Part I- Legal Liabilities Related With The Use Of Social Media Marketing

With the advent of digitization, ever more Canadian companies are gravitating towards the use of social media for advertising their products and services. A study conducted by Insights West concluded that out of all the online user interactions conducted with businesses, 8 and 7 percentage of them took place on Facebook and Twitter respectively.

It is vital for many businesses to include social media marketing in their advertising strategy. However, the use of digital media platforms like Facebook and Instagram for commercial solicitations can also invite a number of potential legal problems for businesses. With federal government’s plan to crack down on social media endorsements, companies now need to be more careful with the use of these tools for marketing their brands.

Here’s a closer look at key legal issues with social media marketing that businesses need to be aware of:

Intellectual Property Infringement

Although it is always important for businesses to protect their Intellectual Property (IP) against infringement or theft, it is essentially relevant in terms of social media marketing. This is because digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide businesses live interaction with audiences without a formal notice and hence, the threat of infringement is much higher.

Companies operating social media directly or through a third party operator need to monitor their IP on a regular basis. In the case of violation of your IP rights, immediately take measures to secure the threat. Most social media websites are equipped to monitor the safety of your IP and suspend accounts liable for infringement. However, it is highly recommended that you consult an IP lawyer for the same. A skilled lawyer not only monitors your IP carefully but also helps you takes immediate action like issuing a cease and desist letter when needed.

Abuse of Confidentiality

Since the interactions on social media are much more prompt as compared to other advertising mediums, the threat to confidentiality can be significant. Businesses or employees operating these social media accounts may inadvertently or expressly reveal confidential information regarding the company such as trade secrets and product designs.

An effective way to neutralise these threats can be to include strict terms of use regarding digital platforms in your employment policy or signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement with the employees responsible for social media marketing for your business. Your legal counsel can help you with the implementation of these policies.

Infraction of Advertising Standards

The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards is a regulatory council which develops and regulates policies regarding the use of content for commercial promotions. These regulations are also applied to the content posted by businesses on different social media platforms. Use of violent graphics, derogatory or discriminatory language, hiding of paid endorsement by businesses is restricted under these codes. Violation of these norms can lead to the levitation of fines and a council hearing for businesses. It is recommended to refer to your IP lawyer to learn more about these guidelines and their compliance for your operations.

Electronic Discovery

In the case of an ongoing legal action against your business, your promotional postings on social media are considered as a part of the electronic discovery. This includes the entire content on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn posted by your business as well as the private messages sent on these platforms. Hence, it is critical for businesses to be cautious with their online postings and include all their digital communications as a part of their corporate property.

These were some of the most frequent legal issues with social media marketing that businesses encounter. To learn more about regulations regarding IP commercialisation, consult our services today.