“Social Media and the Law” by Kathryn L. Ossian

Review of Social Media and the Law

Social Media and the LawI have been remiss. It must be several months since the Practising Law Institute (PLI) asked me if I would review a copy of its publication, Social Media and the Law.  Unfortunately, time got away from me, and I am just finally sitting down now to write the review.  I will begin by noting that PLI sent me a copy of the book, but in no other way compensated me for this review.

Social media is a huge issue in today’s world  Every legal area is affected. Every client, whether an individual or a business, can suffer greatly if inappropriate information is shared online. As a result, I was pleased when I learned that PLI had decided to publish Social Media and the Law and I am happy with the results of editor Kathryn L. Ossian’s efforts.

Social Media and the Law provides a nice overview of many of the areas and issues about which lawyers must be aware when it comes to protecting their clients in the world of Web 2.0. The topics trend toward those representing businesses, but there is useful information for all lawyers contained within some portions of the book, especially related to discovery. Criminal law is addressed as well. Areas covered include:

  • Privacy
  • Copyrights, Trademarks, Brand Protection and Control of Content
  • Defamation and other torts
  • Employment/Workplace
  • Compliance for regulated industries
  • Advertising (not attorney ethics)
  • Criminal activities and prosecution, including evidentiary issues (also addresses ethics)
  • Civil discovery

I think Social Media and the Law provides a solid overview of the issues about which lawyers need to be concerned in many areas of practice. The book goes into just enough depth to make the reader understand what he needs to know and where the minefields are located. This kind of information is crucial for advising clients that intend to utilize social media in any way.  For example, who would have thought that a post on Facebook by a high level employee of Netflix could have resulted in an SEC probe.  But this exact scenario occurred (no fault was found) and clients need to be warned of these kind of issues so they don’t  happen.

Another plus for the book is that it is succinctly written, offers practical advice, and even includes a couple of example letters for preservation and requests to examine social media accounts. I’d like to see even more of this kind of information, simply because many practitioners who are just beginning to deal with social media will need guidance on the  types of documents they need to create. I am surprised that ethics did not receive its own chapter, as opposed to being included with the “Criminal, Prosecution and Evidence” chapter.  I would prefer a chapter on crimes that can be committed via social media (death threats, harassment and so on,) a separate chapter on evidence, and still another chapter on ethics.  But this is a minor issue, easily resolved in future editions.

If you practice law, but aren’t up on the issues related to social media, Social Media and the Law is an excellent and solid introduction to what you need to know.  If you want to buy the book, you will find it on PLI’s website.

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