Marketing via Blogs has New Legal Ramifications
In recent years, blogs have taken on increased significance on the Internet and the World Wide Web, as well as in other media. Once regarded as nothing more than very eccentric journals, blogs have become an important marketing tool at this point in time. In reality, millions of customers from all walks of life and from all corners of the world are turning to blogs for information and advice on a variety of goods and services today.
In recent years, as blogs have grown in importance as marketing and promotional tools, a slew of legal concerns have developed that need careful thought. The use of blogs and blogging raises two major difficulties in this respect, both of which are addressed here.
First and foremost, there is worry over the unintentional disclosure of trade secret information via the use of a blog. Second, there is worry about the possibility of fraudulent or deceptive advertising claims being made on blogs or via blogging, which might lead to legal action.
Never share confidential information on a blog.
The genuine worth of a blog in terms of marketing and promotion is still up for dispute, and this is especially true among the blogging community. There is a dispute over whether blogging is worth the time and money invested in it.
Despite this, several firms are going so far as to encourage their own staff to blog about the items or services that they provide to customers. In such instances, it becomes critical that the blogging employee not divulge too much information about the company, its goods, or its services to other parties.
The disclosure of private information about a company, especially important trade secrets, by an overzealous blogger might have serious consequences. When this occurs, it is possible that the private knowledge will be used by the competitors. For this reason, it is critically crucial that a blogging employee understand the boundaries as to what may and should be communicated via the blogging process.
When a blog or blogger receives assistance or encouragement from a certain corporate company or employment, there is a very real possibility that the blog or blogger will be deemed advertising. Having said that, it is still unclear whether or not a blor or blogger will be subject to the more conventional advertising and marketing rules, particularly those relating to transparency, at this time.
Assuming for the moment that a blog is developed or maintained by a firm and intended for marketing reasons, it may be fairly assumed that, at least in principle, the more conventional marketing regulations will apply. Because the blog may be seen as an advertisement, any misleading assertions could be interpreted as false advertising, which would be prohibited under the laws of the country in question. On the other hand, First Amendment free expression considerations also come into the equation because of the underlying nature of blogging.
The truth is that the First Amendment applies more to individual expression than it does to so-called commercial speech, and that the First Amendment protects both. In other words, an individual citizen has more freedom in expressing his or her thoughts than does a hired endorser who receives compensation.
With that acknowledged, the more a blog veers towards being the purveyor of a commercial message or communication, the more likely it will be exposed to legal examination and the application of the more conventional rules related to advertising, marketing, and promotional claims.
When trying to evaluate whether or not a blog is of a commercial nature, there are a few key elements that must be taken into account. One major issue is whether or not the blogger gets rewarded by the firm or business in question for producing the blog in the first place. If the blogger is paid, in reality, the blogger could be considered in the same manner as a paid endorser.
The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, has standards relative to what a paid endorser may and cannot, should not do. These recommendations may be found on the Federal Trade Commission’s website at gov.
Great ethical advice is available from the Word of Mouth Advertising Association (WOMMA), which might be valuable to a blogger in their endeavors. Finally, an increasing number of bloggers are including disclaimers on their blogs, informing readers that the blogger is getting paid for the creation and maintenance of the site.
Even with disclaimers and even with taking other comparable procedures, there are ambiguous situations, such as whether an employee that starts a blog on his or her own time without getting extra money, or a blogger who gets free merchandise, fits the criterion of receiving compensation. In recent years, there has been tremendous progress in requiring bloggers to fully disclose any such affiliation.
Another important question to consider is whether or not the corporation has any influence over the content of the blog in question. For example, a company with workers who are encouraged to blog may find itself in a legal limbo when it comes to the rules regulating advertising and how they apply to the specific blogging scenario in question, as described above. The likelihood of a firm exercising control increases, and the likelihood of being held accountable and liable for acts of copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and false advertising perpetrated by a blog operator throughout the course of the blogging process increases as well.
In terms of dealing with business bloggers, there are no clear solutions available at this time. Some organizations are going the route of offering education and training to their blogging staff, which is a road that some businesses are following.
In the end, a firm will most likely want to exercise caution in order to avoid exerting excessive control over a blog. By exercising even a rudimentary level of control over a blog, a firm may be deemed accountable and responsible for the content of that particular blog.
It’s possible that the most essential decision for every business is not whether or not to blog, but rather how to make blogs more effective for a company in the beginning and final stages of its development. Legal issues must be kept in mind at all times throughout this procedure in order to minimize any possible responsibility that may otherwise befall a company or firm.