor.

Status Updates

Posted in Status Updates
  • On the right track? Google reportedly will be testing a new method of targeting mobile users, one which connects the company’s mobile web tracking mechanisms with its mobile app tracking mechanisms, thereby allowing Google and its advertisers to track mobile users as they switch between web surfing and in-app activities. Until recently, advertisers usually have had to treat a mobile user accessing the web as a separate person from the same user accessing a mobile app. Facebook, however, is able to accommodate such cross-usage tracking, putting pressure on Google to develop its own solution to this fundamental challenge.
  • Strange bedfellows. Although social media is often viewed as a threat to television, a recent study indicates that, in fact, social media has changed the way many people learn about and view television shows. Having a “second screen” at hand increases viewers’ involvement with their favorite shows.
  • For your “what were they thinking” file. A juror in a criminal case in Memphis allegedly sent a Facebook friend request to a defendant charged with aggravated assault. Court personnel discovered the communication after the verdict, which was a unanimous guilty verdict, and the “Facebooking juror” was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom.

Status Updates

Posted in Status Updates

Ownership of Business-Related Social Media Accounts

Posted in Employment Law

Socially Aware is pleased to announce that Van Rye Publishing has published the article “Ownership of Business-Related Social Media Accounts” by Morrison & Foerster partner Aaron Rubin and associate Anelia Delcheva in the book Employers and the Law: 2013-14 Anthology of Best Articles.  The book is a collection of articles covering ongoing and emerging legal responsibilities stemming from the relationship between employers and employees. Authored by leading employment law experts, the articles are relevant to, among others, business owners, managers, and human resource professionals—and to their legal advisors.

You can find Employers and the Law: 2013-14 Anthology of Best Articles in paperback and e-book format at Amazon.com.

The book is also available in e-book format at most major e-book retailers.

MoFo Women London Presents – Networking in the Digital Age: Social media is just another way to talk

Posted in Event

Don’t know your ‘like’ from your ‘hashtag’? Got a LinkedIn account, but not sure how to get the most out of it? Use Twitter in your personal life, but not sure how it works in a business context?

It is well established that effective networking is crucial to a woman’s career. It is also clear that women dominate the majority of social media platforms. Indeed, Sheryl Sandberg says that Facebook statistics show that “The social world is led by women”. But many of us are still not bringing the two together and exploring the value of business networking via social media.

At its heart, business is about relationships, and relationships are built on conversations. Conversations first became virtual via letters, then telephones and faxes, then emails and now social media. Can you imagine telling an important contact that you don’t have email? Can you imagine their reaction? Many will now look at you in the same way if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile!

Please join us for a session where we will provide tips to help you (i) identify which social media platforms are most appropriate for your role, (ii) build and optimize your profiles and (ii) effectively network via social media.

We are delighted to be joined by Linda Cheung, a recognised thought leader on social media for business and the co-founder of CubeSocial, a leading social media marketing and CRM company.

Sue McLean, chair of MoFo Women London and the Head of MoFo’s Social Media Practice in Europe will host the event and provide some top tips for avoiding the legal pitfalls associated with social media.

Date & Time:
Wednesday,September 10, 2014
6:30 p.m. BST

For more information and registration information, click here.



Status Updates

Posted in Status Updates
  • May a lawyer ethically instruct a client to delete potentially damaging information from a client’s Facebook page? According to a new ethics opinion from the Philadelphia Bar Association, yes, so long as the information is preserved in some way, should it become relevant to the case. The opinion also determined that, under the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer may ethically instruct a client to change the privacy settings on a client’s Facebook page.  It remains to be seen whether other bar associations will follow Philadelphia’s lead on these thorny issues.
  • Google reportedly noticed probable child pornography in someone’s email and tipped off police, who obtained a search warrant and arrested the Houston man for possession of child pornography. This is clearly permitted by Google’s terms of service. While no one has sympathy for predators, some have expressed concern over the privacy implications of Google’s actions.
  • LinkedIn has announced that it is launching a new service designed to help buyers and salespeople find each other. The service is called Sales Navigator. It could help diversify LinkedIn and make it more profitable, experts say, and it could also pose strong competition to existing, and pricey, software platforms, that salespeople currently use to find customers.