Protecting Yourself Online Doesn’t Have to Involve Legal

by Gray Reed & McGraw
Contact

From a legal business development standpoint, the advice is not good.  For clients, the advice can be invaluable.  Rather than wait to be attacked online and then sue, be proactive.  If the attack comes, consider fighting bank online rather than through the courts, which is usually your last resort.Being Proactive

1.  Monitor.  You can’t protect your brand if you don’t know what is going on or being said about you.  This is a must for every company or person with a full range of services and options to match every budget from the free Google Alerts to full service firms that monitor, collect and analyze your references.  This not only helps you keep an eye on what is being said about you, but can help monitor for trademark infringement, defamatory comments or counterfiets.

2.  Engage with officially-sanctioned voices.  If you don’t, then the first thing someone will see when searching for you online will be the imposter or the negative review.  The more popular networking sites have officially sanctioned profiles.  Even if you don’t have much to say, claim those before someone else tries to. 

3.   Go to the hosting site first.  This sounds like advice from my mother than from your lawyer, but you often do catch more flies with honey than vinegar.  Many review and social sites place legally correct disclaimers on their sites that they are not liable for user generated content.  Yet, their terms of service that no one reads also usually state they do not allow for imposters, libel, harassment or a whole list of other wrongs.  Often, you can simply send the website operator the content you have a problem with and explain how it violates their own standards.  While they may not have to take it down, they often will.

 4.  Embrace the parody.   Many times, your nemesis is engaging in parody.  There has been everything from a fake BP public relations twitter account to a fake Big XII commissioner account on Twitter who despite the commissioner’s ouster is still going strong musing on college football.  Assuming you have taken care of #2 or #3 if the imposter is clearly not engaging in parody, there is not much you can do.  Parody is usually protected by the First Amendment and fair use when it comes to copyright and trademarks.  Done right and when appropriate, acknowledging the parody, companies and individuals can gain a lot of goodwill by embracing the parody.

5.  Mitigate the Pain.   You may not be able to remove the content, but sometimes, you can push it down to obscurity.  How many pages deep into the search results do you go when looking up something?  If you can move the bad content down, then very few people will see it.  Online reputation management experts claim to know the secret sauce to have the negativity moved down which usually takes some time to create more timely positive content.  It is certainly not a permanent or quick fix.  It can, however, be quicker and less expensive than litigation.

 6.  Sue when you gotta sue.  Sometimes you just have to sue.   It rarely makes economic sense and it is usually not done as a bottom line business decision to recover more from the bad guy then you will spend on attorneys’ fees.  Sometimes, however, your reputation and good name are that important.   Then, and usually only then, it makes sense to go to the courts with certain caveats.  First, filing the lawsuit will often bring more attention to the problematic online content.  Second, truth is a defense which means you will be asked questions under oath that usually are not allowed in the run of the mill car wreck or contract dispute.  Sue only if you are ready for that.

Next time . . .

Unmasking the anonymous annoyance.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Gray Reed & McGraw | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Gray Reed & McGraw
Contact
more
less

Gray Reed & McGraw on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.