A client of mine recently told me that it had received a demand for the payment of thousands of dollars from an attorney in California. The basis for the demand was the client’s use of a photograph that it had copied from another website and put on its website. Under general copyright law, the person who originally took the photograph is its owner and as such, has the right to forbid its use by anyone else for any purpose, with certain limited exceptions. The owner can demand to be paid damages for the unauthorized use of their work.
The same thing is true for any written content that is found on a website, a Facebook page, a twitter post, or a LinkedIn profile. Although in this digital world one has access to all kinds of information, you are not free to use that information without the permission of the person who created it. In addition to having to worry about wrongfully using another’s work, any original content you may post on your agency’s website, Facebook page, twitter account, or LinkedIn profile may expose the agency to claims for defamation, libel, invasion of privacy, and other similar causes of action by persons who may feel they have been hurt in some way by that content.
A business that is engaged in marketing its products and services over the internet has essentially become a publisher, with all the liability risks that entails. The June issue of IA Magazine contains a good article on these liability exposures and what can be done to protect against them. That article also makes the point that insurance agents can provide a valuable service to their customers and generate some revenue for their agencies by advising their customers of these exposures and what can be done to minimize and protect against them. You will notice that I have not included a link to that magazine article due to my concern over the possibility of a claim of copyright infringement, since it is a proprietary magazine that is available only to members of the IIABA. To find out more about such copyright issues, click here.