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Social media and the law: Three things to know

The world of social media is continually evolving. Whether or not you are active on sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you can’t escape the influence – and presence – of social media.

But there are limits to these digital platforms. Here are some things everyone needs to know about using social media from the  Behal Law Group LLC.

Copyright

You see a cute picture and you want to share it. What’s the harm, right? Wrong! Just because you found the content easily on a social media site – or on the Internet – doesn’t necessarily mean you can use the image or words. Many images and writings are copyrighted, meaning the author or creator can take legal action against someone who uses it without consent. The best rule of thumb is, if you are unsure about what content to use or share, DON’T use or share it.

You can always reach out via email or personal message to the content creator and ask if you can use the image or writing. Many will likely say yes, as long as you include a watermark or give credit. There are also paid sites where you can buy the rights to use images. You can also check with the Copyright Clearance Center to determine who holds the rights to the content.

Employee Rights

Say you have a bad day and want to spout off about your employer or boss on Facebook. Can you face legal repercussions? Yes and no. Many companies have policies about social media use – especially when you are on the clock.

The law, however, is always evolving.  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) states that generally, employees have the right to use personal social media platforms to talk about things like wages or working conditions. But straight up complaining about other matters isn’t protected. To get a sense for what’s protected and what isn’t, take a look here.

Reviews

Ah, the online review. It’s great for those seeking services or goods, but it can be upsetting and damaging for business owners who often have no recourse when they get a negative or scathing review.  Online reviews – and online review sites – are here to stay and how they are managed – and how companies handle them – is an evolving field.

Generally, you are free to post honest and accurate online reviews – even if they are negative. There are generally no legal repercussions for posting negative reviews as long as what you are communicating is factually accurate.

There have been a few cases in recent years of consumers being sued for writing negative online reviews, so it’s best to use caution.  Read about the plight of one on-line reviewer here.


 




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