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This Week in Social Media Law: Don't Post Party Pictures on Facebook While on Medical Leave. Really.
Posted on November 20th 2012
The week that was in social media law: Google closes the door on copyright infringers but opens another for bad faith actors; an employee learns the hard way that medical leave and party photos on Facebook don’t mix; and China’s transfer of power could spell trouble for foreign companies with Chinese websites.
Google tries to clean up the internet (so far, not so good)
Earlier this year, Google announced that it had changed its search algorithms to downgrade websites with a high number of copyright infringement removal notices. So far, so good. But there’s a problem, writes intellectual property lawyer Zach Oubre:
“Google’s new policy alters search algorithms based on ‘valid copyright takedown notice,’ which does not require proof of actual copyright infringement. ‘Valid’ only refers to a complaint being validly formatted – i.e., correctly submitted. Google doesn’t check whether copyrights have been harmed by a particular site.”
That could lead to a site being targeted when it does not contain infringing content – if, say, a competitor or former employee decides to file a series of baseless copyright complaints – and that could lead to lower Google search rankings and a drop in web traffic. (McAfee & Taft)
There’s a new boss in China. Are your papers in order?
China’s Communist Party named its new leaders this week, and the transition could spell trouble for foreign companies operating in the country. That’s because transfers of power in China often lead to tightened enforcement of the rules affecting foreign entities, and those who do business through websites hosted in China can make easy targets. Why? Because internet content provider licenses can only be held by Chinese nationals, requiring foreign businesses to affiliate with an independently owned Chinese company that holds the license (a “VIE” structure). And that means lots of paperwork.
How to stay out of trouble? Some suggestions from international lawyer Thomas Shoesmith:
- “Keep a low profile. The Japanese saying is, ‘the nail that sticks up gets pounded down,’ and this is equally true in China. This is not the time to announce the expansion of your internet operations in China.
- Maintain respectful relations with the regulators. The regulators are under pressure from their political environment. Don’t add to their pressure.
- Be sure your VIE papers are in order. Many internet companies regard the VIE structure as just paper in a drawer. It is true to some extent that the structure is tolerated as ‘form over substance.’ But if you do not even respect the form, you are inviting disaster.” (Pillsbury)
Reason #273 why Facebook and medical leave don’t mix…
Sara Jaszczyszyn worked for Advantage Health Physician Network as a customer service representative. She was granted leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for back pain that left her “completely incapacitated” and unable to perform her duties. While on leave, she attended a Polish heritage festival, then posted numerous pictures of herself enjoying the party to her Facebook account. Naturally, her employer found out, and after investigating the facts - giving Jaszczyszyn a chance to tell her side of the story - fired her. She sued her employer for wrongful termination, but the claims were dismissed.
The moral of the story? Don’t post compromising pictures on Facebook while you’re on medical leave. Really. (Franczek Radelet)