Social and digital media has grown exponentially in the last decade, with enterprising companies creating uncontested market space in the online and digital industries. Whether your company is engaged in a new search engine, an analytics platform, or ecommerce; social media as a tool has become a necessary component of both the customer acquisition process and marketing from within the company. Without viral capabilities and digital readiness, companies are unable to harness quick user engagement with their platforms and services. Further, now many individuals within a company serve as brand ambassadors through social media, often listing where they work on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Quora, among others.
Due to the fast-paced nature of social media, companies often overlook the legal issues inherent in social media that serve as silos of protection. While staying ahead of the competition is paramount, creating and maintaining well-drafted legal content will reduce the chances of getting mired in disputes that deviate attention from the core focus of growth.
Here is a brief list of legal issues to consider:
1) Terms of Service. If you have a website or ecommerce platform, you will need to publish terms of service or use on your website, to put customers and users on notice as to the various limitations and conditions to which they are consenting by using your site. This document will serve to govern the relationship between your company and the audience that interacts with your site. Each Terms of Service is unique to the industry and nature of your company. For example, terms for a fashion ecommerce site will differ greatly from a software development business.
3) Non-Compete and Non-Solicitation. Consider protecting your company by prohibiting your partners and employees from competing directly with your company immediately upon their departure. A Non-Compete provision would be framed within a specific time period and limited to a geographic area, but these clauses are very important because these key individuals may possess inside knowledge of your competitive advantage. A Non-Solicitation provision would prevent ex-partners or employees from soliciting high value colleagues and/or customers away from your company.
4) Moonlighting and Loyalty: Moonlighting and Loyalty addressesemployee activities outside of the normal course of business. This clause may or may not be necessary, depending on the nature of your business. A lawyer can assess your contract’s needs once you discuss your commercial goals together.
5) Ownership of Intellectual Property: You may want to protect any processes, templates, systems, or methods created by an employee, by retaining any IP rights over these items. A contract at the outset will provide necessary protections so that any work products created under your business do not ultimately go to a competitor.
6) Use, Licensing, Technology Transfer: Companies often look to outsource their products or services through digital or online channels, often with third party agencies and partners providing additional marketing, acquisition or branding services. Partnerships are often created to facilitate such business development. In this context, contracts protect the use and licensing of your work product so that it isn’t leaked or misappropriated. A strong vendor/services contract will make your transition to the next stage of development that much more efficient while protecting the proprietary nature of your company’s work product. Similarly, if you are interested in commercially exploiting your methods, processes or inventions (Technology Transfer), you willneed contracts to protect your financial interests.
Spending a little time developing your legal architecture is a strategic investmentin your company. Failing to do so may result in a costly dispute that takes valuable resources, including your time and attention, away from the company. Not implementing a sound legal platform is a risk far too great for any company to take, as the landscape of digital and social media continues to evolve.
Sheheryar T. Sardar, Esq.
Sardar Law Firm LLC
New York, New York Core Practice Areas: Technology, Corporate & General Counsel, Startup Law, Project Finance, VC/PE, Arbitration/Mediation, Entertainment, and Human Capital
Disclaimer: The contents of this article shall not to be considered legal advice or to create any lawyer-client relationship. The article may contain attorney advertising.