Social media and other digital platforms are playing a more and more important part of the business of traditional media companies. In the last few weeks, I’ve participated in two seminars, looking at the legal issues that arise in these areas. At the Winter Convention of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, I conducted a seminar outlining the legal issues that broadcasters need to consider in their digital media endeavors. The slides from that presentation are available here. We talked about many issues, some of which I write about regularly (e.g. music rights), and others that I will write about more in coming weeks, including privacy, online sponsorship attribution, user-generated content, and other issues that arise in the online world. One issue that we spent a significant amount of time discussing was copyright – including specifically concerns that can arise when stations take content found on the Internet – pictures, videos, music or other creative works – and appropriate it for their websites or other digital properties, without bothering to get permission.
Many broadcast employees, as well as many others throughout society, think that if something is on the Internet, it is there to be used by others, and no rights need to be obtained to use that material. That is incorrect, and can get users into trouble. In recent months, we have seen many lawsuits filed against broadcasters, including against some of the biggest broadcasters in the country, over improper use of photographs found on the Internet. What often happens is that someone at a station is putting together some content for a station website – say the arrival in town of some band whose music the station plays. Rather than calling the band’s management company or the concert promoter to get pictures to use in the article about the artist or the upcoming show, the station employee finds some picture on the Internet, copies it through a simple mouse click or two, and pastes it onto the station’s website. A few months later, a cease and desist letter arrives, or worse, an immediate demand is made for a significant sum of money, claiming that the use of the photo infringed on the copyright of the photographer who took the pictures. How can this be, asks the station employee? When someone posts something in the Internet, isn’t it free for anyone to use?
Continue Reading Digital and Social Media Legal Issues for Broadcasters – Exercise Care in Using Internet Content on Your Digital Properties, And Why Fair Use is Not Always a Defense