Many people use social media for private and business communications without knowing that what they post online can have serious legal ramifications. John Branca, an attorney who has represented pop superstars like Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake, warns that even people who don’t have a media empire at stake should be aware of the pitfalls.
Revealing Others’ Personal Information
Be careful not to reveal personal information without permission, especially if you’re using your social media platforms for a business venture. For example, if you’re trying to promote your cosmetic dentistry practice, you shouldn’t post before and after photos of one of your patients without his or her consent. Be aware that the same privacy laws apply for your patients even when you’re trying to advertise your work on a satisfied client.
What you post on social media about others can be considered defamation if it is untrue and causes harm to their reputation. By sharing something negative about another person, you may be opening yourself up to legal action, even if you think it’s true but have no evidence.
Every entertainment lawyer can attest to times that major publications have paid dearly for posting rumors and falsehoods about famous clients. However, regular folks are at even greater risk for legal action because private citizens enjoy stricter protections against public calumny. Therefore, the best course of action is simply to keep any harmful information about others to yourself.
Using Copyrighted Material
Whenever you use a photo from someone else’s website or play music you don’t own the rights for in a post, the law considers it theft. Although you may not think about as you blare your favorite song in your latest dance video, it is illegal unless you have the artist’s consent. This can be a costly mistake if you’re forced to pay the artist.
Social media is a relatively new way to communicate, but the platforms require the same responsibility and knowledge of the law to shield you or your business from legal action.