Social Media Law in 2013: Even Bigger!

Photo Courtesy of Woodspin

I love social media law, so I made a point of following the high-profile, Twitter-related legal disputes of both 2011 and 2012. I recall the headlines about the Twitter defamation case involving singer Courtney Love, which was groundbreaking. Before that, many thought that you could tweet anything without serious repercussions. Though this point of view was promoted in several quarters, it didn't take long for the reality to sink in: you can't! Even innocent tweets, as lawyer Kerry Gorgone wrote recently, can sometimes have far-reaching consequences.

Other rulings have been equally thought-provoking: (1) Judge Liam O'Grady's 60 page opinion allowing the Department of Justice access to Wikileaks-related Twitter accounts and the emails and info associated with them, (2) The United States v William Lawrence Cassidy, which involved a man (Cassidy) who used twitter to send thousands of vulgar messages to a female Buddhist leader, and, (3) the decision forcing Twitter to hand over info about Malcolm Harris, an Occupy Wall Street protester. 

And yet…I didn't find them nearly as fascinating as Phone Dog v Noah Kravitz, which dealt with intellectual property. It produced a very interesting question: what is the monetary value of a Twitter follower? $50.00? $10.00? This is a great topic right? Yes it is. But because the case was settled out of court for an unspecified amount, that question remains open. The case also underscores the importance of written agreements that spell out who owns a business' social media accounts.

2012 saw a huge jump in lawsuits, and I expect that to continue in 2013. And look for social media evidence to be used a lot more. I remember a criminal conviction being reversed in 2011's Antoine Levar Griffin v State of Maryland, which had a MySpace post as one of the key pieces of evidence. Attorneys increasingly see a huge benefit to sifting through social networks for anything relevant to their clients.

I highly recommend The Guardian's piece on the ten types of legal risks that apply, or potentially apply, to Twitter. A very insightful and informative post that's guaranteed to inspire a higher level of curiosity. To be clear, social media law goes far, far beyond the boundaries of one or two social networks. A simple online search will bring up cases and/or concerns regarding all types of companies and scenarios. So get ready. 2013 should be another great year in this rapidly emerging field.

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