‘New Rules for New Tools’ at #MIAP meeting

Editor’s Note: This post features notes from a conference and has been generated live, so please excuse the choppiness.

Robin Luce Herrmann, a lawyer with Butzel Long and general counsel to the Michigan Press Association, talked on “New Rules for New Tools — What You Should Know about Legal, Ethical and Business Questions in the Digital Age” at the Michigan AP Editorial Association Annual Editors Meeting Oct. 12 at the PohlCat Golf Course Clubhouse.

Luce Herrmann spoke on intellectual property infringement, copyrights, content theft and trademarks.

Copyright protects logos, names and identifiers of business, but doesn’t cover the facts.

Your employees and what they are posting: Who owns that information?
General rule, if it’s an employee, the material belongs to the publications; but contractors/stringers, presumption is that they own the copyright to the material unless you take steps to have that material assigned to you, Hermann said.

“Copyright trolls” looking to “shake down” publications for using their copyrighted material. They have no intention of litigating a case; just looking for quick cash and dismiss the case.

Luce Herrmann said “transformative use”: When creating content online and trying to drive traffic, you can take pieces from others to create a whole. This does not violate copyright law. Question: What if publications has an image and someone takes it for a PowerPoint presentation? They can take it and not attribute it and it’s OK under “fair use” because it’s used minimally out of 60-slide use, it’s for educational purposes and the individual is not making money off of it, Luce Herrmann said. Publications should make sure the consumer is not misled that the user is the publication when it is not. Focus on whether someone will be misled by the use.

Domain names

Publications want to lock down domain names as quickly as possible so no one else can get to them and extort money from you. This is “cyber squatting.” Look on social websites’ terms of use (Facebook and Twitter have ways to register your intellectual property and they can eject anyone using your name).

Defamation and posts displaying “bad judgment”
Make sure posts don’t degrade publication, give away trade secrets, cause defamation.
If you Tweet: “Check out this story” and link to a story that says something defamatory, it’s unclear, or unsettled, whether the person who Tweeted it is responsible for defaming someone as well. Journalists have to think about what they are saying in a Tweet and what they have linked to in their Tweet.

Breaching a contract
The use of new tools, including social media sites and even newspaper websites, often bring a set of new rules based on the agreements signed to use these tools
First Amendment and Communication Decency Act provides protection for what you publish. It’s incorrect to think they are the only things go govern your relationship. Whether you’re accessing another site like Facebook or if someone is accessing yours, the “terms of use” policy is critical. These are contracts with the user. The press is not excused from unlawful behavior, Luce Herrmann said.

Terms of using and Privacy Policy

Covers site use, accuracy, editing and removing posts, copyright violations and legal rights of those involved in disputes. If someone purchases photo off website, can limit in Terms of Use policy how someone can use it.

Employment concerns
Employment discrimination; productivity during working hours
If employee uses personal Twitter account to post something negative about own employer, can be terminated over it.

Third-party posts
Media have immunity under the CDA for what people post. You can move for relevance, edit it for length, remove it for indecencies. Can’t add words or change it in such a way that it becomes your content. Websites trying to engage users today. This can remove immunity under the CDA. You’re OK if you post a broad and non-leading question. Be careful with polls and options for answers.

No decisions yet on whether you can be held for the continued availability of content.

Making corrections and retractions to Internet content

Correct the original content
Leave original content alone and post a separate retraction or correction
Correct the original content and post a separate retraction/correction

Want to ensure readers not misled and advertiser/businesses aren’t victimized.
We are not going to correct ads, unless it’s necessary to inform the public.

Blog and Twitter Account Ownership

Who owns Twitter acccount? Who created it; does the journalist claim affiliation to a news agency; does their contract state that any social media accounts created for the agency remain in their custody.

Using Social Media for Newsgathering
Social media site’s terms of use can provide some protection if we opt to use information. But, for example, Facebook’s Terms of Use are fairly favorable, allowing third-party use. When you publish content or info using the “everyone” setting, media can use it.

Twitter doesn’t address third-party rights.

Treat a photo on social media the way you would if someone walked in and handed you a photo — feel comfortable with the content of the photo and that the person giving you the photo is entitled to give it to you. Check the terms of use for the site where you obtain the information to see what the terms say about posted content.

You can create a screenshot from Facebook or Twitter and be somewhat safe as it provides context as where you got the information. If group shot, distort the image of the others and their names. Also post where you got it and provide link.

Check out audio from the talk on my phlog.

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One Comment on “‘New Rules for New Tools’ at #MIAP meeting”


  1. […] the walk,” putting these tech tools I ask reporters to use on the job to use by live tweeting and live blogging, and capturing audio using ipadio.com, the tool I’ve experimented with the most as a member of […]


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