With the advent of Social Media, employers must be more vigilant in protecting their intellectual property. Social media policy should define the uses of a trademark within social media outlets to ensure that the trademark does not become generic through use. Damien Allen and John Di Giacomo discuss the need for solid Social Media Policies within the workplace on today's program.
- A social media policy is a policy that’s implemented by an employer that provides the employees with guidelines and any best practices for representing an employer on a social media networks.
- Protecting your intellectual property.
- Understanding your media presence and the internet space. What is and is not acceptable.
- Balancing transparency of your business and your instant connection with your audience with the idea of brand control and brand identity.
Announcer: Welcome to Internet Law Radio brought to you by Traverse Internet Law, attorneys specializing in internet law and all legal issues within cyberspace. Now here’s your host, Damien Allen.
Damien Allen: Good morning and welcome to Internet Law Radio. My name is Damien Allen, and joining me today on the phone is John Di Giacomo an attorney with Traverse Legal, PLC. Good morning John and welcome to the program.
John Di Giacomo: Good morning, Damien. Thanks for having me.
Damien Allen: It’s a pleasure to have you as always, sir. Today we’re going to be talking about social media and the social media policies in the workplace. John, what is a social media policy?
John Di Giacomo: A social media policy is a policy that’s implemented by an employer that provides the employees with guidelines and any best practices for representing an employer on a social media networks, the standards, of course, being facebook, twitter or MySpace.
Damien Allen: And why would an employer need to implement a social media policy?
John Di Giacomo: Well, there are a couple of different reasons. Most importantly, from an attorneys perspective is the protection of intellectual property. First, one of the big issues is going to be whether or not the use of a trademark creates a generic trademark. So, a social media policy should define the uses of a trademark within social media outlets to ensure that the trademark does not become generic through use. Additionally, there are the loss of other intellectual property rights through improper enforcement and use of trademarks or improper enforcement and use of copyright rights that can arise out of social media networks. So, for example, if an employee posts a copyrighted picture on a social media network that’s not supposed to be disclosed, there is an argument for waiver that could otherwise be avoided if a social media policy defined what was acceptable and not acceptable to post. Additionally, there are number of other regulations that kind of come into play in the social media realm. Number one being the FTC Part 255 Regulations which are regulations essentially prohibiting to the advertising. Those regulations cover advertisements by bloggers and social media professionals, and those bloggers and social professionals have to disclose any material connections between them and any advertiser that they represent. And this is true even for microblogging services such as Twitter where you only really have a140 characters, so, even though there is a relationship between the person making the post and the advertiser, it still has to be disclosed within those 140 characters. Some other issues that we look at as well are sweepstakes law. Sweepstakes law is state-specific and, of course, it deals with the type of contests or giveaways that we often see through advertising campaigns. There are some federal regulations that relate but mostly it’s state-specific and businesses failure to comply with the sweepstakes law can be considered gambling. So, it’s very important that an employer understand and regulate how their employees use social media outlets to ensure that they aren’t considered a gambling operation. Finally, there are really other two areas of state law that kind of play into social media policies and the considerations surrounding social media outlets and those are defamation or invasion of privacy and trade secrets.
Damien Allen: What is important to consider when drafting or adopting a social media policy?
John Di Giacomo: There are a number of issues that you should consider. First and foremost, is whether or not the drafter of the policy understands your new media presence and the internet space. It’s important to understand exactly what is and is not acceptable. The advertising practices of the past are certainly not tailored for the new internet. What was once unacceptable, now, really is acceptable. So drawing that line requires somebody who understands internet space and understands what is really appropriate for advertising in this new kind of media. Another important consideration is balancing the transparency of your business and your instant connection with your audience with the idea of brand control and brand identity. You want to ensure that your brand is presented in a certain way but at the same time you want to encourage participation which is characteristic of a social media outlet. Additionally, you want to ensure that you have an enforceable policy. If your policy is simply given to an employee without much consideration it may not be enforceable under the law. There has to be, obviously, adequate consideration under the law but there also has to be probably incorporation by reference within the actual employment contract of your employee. Finally, you want to understand an outline of what can and cannot be stated on an employee’s profile. This is going to depend on the business and again, this is an area where understanding the internet space comes into play and if somebody understands the internet space, they’ll understand based on whatever business you’re in, what’s acceptable and what is not acceptable.
Damien Allen: Well, it sounds like we’ve come a long way from just being a workplace time waster as far as using social media at work.
John Di Giacomo: Absolutely, and one thing to consider is that allowing your employees to use social media outlets benefits your company and it gives your employees a stake in a company otherwise they would not have. So, if they’re proud of the product that they’re making or the services they’re selling, obviously, you want to encourage them to display how proud they are and what they are doing because in the end the incentive line up. They promote your product, you increase your sales, but at the same time you want to ensure that your brand identity is stable and that the rogue presentation of your product doesn’t otherwise harm your industry.
Damien Allen: Thank you very much for joining us today, John, and explaining social media policies.
John Di Giacomo: Thanks a lot, Damien.
Damien Allen: You’ve been listening to Internet Law Radio. My name is Damien Allen. Everybody have a great afternoon.
Announcer: This netcast is powered by Vertio.net. Vertio.net, optimizing your brand and web presence worldwide. Vertio.net. Be Heard. Be Seen. Be Found.