User Generated Content and the Law
Bootlaw was out and about last week as I was asked to speak at an event organised by comment moderation company, Tempero, on User Generated Content (UGC) and the Law. The event was to mark the launch of an eBook produced by Tempero, which contains a useful overview of some of the key legal issues raised by UGC. With perfect timing, the event came on the same day that news broke that the Italian Courts had found three Google executives to be criminally liable for a video posted on Google Video of an autistic child being bullied. Although this case demonstrates how companies can be liable for content posted by users, our view is that this case is an abberation – in complete contradiction to established principles of European law – and is likely to be overturned on appeal at a later stage. Whatever happens, we’ll be watching with interest.
Back at Tempero, Dominic Sparkes introduced the evening with a brief introduction to the company, which we first met on the very first Digital Mission. I was next up talking about “common misconceptions” in particular, discussing the extent of the “ISP Defence” for publishers who do not moderate. It is often thought that publishers who allow all comments and other UGC through and only moderate reactively (in response to take down notices, for example) will automatically be able to defend on this basis. However, where a publisher has obviously read all the comments posted on a blog (or could reasonably be expected to have read all the comments – e.g. if they were few in number), then it is unlikely that the ISP defence would work. A publisher has to argue that it did not have knowledge of the offending comment AND could not be expected to know that it could have been defamatory. The limits of reasonableness were debated – but given this has been largely untested by the courts, it is only possible to speculate what might work.
Other speakers included John Robinson from NHS Choices, who spoke about the challenge of allowing patients to review the service they had received from the NHS, or in some cases the treatment relatives had received – which could sometimes be quite harrowing. Jon Bishop, Community Manager at Gumtree, talked about the challenge of managing a massive community driven site and how Gumtree moderates its message boards as well as its main site.
Next up, Molly Flatt gave us an informed overview of the sorts of crafty marketing strategies which have been banned, such as astroturfing, sock puppets, as well as the correct way of promoting products to independent bloggers. Finally, we heard from Debbie Towersey on some of the HR implications of social media, with a few amusing examples of employees being caught out by some dumb postings on their Facebook (it’s always Facebook!) pages. Remember, HR people have no qualms about using sock puppets to “friend” you on Facebook to circumvent privacy settings!
And here is the ebook.