Congress Moves to Protect Critical Social Media Reviews

CNN Money
September 13, 2016

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which is intended to prohibit businesses from suing individuals for posting honest, but negative, online reviews. This bill makes a provision of a form contract void from the inception if it is used in the course of selling or leasing goods or services to: (1) prohibit or restrict an individual who is a party to such a contract from engaging in written, oral, or pictorial reviews, or other similar performance assessments or analyses of, including by electronic means, the goods, services, or conduct of a person that is also a party to the contract; (2) impose penalties or fees against individuals who engage in such communications; or (3) transfer or require the individual to transfer intellectual property rights in review or feedback content (with the exception of a nonexclusive license to use the content) in any otherwise lawful communications about such person or the goods or services provided by such person.

The legislation goes on to make clear that it does not apply to employment contracts, nor is it meant to prohibit other common terms of use provisions, such as those against harassment or defamatory speech.

The intent of this law is laudable. It will be interesting to see how the final language comes together and, if signed into law, how it is applied.

Finding Friends is Fraught With Privacy Peril

Yelp's Loss Spells Legal Trouble for the Mobile App Industry

On Friday, September 8, Yelp became the latest mobile application maker to be held to account for potentially violating users’ privacy. The plaintiffs in a long-running class action lawsuit allege that Yelp and other app developers improperly uploaded address book data from their phones without their consent. The court’s ruling on Friday denied Yelp’s motion for summary […]

Michigan’s First Revenge Porn Money Judgment

Detroit Free Press
August 26, 2016

This is a great legal development in my home state’s internet law:

“In what might be Michigan’s first revenge-pornography case resulting in a monetary judgment, an Oakland County woman was awarded $500,000 Wednesday after her ex-boyfriend posted nude photographs of her on multiple Internet sites. 

“According to court records from the Oakland County Circuit Court, Judge Martha Anderson awarded the sum, which is set to accrue interest over time. Anderson also granted a permanent injunction against the ex-boyfriend, forcing him to immediately destroy and never republish the photos to third-party websites. If he does … he can be held in contempt and face prison or additional fines.”

The article also notes that “In April, a bill criminalizing the posting of sexually explicit images on the Internet without the depicted person’s consent was signed into law by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. Anyone found guilty of violating the law could face up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense. If a second violation occurs, the person could face up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000. The individual could also face separate charges in connection to the crime.”

Although many similar statutes have been passed around the country, they often have First Amendment defects, because they go too far in abridging the Constitution’s sacrosanct freedom of speech. Nevertheless, cases like this prove that existing tort laws will almost always provide a way to punish those who use the internet to abuse others.

Is the Increasing Use of Social Media Evidence a Game-Changer in Litigation of Insurance Claim Disputes?

This is a guest post by Peter Hamp, a student pursuing his JD and MBA as part of the joint degree program at the University of Michigan Law School and Stephen M. Ross School of Business. He earned his B.A., with distinction, in political science from Yale University. Over the past decade, social media has significantly changed […]

Preventing Cyberbullying: A Practical Guide (Guest Post)

This week’s post is by parent and freelance writer Hilary Smith. If you don’t have kids, you might not have thought about cyberbullying lately – but more than twenty million teenagers (yes, that’s the right number) have been bullied online, and many of those incidents have more than one perpetrator. At the core, though, cyberbullying is […]

Are Essential Oil Pins Deceptive Advertising?

Of all the social media legal issues I’ve covered, this one hits the closest to home. I first learned about it from my wife, who sells doTERRA brand essential oils and who enjoys pinning information about them to her Pinterest boards. So imagine her unpleasant surprise when she logged in one recent day to discover that […]

FTC Responds to Questions on Social Media Endorsements

|In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission put the social media world on edge when it released updated Endorsement Guidelines that made it clear that they were watching social media for deceptive and misleading endorsements. Companies doing social media marketing set about experimenting (some successfully, some not) with various ways to convey the required disclosures in as few […]

Social Reading Raises New Copyright and Publicity Rights Issues

The following is paraphrased from a talk I gave at the International Digital Publishing Forum’s 2015 Digital Book Conference in Manhattan. Recent Innovations in Social Reading “Social reading” is a publishing industry buzzword that has come to encompass a variety of methods for using digital platforms to expand the reading experience. This includes such simple features […]

Digital Evidence: Discovery, Authentication, and Admissibility

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of presenting two Continuing Legal Education sessions for Michigan judges on the topic of social media and other digital evidence. We reviewed the various use cases in which lawyers most often rely on digital evidence; the various methods used to regulate discovery of social media posts; the challenges […]

From the Archives: Common Law Invasion of Privacy Claims in Social Media

This article was originally published on July 2, 2013, and remains one of the most popular articles in this blog’s history.  It principally authored by Adrean S. Taylor, a student at the University of Michigan Law School and a 2013 summer associate at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP. The overall issue for courts addressing common […]