Do you work with online influencers, or are you one?
Online influencers who neglect the law can be censored, fined, or even banned from social channels if they don’t follow the rules.
Agencies supporting online influencers, their staff, and even brands can be held liable if an online influencer makes a wrong move.
A reputable business lawyer can help you avoid making these mistakes and ruining your reputation.
VIDEO: Social Media Legal Issues in Business – 5 Tips from a business lawyer
1. Not Reading FTC Guidelines
All online influencers should be familiar with The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations on product endorsements and online advertising.
All online advertising must tell the truth, not be misleading to customers, and you must substantiate all advertising claims.
Download our FREE Social Media Influencer’s Guide for an easy-to-understand overview of FTC guidelines and regulations.
2. Not Monitoring Testimonials and Reviews
Online influencers need to monitor what people are saying about you online and be ready to respond to any potential threats that could put you in legal jeopardy.
This includes reviews and fan testimonials.
Here’s more information on whether or not you can get sued for a bad review.
3. Intellectual Property Issues
All online influencers, agencies, designers, content creators, and their partner brands need to be clear about who holds the property rights for all content, including:
- Website content
- Social posts
- Email marketing
Generally, if the online influencer created the content from scratch, they own the copyright. However, brands may not use this content without express permission, or they could be held liable.
The brand and influencer should have a clear contract which details intellectual property.
This might sound simple, but the internet does have “grey areas” where people borrow material and do not attribute it. To add to that, each social media site has its own rules about re-sharing content.
Read more about legal issues for social influencers here.
4. Violating Rights of Publicity
Online influencers should not use the image, name, likeness, or even quotes from a celebrity to promote their business or brand on social media.
Even if an influencer has permission to use a photo, the photo also must be used in the context in which the person believed it would be used.
If an ad conveys something deceptive or harmful that offends or embarrasses the person, an influencer could be sued for portraying them in a false light.
A person can sue an online influencer for misappropriation of likeness if she uses a photograph of someone for commercial use without consent. For instance, an image pulled from a free photo site like Pexels or Unsplash.
Posts may also violate their rights if they have used an image owned by a third party.
5. Lack of Clear Disclosure
Online influencers must ensure that they disclose their relationship with a brand; otherwise, they face fines and penalties from the FTC.
FTC guidelines tell influences they must disclose their “material connections” with brands, even if the brands are friends or family.
Further, this disclosure must be complete and obvious. In most cases, a simple hashtag is not enough to communicate this. However, using the hashtag #ad near the front o a post is usually enough to disclose.
Brands, agencies, and content creators working for online influencers need to make sure that they are clear with the influencer concerning the duty to disclose.
6. Truth in Advertising
Anything an online influencer is endorsing must be done so in a truthful way. Furthermore, the claims should be able to be substantiated. They can’t be misleading, otherwise, the brand could be liable to what the influencer says.
Agencies and other partners of influencers need to be aware of this and make sure influencers have been advised.
7. Running Contests and Sweepstakes
Social media sweepstakes sometimes require legal clearance for various reasons. Any online influencer thinking of running a contest needs to understand their contract and country or region guidelines.
8. Posting Offensive Content
While online influencers have a First Amendment right to free speech, social media sites control the message the influencers are trying to convey.
There is no consistency in monitoring or enforcement. Influencers’ messages are at the discretion of the monitoring staff at each of these platforms.
There is no continuity, and there is no guidance in how an influencer can navigate the arbitrary enforcement practices of social media platforms.
Online influencers should always read the terms of service for social media platforms to check about posting guidelines and other issues mentioned here.
Read more about censorship on social media here.
9. Reposting Content
Reusing images or copy without explicit attribution can land online influencers in hot water. However, each social platform has different rules for reposting, and in some cases, this is acceptable.
Using hashtags like #retweet and #regram may help protect you but is not guaranteed.
Call a Business Law Professional Today
Like any entrepreneur, online influencers should be serious about protecting their reputation and business.
If you’re stuck or have questions about the laws that apply to online influencers or any other issue, don’t hesitate to call 303-780-7333 or schedule an appointment online.
You can also download our FREE Social Media Influencer Guide here.
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