Insureon Blog

Social Media and Business Risk: Slander, Libel, Invasion of Privacy, and Copyright Infringement

28. January 2014 09:29

Two men gossiping, possibly committing slander.

Chances are you've heard about slander, libel, invasion of privacy, and copyright infringement before. You may even have a general idea of what these legal terms mean. But what you may not realize is how easy it is to commit one of these offenses when you use social media to market your small business.

Say, for example, you find a copyrighted image of a Pomeranian on Google and use it to generate "likes" on your pet grooming business's Facebook page. The creator of that image could sue you for copyright infringement if you don't have permission to use it.

The best way to prevent these seemingly small mistakes from becoming big legal battles is to be aware of what you can and can't do when it comes to publishing content online. Let's take a look at the advertising injury risks that could arise next time you write a tweet, post a status update, or upload a Vine.

Slander and Libel

Both slander and libel are forms of defamation. The difference in in the delivery. For reference:

When using social media, you could potentially commit either of these offenses. For instance, any time you write a tweet about someone else that could be reasonably construed as negative, you risk being accused of libel. Create a Vine where you say that a competing restaurant serves cat meat instead of chicken, and that business could file a slander claim against you.

To meet the legal standards for libel or slander, though, the statement has to meet a few requirements. For example…

Without these three factors, it's difficult to mount a successful libel or slander suit against your business. As a rule, avoid making false statements on social media sites, which are considered public in a court of law.

Invasion of Privacy

You don't have to moonlight as a cyber hacker who leaks intimate information to the public to be accused of invading someone's privacy. "Invasion of privacy" refers to the laws prohibiting the intrusion into someone's personal life without just cause. Your business could easily run into this kind of snafu on social media sites if you post an image of a celebrity and imply that they endorse your services or products when they don't. The celebrity's lawyers might be drafting a complaint before you can say, “As seen on TV.”

Here some other examples of situations that trigger invasion of privacy suits:

Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement refers to the use, distribution, display, or derivation of copyrighted work without the creator's permission. Copyrighted work usually includes…

So if you post someone else's graphic design and claim it as your own on your business's social media page, you could be sued for damages. The exception would be if the image exists in the public domain (i.e., is available to the whole public and is not subject to copyright laws).

For a copyright infringement claim to succeed in court, the following elements must be in play:

Before posting images that aren't your own on your social media pages, ensure that they aren't subject to copyright.

What Can Your Business Do to Avoid Advertising Injuries Arising from Social Media?

Make sure you…

know your business risks


Advertising Injury | General Liability Insurance | Small Business Risk Management

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