It's a social world out there.

Social networking invite legal complications.

Posted on: January 25, 2010

Social media is an umbrella that covers many kinds of sites, services and devices.  While each area of social is causing legal waves of different forms, social networking is often at the forefront of legal cases involving social media. Social networking invites the kinds of information sharing and user interaction that other forms of social media do not.  Facebook and MySpace have been at the helm of social networking for years, and they have certainly had their share of legal troubles. While each of the aforementioned sites have worked tirelessly at refining privacy settings and working to limit issues like copyright infringement, their work is never done. In the world of social networking innovation in key, and with innovation comes new uses (that often unplanned), all these uses must be considered from a legal safety standpoint.

As I mentioned copyright infringement is often an area social networking sites need to be careful of.  Users are posting copyrighted photos, videos and music all the time, sites must work day in and day out looking and removing this material. As stated on a Once social networking site that has done this with a good deal of success if YouTube. While users can post videos of all kinds YouTube combs through each and every video that comes to their site. If a video hold copyrights it is removed, if the music used in the video is protected the sound is removed, inappropriate content in removed, at least that is the idea. In 2007 the site may have made a mistake, as stated by The Bar Association website,

“Viacom and YouTube are currently litigating over the appropriate application of these provisions to social networking Web sites. In early 2007, Viacom brought a lawsuit against YouTube in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for copyright infringement, seeking damages of $1 billion. Viacom claims that a large portion of the videos displayed on YouTube are copyrighted materials.” (1)

Here we see an issue of copyright coming involving two media power houses and a great deal of money. As of the yet the case has yet to reach a verdict, but provides a clear example of how legal issues are effecting even the most high-end and organized social networking sites.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace must work around copyright issues as YouTube, but are most prominently involved in cases that ensure user safety. This is because anyone can have a profile on these kinds of sites, and many people who are dangerous.  Legal teams have worked hard to ensure that these sites monitor user interaction and even report users who are registered sex offenders.  In late 2007 the New York attorney general serviced Facebook with many warnings about users safety issues.  As stated by Caroline MacCarthy on her the social cnet news blog,

“Cuomo’s office issued an open letter (click here for PDF) to Facebook accompanied by a subpoena for documents, claiming that an undercover investigation revealed that investigators posing as young users of the site (12 to 14 years old) were “repeatedly solicited by adult sexual predators.” The most troubling part, the attorney general’s office asserted, was that Facebook apparently had been slow or unresponsive in addressing many of the complaints that were lodged as investigators posed as both minors and parents of minors.” (2)

This provides a clear example of the kinds of legal issues social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace battle. The battle is one that will never end, social media sites of all kinds invite information sharing and that can often lead to legal trouble. While social networking has opened the door for many relationships, connections and learning situations that never existed before, they also are challenging legal teams and their administrators with never before seen cases. Social networking use will always invite legal complications.

1) Social Networking and the Law: Virtual Social Communities Are Creating Real Legal Issues. (n.d.). American Bar Association – Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice. Retrieved January 2, 2010, from http://www.abanet.org/buslaw/blt/2009-03-04/viscounty.shtml

2) McCarthy, C. (2007, October 1). Facebook’s legal issues escalate as N.Y. attorney general strengthens warnings | The Social – CNET News.Technology News – CNET News. Retrieved January 24, 2010, from http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-9788413-36.html

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