A variety of legal implications have developed with the rise of social media - from the need to monitor employee use and libelous postings to the growth of impersonators and the need to protect company brands, among many others.
These issues require a deep understanding of the technology and medium involved, and Haynes and Boone draws from an interdisciplinary team of experienced lawyers to provide social media counseling to a broad range of clients. Projects that our social media practice group handles include:
In addition to providing advice on brand availability across social media platforms for many clients, we have shut down misuses, including hate speech, competitor use, impersonation, and leaked confidential information, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, eBay, blogs and phone applications on behalf of leading telecommunications and retail companies. We have provided legal advice on establishing and implementing a mobile device application platform. Our team also has prosecuted patents in the social media industry for a leading Internet retailer.
Corporate, Finance, and Technology Transaction
Labor and Employment
Our attorneys have advised on and drafted policies for employee use of social media and its risks, including negative publicity, disclosure of private customer information or trade secrets, non-compete/non-solicitation concerns, invasion of privacy, harassment, and tortious interference. In addition, we have advised employers on the risks of terminating and disciplining employees for use of social media.
White Collar Defense
Our team has performed an extensive study of social media policies in corporate codes of conduct, a project that has drawn national media attention. The study highlighted that few U.S. companies have integrated such policies into their codes of conduct, even while some encourage employees to use the tools appropriately. With this background and our experience in other aspects of compliance, we have helped companies draft their corporate codes of conduct to include social media policies.
Our lawyers have handled numerous disputes involving virtually all forms of social media and are well-versed in legal issues surrounding social media. Specifically, we have handled social media disputes involving First Amendment issues, defamation claims, the Communications Decency Act, copyright law (including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act), and trademark law.
We have advised restaurant franchisors on how to protect their brands in YouTube videos and Twitter posts by customers.
Some examples of our recent work for social media clients include:
IP Enforcement on Social Networking Site
In early 2010, Haynes and Boone used takedown procedures and contacted representatives with whom we have had prior dealings at Facebook to successfully and quickly remove a phony and offensive advertisement and “joke” bearing our client’s name and logo on a Facebook group page. The content was in extremely poor taste, mocking the victims of a natural disaster and the majority of other images and content posted were blatantly racist. The client's name and logo were additionally removed from content on all relevant Facebook pages.
Antitrust Counsel in Acquisition of Social Networking Site
Haynes and Boone acted as principal outside antitrust counsel for AOL in connection with its $850 million acquisition of social networking site Bebo. Our team prepared an HSR filing and advised the client on antitrust issues related to the transaction.
Advised on Development of Social Media Policy for Financial Service Firm
As financial service firms are subject to certain rules with respect to communications with the public, FINRA has issued specific guidance to its member firms. Along with that guidance, we advised our client with respect to the development of policies and procedures for social media while taking into consideration rules related to solicitation, suitability, testimonials, advertising, supervision and archiving.
Defense of Defamation Claims Regarding Blog Posts
Haynes and Boone obtained a favorable summary judgment in defense of a libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress suit based in large part on blog posts made on the client's website. The suit made allegations regarding the blog posts and even referenced user comments. We obtained a full dismissal of all claims based on First Amendment, statutory, and common law grounds.
Pursuit of Defamation Claims Regarding Internet Posts
Haynes and Boone has successfully pursued numerous claims on behalf of its clients regarding blog posts. In one instance, Haynes and Boone successfully caused a website which was posting considerable offensive, embarrassing and defamatory statements about college students to remove the posts. The website is no longer operational.
Pursuit of Copyright Infringement Claims Regarding Blog Posts
We successfully pursued a popular Internet blog which was repeatedly posting one of our media client's copyrighted images. After we issued takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the infringing images were quickly removed from the site.
Defense of Invasion of Privacy Claim Involving Facebook
Haynes and Boone successfully defended an invasion of privacy case brought by a client's former employee regarding the client's use of the employee's Facebook posts in a prior lawsuit. The Court dismissed the employee's case on constitutional and common law grounds.