Why online legal wrangling is wild and weird
The internet is more integrated into our lives, but there’s still an element of wild west out there. Anyone with a little time and even less money can set up a site or leave oodles of comments that can make life difficult for you or your clients.
That’s where DFWSEM’s September speaker Mazin Sbaiti comes in. He’s like Batman, only without the secret identity and the gizmos and the billions and billions of dollars. Which…uh. Hm. So he’s nothing like Batman. But he is out there trying to make the ‘net suck less.
But first, a word from our sponsors
Before the superheroing could start, there were some important meeting announcements. The coolest of which, of course, were about State of Search. Y’all, this is going to be some shindig. Check it out:
- Title sponsor has been announced, and whoa, it’s Yext!
- Eric Enge will be keynoting the State of Research badassery
- The State of Search app will be available this week
- We’ve got agency pricing available for large groups
Given that we have other amazing sponsors on board such as Stone Temple, DeepCrawl, Cashstore, TapClicks, and PlacesScout, we have the backing to bring an event even better than last year’s — and that’s saying something.
— Teresa Martin (@FlipCatLLC) September 14, 2017
But there’s more going on DFW than just State of Search. DFWSEM friends Social Media Dallas is hosting a big deal shindig on Sept. 21 at the Angelika Theatre Mockingbird Station. Yep, we’re talking the 7th Annual Social Media Showcase. Check out case studies to see what works and what doesn’t to extend your social reach. Save on your ticket with discount code DFWSEM17.
Since the subject of the night’s presentation was the law, it wouldn’t do to neglect mentioning DFW Legal Hackers. They meet monthly to discuss the shifting space where technology and the law intersect. Learn more at www.meetup.com/DFW-Legal-Hackers/.
If it please the court
Time to turn attention to all things legal. And turning, in fact, is part of the issue. The law looks backward. It looks at the past to establish precedent, to see how to best address new things in terms of things already known.
The internet? Not so much. The digital world only glances back at the past in the rear view mirror as it floors the gas pedal.
These two very different ways of operating mean that the law is playing catch up with the wild and wooly nature of online interaction. But Mazin has established a few precedents – and a few strategies – to help bridge that gap.
He covered several different topics, the first and perhaps most common being online defamation.
When someone takes an action to damage someone else’s good reputation, that’s defamation. In terms of online interaction, that can take a couple of forms. There’s third-party sites, like Yelp or Facebook, on which a campaign of malicious reviews can take place. Or there’s first-party sites, like your-name-sucks.com or this-company-hates-puppies.org, which exist wholly to attack.
Tackling this sort of thing head on through the courts has both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, if the results are positive it could be more cost effective than paying out for a prolonged SEO/ORM campaign, and there are a broad range of fines that can be levied. On the other, the statute of limitations for defamation is still short, reflecting past types of media that didn’t live forever online, and the funds and time required can be considerable.
Mazin threw in a protip here: Because of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), ISPs aren’t liable for the things published via their access, but if you can acquire the copyright for a page they can be asked to take that page down at the behest of the copyright holder. Nice workaround, hm?
The perils of informality
Strangely enough, the biggest online danger doesn’t seem like danger at all. The informal nature of online communication – direct messages, comments, video chats – can lead to the assumption that nothing said that way is binding.
Whoa, boy. Is that ever wrong.
Verbal contracts are just as real as the written kind, especially when filmed. A chain of DMs can be entered into evidence. On the internet, everything is forever. So before you agree to something like profit sharing or a partnership, mull your words. Otherwise you might find yourself in the position of the owners of a video play-through YouTube channel. An offhand remark about sharing revenue could lead to a $28.1 million settlement.
Sounds pretty binding, mm?
Coming up next
Normally, we’d end this blog with a glimpse of next month’s presentation. But next month will be wall-to-wall badassery at State of Search, so you’ll just have to keep an eye out for November’s festivities.