Social media has touched and changed nearly every aspect of our world and lives.
We are now more connected than ever, which has allowed for enhanced collaboration and awareness around the world. The social network has had a significant impact on the legal world as well, but not in the ways that you might think.
1) What is secret may no longer be secret. Gone are the days of knowing that only one copy of a document existed and was housed safely away from prying eyes in a bank vault that needed multiple verifications to access. In the age of cell phone cameras and instantaneous access to the world via the internet, it has become that much harder to keep secrets… well, secret.
And, it is not just people with cell phone cameras or Twitter access that you need to be wary of. It is employees accidentally (or perhaps not accidentally) divulging important information to the world, and by extension, your competitors through careless discussions posted on their social networks. It is surreptitious videos of operations that are taken by drones and posted on Facebook. It is allowing for the exploitation of any flaw in the firewall that you have placed around your personal and your business secrets.
2) What you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Personal injury attorneys are great fans of the social network and for good reason. People tend to be more honest on their Facebook or Instagram accounts about what they are doing, and some of it could be used in lawsuits! Divorce attorneys are now using Facebook posts in court to impeach witness testimony. Even judgments are being reversed as what happened in the case of a teenager posting about the amount of a settlement her father received in direct violation of the settlement agreement. The settlement amount was withdrawn as a result.
3) Your property is used in an unauthorized way. With the potential for just about anything to go “viral” and seemingly expand across the social media universe, it is no surprise that a lot of that content is used in an unauthorized way. Copyrighted works and trademarks are often the most abused in this respect, from people sharing their favorite photograph on Instagram to others appropriating trademarks for use on their own products. The digital era, especially with the technology available, has made it easy enough for a child to cut and paste an image onto something else. For the content owner or originator, this is a significant problem that may not easily be solved. The law is constantly evolving, and that has never been more true in the world of intellectual property law and the digital age.
4) Your HR department and social media. Another new frontier in the social media era is the use of social media by human resources. It has become fairly commonplace for prospective employers to Google their candidate and view their public profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Depending upon what they see there, they may not care to pursue that person any further. Yet, social media also comes into play with employees particularly if they are using it to espouse unpopular opinions or harass another employee. In this respect, the employee’s conduct outside of work becomes an issue for human resources and it can get sticky very fast.
Social media has created a host of legal issues that businesses and start-ups need to be acutely aware of so as to avoid falling into traps. Having knowledgeable counsel who can identify all the potential pitfalls for you ahead of time is invaluable. We’ve seen many unique cases come through our firm, and we would be happy to assess yours. The Law Office of Philip P. Crowley, LLC can help you be social media aware when it comes to your business. Contact our firm today at 1(844) 256-5891 or click here.