Social Media in the workplace – wide-ranging overview now available

In a recent blog post regarding Sam Moore‘s claim for publicity rights in a fictional film, I provided a general update on publicity rights law because such laws are now being used as part of the social media agreement between the public and such companies as Google and Facebook.

The discussion about continuing evolution of publicity rights doctrine is part of a larger review I have written on the role of social media across the spectrum of media law.  That working paper, Social Media in the Workplace – From Constitutional to Intellectual Property Rights is now available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2348779 or for download.

Social media has become a dominant force in the landscape of modern communications. From political uprisings in the Middle East to labor disputes in Washington State, social media has fundamentally disrupted the way in which communications take place. As noted constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky explained, “technology has changed and so has First Amendment doctrine and American culture. It now is much more clearly established that there is a strong presumption against government regulation of speech based on its content.” Just as the government must tolerate more speech, the same thing is true about employers. Chemerinsky further notes that “for better or worse, profanities are more a part of everyday discourse.” Abrasive speech may be coarse from the word choice or may more readily upbraid the objects of the speech. Whether foul or abusive, such speech now pervades commercial and social media.

Social media fundamentally upends the notion of the traditional commercial media environment and with that, it reverses the established legal doctrine from constitutional assumptions to everyday rules involving copyright, defamation, and unfair labor practice. For employers, these rules are particularly important to navigate because they effect the manner in which the companies communicate with the public, how employees communicate with each other, and how laws are restructuring the employee-employer relationship. The transformation is taking place with changing policies affecting trade secrets, confidential information, copyrighted material, aggregated data, trademarks, publicity rights, and endorsements.

This article highlights the nature of the changes as they present the new paradigm shift and provides some guidance on how to prepare policies for the transitional model. The article tracks the rise of the many-to-many model of social media, its effect on commercial speech, intellectual property, and labor law. The article concludes with suggestions on employment policies geared to managing these changes in the modern workplace.

There will be a CLE program sponsored by the Dayton Intellectual Property Law Association on Friday November 8, 2013 featuring these materials.

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Guest Repost: 4th Cir: Liking on Facebook is Protected First Amendment Activity

As a follow-up on a topic covered at the 2013 Law + Informatics Symposium, Workplace Prof Blog, A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network posted the following article. Given its relation to our symposium, the author kindly agreed to let us re-post it here:

ComputerSome of you may recall that we previously blogged on a case from Virginia in August of last year concerning whether, in a public sector First Amendment  case involving political activities, liking someone or something on Facebook counted as protected First Amendment speech.  I said it most certainly did in the ABA Journal at the time, even though the district judge said it certainly did not.

Secunda [The earlier post explained that the ABA Journal quoted “Paul Secunda (Marquette) as “speechless” that Judge Raymond A. Jackson of the Eastern District of Virginia ruled, in Bland v. Robertsy, that a public employee “liking” something or someone on Facebook is not protected First Amendment expression.  The article is ‘Like’ Is Unliked: Clicking on a Facebook Item Is Not Free Speech, Judge Rules.”  Ed.]

Yesterday, the Fourth Circuit made the world right again by finding that liking a candidate’s campaign page on Facebook was in fact protected First Amendment speech.

Here is the link to the 4th Circuit’s decision (2-1) in Bland v. RobertsAnd here is the pertinent language from the Court’s opinion:

On the most basic level, clicking on the “like” button literally causes to be published the statement that the User “likes” something, which is itself a substantive statement. In the context of a political campaign’s Facebook page, the meaning that the user approves of the candidacy whose page is being liked is unmistakable. That a user may use a single mouse click to produce that message that he likes the page instead of typing the same message with several individual key strokes is of no constitutional significance.

Friend of the blog, Bill Herbert, has written on these First Amendment issues involving social networking by public employees in: Can’t Escape from the Memory:  Social Media and Public Sector Labor Law.  The article has now been published in North Kentucky Law Review as part of the  Law + Informatics Symposium on Labor and Employment Issues.  A shout out to Jon Garon, Director of the Law + Informatics Institute at NKU for organizing this very worthwhile event.

PS

Comprehensive Copyright Review – The First Steps of a Very Long Journey

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte has announced that the Judiciary Committee will conduct a comprehensive review of U.S. copyright law over the coming months. The comprehensive review is not any particular legislative agenda, but it will serve as an open invitation to content industries, technology industries, and the public in a way that likely never occurred in any of the Copyright Act’s prior legislative reforms.

Chairman Goodlatte emphasized the evolution of technology and media in his remarks:

The discussions during the early 1900’s over the need to update American copyright laws to respond to new technology were not the first time such discussions occurred and they will certainly not be the last. Formats such as photographs, sound recordings, and software along with ways to access such formats including radio, television, and the Internet did not exist when the Constitution recognized intellectual property. My Committee has repeatedly held similar discussions about new forms of intellectual property as they arose and enacted laws as appropriate. Driven by new technologies and business models, a number of changes to copyright law went into effect in 1976.

copyright officeNo one should expect immediate legislation. As Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante noted in her recent congressional testimony “a major portion of the current copyright statute was enacted in 1976. It took over two decades to negotiate, and was drafted to address analog issues and to bring the United States into better harmony with international standards, namely the Berne Convention.” Even there, the effective date for U.S. adherence to the Berne Convention took until March 1, 1989.

In the decades of negotiation over copyright reform in the past, the tension was primarily between commercial interests of the content industries – film, television, music, and publishing industries with the trade unions, authors, and creative interests. But that focus has shifted dramatically with the rise of the information age.

The defeat of SOPA highlighted the tension between the technology industries – led by the ISPs, Google, Apple, Microsoft, eBay, Facebook, and Wikipedia with the content industries. In this fight, the content industries continue to lose. They could not push ACTA and they have lost in the courts over first sale in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, secondary liability in Viacom Int’l v. YouTube Inc. and Tiffany v. eBay, Inc., and many others.

Even more importantly, the rise of social media and the role copyright now plays – or interferes – in the daily lives of ordinary citizens means that the public’s interest in this debate will be higher than ever. Organized by social media companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google and hundreds of others, the public will be exhorted to be heard every time they log on or check in. This is a great change for democracy. But we shouldn’t forget that those intermediaries are also the very technology companies that have their own stake in the outcomes.

Register Pallante has indicated some of the critical issues before the Judiciary Committee (though the explanation and approach is mine, not Register Pallente’s):

  • First sale doctrine – which could include both (i) a review of Kirtsaeng (2013) which internationalized first sale, and (ii) technologies that allow for a digital forward-and-delete that mimics first sale in the online environment;
  • Orphan works – questions about how to handle works for which the ownership information or the transfers of ownership have been lost;
  • Library exceptions – addressing digital collections and the ability to gain far greater usage out of far fewer copies;
  • Statutory licensing reform – on rate setting and rates;
  • Federalization of pre-72 sound recordings – resolving the issues involving retroactive pseudo-copyright protection for these works and the implications on the public domain;
  • Resale royalties for visual artists – addressing the conflict with those states which provide these rights and potentially creating national legislation;
  • Copyright small claims procedure or courts – adding a mechanism for copyright to be enforceable for small scale claims; and
  • Mass digitization of books – addressing the myriad of problems triggered by the intermediate copyright violations of works, the fair use of showing snippets, the procedural issues in the project, and many other concerns.

This list does not include many other potential areas for reform, including some of my preferred topics:

  • Explicit free speech and human rights accommodations for the statute, since copyright and First Amendment issues increasingly intersect;
  • Expanded fair use or copyright exemptions codified under Section 110 for digitization, reverse engineering, comparative advertising, and others;
  • Anti-circumvention (DMCA) reform to prohibit its use for use in commercial products – such as cars, printers, garage doors, and other goods;
  • Expanded registration requirements so that most of the economically insignificant works people create daily are outside of the copyright regime;
  • Statutory Damage Reform to tie statutory damages more closely to actual damages and separate commercial infringers from consumers;
  • Mandatory cease-and-desist system so that no one can be sued for copyright damages unless they have been notified directly the conduct is infringing and continue, after a reasonable opportunity to cure has been provided; and
  • Broader non-commercial exceptions to copyright analogous to the public/private distinction of the 1909 Act.

Copyright needs to continue to adjust to address these issues. While the system is not broken, there are many strains. Again, from Chairman Goodlatte:

There is little doubt that our copyright system faces new challenges today. The Internet has enabled copyright owners to make available their works to consumers around the world, but has also enabled others to do so without any compensation for copyright owners. Efforts to digitize our history so that all have access to it face questions about copyright ownership by those who are hard, if not impossible, to locate. There are concerns about statutory license and damage mechanisms. Federal judges are forced to make decisions using laws that are difficult to apply today. Even the Copyright Office itself faces challenges in meeting the growing needs of its customers – the American public.

It will be important to be heard on these issues and to think carefully about a system that is good for today’s issues, tomorrow’s challenges and the decades of unanticipated changes the new law will cover.

Cyber Defense Strategies and Responsibilities for Industry Call for Papers Now Open

The Northern Kentucky Law Review and Salmon P. Chase College of Law seek submissions for the third annual Law + Informatics Symposium on February 27-28, 2014.

2014 Law + Informatics Symposium on

Cyber Defense Strategies and Responsibilities for Industry

 The focus of the conference is to provide an interdisciplinary review of issues involving business and industry responses to cyber threats from foreign governments, terrorists, and corporate espionage. The symposium will emphasize the role of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and industries providing critical infrastructure.

The symposium is an opportunity for academics, practitioners, consultants, and students to exchange ideas and explore emerging issues cybersecurity and informatics law as it applies to corporate strategies and the obligations of business leaders. Interdisciplinary presentations are encouraged. Authors and presenters are invited to submit proposals on topics relating to the theme, such as the following:

Cyber Warfare

  • Rules of Engagement
  • Offensive and defensive approaches
  • Responses to state actors
  • Engagement of non-state actors
  • Distinguishing corporate espionage from national defense
  • Proportionality and critical infrastructure
  • Cyber diplomacy
  • Cold War footing and concerns of human rights implications

Front Lines for Industry

  • Role of regulators such as FERC
  • Legacy systems and modern threats
  • NIST guidelines
  • NIST Cybersecurity Framework
  • Engaging Dept. of Homeland Security
  • Implications on various industries (electric power,  telecommunications and transportation systems, chemical facilities)
  • Health and safety issues
Global Perspectives

  • Concepts of cyber engagement in Europe
  • Perception of Internet and social media as threat to national soverignty
  • Rules of engagement outside U.S. and NATO
  • Implications for privacy and human rights
  • Stuxnet, Duqu, Gauss, Mahdi, Flame, Wiper, and Shamoon
  • Cyber engagement in lieu of kinetic attacks or as a component of kinetic engagement

 

Corporate Governance

  • Confidentiality and disclosure obligations
  • Responsibilities of the board of directors
  • Staffing, structures and responses
  • Data protection & obligations regarding data breaches
  • Corporate duty to stop phishing and other attacks for non-critical industries
  • Investment and threat assessment
  • Litigation and third party liability

 

Other Issues

  • Executive orders and legislative process
  • Lawyer responsibility in the face of potential threats
  • Practical implications of government notices
  • Perspective on the true nature of the threat

Submissions & Important Dates: 

  • Please submit materials to Nkylrsymposium@nku.edu
  • Submission Deadline for Abstracts: September 1, 2013
  • Submission Deadline for First Draft of Manuscripts: January 1, 2014
  • Submission Deadline for Completed Articles: February 1, 2014
  • Symposium Date: February 27-28, 2014

Law Review Published Article:  The Northern Kentucky Law Review will review, edit and publish papers from the symposium in the 2014 spring symposium issue.  Papers are invited from scholars and practitioners across all disciplines related to the program. Please submit a title and abstract (of 500-100 words) or draft paper for works in progress. Abstracts or drafts should be submitted by September 1, 2013. Submissions may be accepted on a rolling basis after that time until all speaking positions are filled.

Presentations (without publication) based on Abstracts:  For speakers interested in presenting without submitting a publishable article, please submit an abstract of the proposed presentation. Abstracts should be submitted by September 1, 2013. Submissions may be accepted on a rolling basis after that time until all speaking positions are filled.

Publication of Corporate Handbook on Cyber Defense: The Law + Informatics Institute may edit and publish a handbook for corporate counsel related to the topics addressed at the symposium. Scholars and practitioners interested in authoring book chapters are invited to submit their interest by September 1, 2013 which may be in addition to (or as an adaptation of) a submitted abstract for The Northern Kentucky Law Review. Submissions may be accepted on a rolling basis after that time until all chapter topics are filled.

About the Law and Informatics Institute:  The Law + Informatics Institute at Chase College of Law provides a critical interdisciplinary approach to the study, research, scholarship, and practical application of informatics, focusing on the regulation and utilization of information – including its creation, acquisition, aggregation, security, manipulation and exploitation – in the fields of intellectual property law, privacy law, evidence (regulating government and the police), business law, and international law.

Through courses, symposia, publications and workshops, the Law + Informatics Institute encourages thoughtful public discourse on the regulation and use of information systems, business innovation, and the development of best business practices regarding the exploitation and effectiveness of the information and data systems in business, health care, media, and entertainment, and the public sector.

For More Information Please Contact:

  • Professor Jon M. Garon, symposium faculty sponsor and book editor: garonj1@nku.edu or 859.572.5815
  • Lindsey Jaeger, executive director: JaegerL1@nku.edu or 859.572.7853
  • Aaren Meehan, symposium editor, meehana2@mymail.nku.edu or 859-912-1551

NYPD Issues social media policy to stop embarrassment from private comments

Facing increased criticism over the conduct of police officials and firemen, New York City has issued strict social media policies focused on tamping down the offending comments of its officers. New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly ordered the distribution of the new guidelines to regulate the comments and impact of the offers’ social media activities. The policy does not cover firefighters, though reports suggest a similar policy is under development.

As the New York Times reports, “police officers across the city checked their accounts to see if anything they had posted might run afoul of the new rules. Some edited their personal accounts to remove references to the department.” The Times quoted Roy T. Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association. “Such an order is not unexpected. The only surprise is that the order was not put out before now.”

The new policy comes on the heels of incidents in which very public incidents involving social media, including racially inappropriate tweets that led to the resignation of the fire commissioner’s son. Kelly denied the policy was a direct result of the incident, saying the order’s development predated this latest incident.

Robert Gonzelez, a police training expert at John Jay College, has been quoted as saying the guidelines constitute “unauthorized censorship. Members of the NYPD are proud public officials and should be authorized to express that right on social media sites without retribution.

The NLRB has been very aggressive in voiding social media policies that interfere with the rights of workers to organize. The Operations Management Memo has found most social media policies overbroad. Among the limitations on social media policies, employees have the right to wear company logos even when protesting working conditions. Policies that prohibit their right to self-identify as employees or to wear uniforms outside of work are a violation of these rights.

Compare those policies to the NYPD guidelines as reported by the New York Times:

The policy restricts posting photos of other officers, tagging them in photos or putting photos of themselves in uniform — except at police ceremonies — on any social media site.

Employees are “urged not to disclose or allude to their status” online. Disclosing one’s employment could result in that person being ineligible for certain sensitive roles.

The New York Times correct lists other aspects of the policy as good practice and appropriate: “Do not post images of crime scenes, witness statements or other nonpublic information gained through work as a police officer; do not engage with witnesses, victims or defense lawyers; do not “friend” or “follow” minors encountered on the job.”

Once the initial bad press of online misuse fades, the issues of government limitations on employee’s social media will again rise to the surface as a significant issue for employment in the public sector. The NYPD guidelines provide fuel rather than direction for this debate.

Journalism audience, revenue, and depth all in decline suggests Pew Center study

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism paints a dismal picture regarding the transformation of American news media. The Center describes “a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands” than any time in recent history. Among the findings:

  • Sports, weather and traffic now account on average for 40% of content
  • Newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry down 30% since its peak in 2000
  • Some media outlets, such as Forbes magazine, use technology by a company called Narrative Science to produce content by way of algorithm
  • Media campaign reports were primarily megaphones, rather than investigative journalism

In response to the declines, the Center reports, “nearly a third of U.S. adults, 31%, have stopped turning to a news outlet because it no longer provided them with the news they were accustomed to getting.”

Pew InfographicThere is some financial restructuring of the industry as well. In most cases, however, the restructuring moves revenue away from news media and towards aggregators such as Google and Facebook. Economically this is another situation where the company providing the conduit for content receives the revenue rather than the individuals and companies providing the actual content. The other good news is the slight increase in Sunday newspaper subscriptions and the end to the decline in overall newspaper sales.

In total, however, the report makes clear that while there is more information than ever before, there is less in-depth news coverage.

In a report published last year, the Pew Center reported found that “for every $1 newspapers were gaining in digital ad revenue, they were losing $7 in print advertising” and the gap grew to $16 in print losses for every digital dollar gained by the end of the 2012. Some papers are returning to pay walls to offset the losses; others are accelerating their cost-cutting in print and reporting expenses to pay the gap.

While digital revenues continue to grow, the income is not fueling journalism. Instead, it pays for mobile devices, social media and search. While each of these has benefits, journalism has a uniquely important role in society – unfortunately that role will continue to shrink as budgets wane, reports become more superficial, audiences erode, budgets shrink in response – and the cycle goes inexorably downward.

iPad Newsstand provides some revenue to the publishers, but at a steep price to the Apple newsstand vendor. Zinio and Kindle are also out there.

Perhaps it is time to rethink what we pay for with our home entertainment dollars. Maybe the bundle of services will cover a few dozen fewer unwatched cable channels and put a few cents into the digital edition of the local paper. Certainly it is time to rethink media ownership and financing rules for the digital market.

Beyond debunking the Facebook Notice

In response to the widespread posting of copyright warnings on Facebook, David Pogue wrote a short blog “You Can Stop Spreading That Facebook Notice Now” which correctly attempted to get people to stop repeating the useless post. His advice was correct – the post doesn’t have any effect – but perhaps there is more to the hoax than his article suggests.

The post quoted by Mr. Pogue is presented as follows:

     In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, crafts, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention).

For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version.

Snopes, the anti-misinformation site, has already debunked this hoax. It cites two other variations. In them, they add some privacy constraints as well:

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law.

UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

Mr. Pogue explains why he considers the post a hoax, then sites to a Facebook statement and to Snopes for confirmation. He is absolutely right that the post is ineffective. He may not, however, be accurate in other regards.

For example, Facebook explained the falsity as follows: “There is a rumor circulating that Facebook is making a change related to ownership of users’ information or the content they post to the site. This is false. Anyone who uses Facebook owns and controls the content and information they post, as stated in our terms. They control how that content and information is shared. That is our policy, and it always has been.”

First, the actual terms of the Facebook policy are a bit more nuanced: “For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

  • The Facebook user owns the copyright in everything she uploads.
  • Facebook gets full use of that content.
  • If the user account is terminated, Facebook can still use the content so long as “your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it” – which means most content is never deleted.

So Facebook is completely correct that the posting does not affect the copyright in the posted content, but it fails to completely explain the consequences of the contract.

Second, this is a contract rather than a policy. This is important since contracts can be amended. But only according to the contract terms. In the case of Facebook, this means that only Facebook can propose changes to the contract – not the user – and users agreed that “Your continued use of Facebook following changes to our terms constitutes your acceptance of our amended terms.” This means the language cannot be used as a contractual modification.

Still on contract law, there is the curious reference to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). Since the UCC applies to the sale of goods, it has no bearing on a social media user website. Moreover, UCC 1-103 merely recites the proposition that the statute does not eliminate additional common law protections such as “capacity to contract, principal and agent, estoppel, fraud, misrepresentation, duress, coercion, mistake, Bankruptcy, or other validating or invalidating cause[s]….” UCC 1-308 is a bit closer to the issue. If the contract had not already been formed, then reserving one’s rights means that the performance under the contract does not automatically mean the contract has been accepted.

The posting may not be a “hoax” so much as a failed attempt to react to the unequal bargaining power between a web site provider and an individual user. That it fails does not make it a joke. The frustration may be very real.

The privacy statements of the attempted reservation of rights similarly fails. Something posted publicly does not become private through a disclaimer. If one’s settings are entirely private and posts are limited to a select group of people, some limited privacy might survive. This statement will not help in that regard.

One final note about Mr. Pogue’s column should also be noted. He chides the hoax author for describing the “Berner Convention.” Mr. Pogue reminds his readers that “you’re already protected by copyright law” – which is true, but ignores the contractual waivers that have limited its scope. He then goes on to say “there’s no such thing as the Berner Convention. There’s a Berne Convention, which covers literary works.”

I am hoping that Mr. Pogue – a journalist who makes his living as a writer and columnist focusing on law and technology – understands that literary works under U.S. and international law include the following under copyright law:

  1. literary works;
  2. musical works, including any accompanying words;
  3. dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
  4. pantomimes and choreographic works;
  5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
  6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  7. sound recordings; and
  8. architectural works.

The Berne Convention coverage is slightly different than the U.S. law (quoted above) in this regard, but it certainly includes all the photographs, music files, videos, poems, and pictures that a person uploads. It is not limited to fictional works of book length or any other more limited definition of literary works.

Mr. Pogue did not say anything of the sort. But the tone and the inference suggest he thinks the reference to the Berner Convention was much more egregious than a typo in the title. And while this doesn’t affect his advice to stop using the clause on Facebook, it makes one wonder – at least a little bit.

So stop using the Facebook disclaimer. Don’t negotiate a contract after you have agreed to its terms. Don’t expect that Facebook’s acknowledgement of user copyrights will actually change the company’s use of the uploaded content. And finally, don’t expect most journalists to understand the difference between copyright, patent, and trademark – they’re just in the business of creating content after all.