This article was written and published by Canadian Underwriter, Canada’s Insurance and Risk Magazine. Insurers in the United States will face
The story always sounds the same. Our client receives a letter from a purported patent owner alleging that he is infringing the owner’s patent and, as a result, owes the patent owner a license fee. Sometimes the license fee is minimal other times it is exorbitant. Typically, the letter outlines the patents involved utilizing technical language to describe the underlying process, product, or technology. The letter always closes with the same threat: pay up or see you in court.
In the legal world, social media is a rapidly changing and relatively new frontier. In the areas of employment and labor law, judges are more frequently encountering traditional issues of harassment or discrimination but with the added twist of interactions between employees occurring outside of the office and in cyberspace instead.
The ever-increasing use of social media by employees who comment and post on work-related topics continues to be a focal point for the National Labor Relations Board. In August 2011, the NLRB published a report that summarized recent cases involving social media issues, and, on January 24, the agency released another report with updates in this area of law. The latest report focuses on several issues including whether employer policies that limit employee social media use are overly broad and could reasonably be interpreted as restricting employee communications that are protected under the National Labor Relations Act.
Just this past summer, the Hacker “Anonymous” released reams of information stolen from the FBI. Anonymous reportedly did this to embarrass ManTech, the contractor that handles the FBI’s cyber-security. This bold attack shows how completely vulnerable each entity is to determined hackers. The international accounting firm, Deloitte, recently released a detailed overview of the criminal threats posed by hackers, emphasizing that cyber crime is a significant and underappreciated risk for business.
At this point, the world cannot ignore the commanding presence of social media—LinkedIn has 135 million members, Twitter users have tweeted up to 10,000 tweets per second, and a movie about Facebook recently topped the box office charts. Social media is no longer limited to homes and college campuses, but has invaded the workplace as well. Employees network with associates on LinkedIn, “friend” colleagues on Facebook, and tweet about their frustrations with their jobs. Accordingly, employers must be aware of the accompanying legal risks and implications related to using social media.
There are approximately 800 million people on Facebook. Twitter has about 200 million account holders. Add in all of the bloggers and it becomes crystal clear that social media is more than just a fad. Social media is being used worldwide to connect old acquaintances, make business referrals, and market and advertise products and services. Chances are a vast majority of your employees, customers, potential customers, and competitors access a social media site on a daily basis. Social media is quickly becoming a preferred way for businesses to tout products and services.