[tweetmeme]I have met a surprising number of experienced business people who do not budget for legal advice. Here are five common legal mistakes in Internet and social media marketing that can result in financial penalties and business interruption.
1. COPYRIGHT MISTAKE: Photographs on Google Images are not free for the taking. Regardless of whether a photograph bears a copyright or watermark symbol, it is not in the public domain. Someone holds the copyright. It may even be a famous organization like Getty Images. If you use these images, you may receive a cease and desist letter and a claim for financial damages. Always take photographs from stock photo houses or buy rights directly from the photographer. Read the licenses to be sure you understand your rights.
2.MISTAKE: Trademark infringement is not based on precise copying. The test for trademark infringement is likelihood of confusion in the marketplace. This means altering one word of a slogan may not ward off a trademark infringement claim if you market in similar trade channels with similar goods. Take the time to create original trademarks.
4. PRIZE PROMOTION MISTAKE: If you are running a sweepstakes or contest, do not copy rules from another promotion you find on the Internet. Every promotion has its own details that require careful crafting of rules. Each of the 50 states has complex statutes governing prize promotions. There are a variety of contrasting requirements on such issues as rule requirements, disclosures in advertising, prize delivery, and registration and bonding. Using social media platforms for public voting can render the promotion an illegal lottery if not implemented properly. Prize promotions require close legal vetting.
5. MOBILE MARKETING MISTAKE: An astounding number of marketing companies are trying to break into the fast growing area of mobile marketing. They rely on third party lists of mobile phone numbers, and they have not done proper due diligence. They do not understand the legal requirements of obtaining consumer opt-in before commencing a mobile campaign. Enforcement of federal statutes in this area as well as state attorneys-general investigations are on the rise. The financial ramifications of a failure to obtain a proper opt-in can be staggering. Consult with your legal counsel about the proper way to obtain the opt-in before commencing a mobile campaign.
This post first appeared on the author’s blog. © Kyle-Beth Hilfer, P.C. 2011. Kyle-Beth Hilfer, Esq. specializes in advertising, marketing, promotions, intellectual property and new media law. She is also Of Counsel to Collen IP, a full service intellectual property law firm. For more information about her law practice and more blog posts, visit www.kbhilferlaw.com.