The legal world of Public RelationsThe law can often times be confusing to people who do not understand the legalese. This ignorance can cause problems if a person unknowingly makes a mistake. When people first began to post movies and music on YouTube, videos were often taken down because they did not ask permission or list the owner or trademark. Now, people know to protect themselves with disclosures that list the owners and creators of the content put on the site.
Here are the legal basics.
I. There are three organizations that protect the public interest from fraud1. the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)- if public relations staff releases a news release that is vague or unclear as to information they are releasing to the public, they are in trouble with the SEC.
a. also does not allow untrue descriptions of products or
b. leaving out true, but negative facts about news
2. the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)- provides licenses to radio and television stations and protects the radio listeners
a. if you send an audio release to a radio station, the station is required to let the listeners know where the information came from or the could be fined by the FCC.
3. Food and Drug Administration- oversees the advertising and promotion of prescription and over the counter drugs, and cosmetics.
a. if you want to advertise a drug or treatment you have to also list the risks and limitations along with the advertisement.
II. Libel and defamation1. libel- printed falsehood
2. defamation- comments made in traditional media or social media that are not based on facts and cause harm
III. Employees' Rights1. Companies cannot use pictures or statements of their employees without their permission
2. However, if an employee leaks information or posts things the company that employs them deems improper, they could be fired.
Finally, do not use photos, logos or trademarks without permission from their creator. The fines could be astronomical and companies work hard to protect the trademarks they create.