The Internet might be the cornerstone of your company's marketing strategy, or it might facilitate communications among employees spread across the country. It also might get you sued. According to Barry D. Weiss, a partner at the Chicago law firm of Gordon & Glickson, if you give employees access to the Internet, give them specific guidelines, too. Traditional corporate communication policy, says Weiss, can't account for a medium in which a libelous letter can reach a million people in a matter of minutes. He advises companies to take the following precautions:

?   Implement authorization codes. Identify employees who are allowed to use the Internet, and give them passwords to get online.

?   Control participation on bulletin boards. To reduce the risk of defamation claims, restrict participation in chat channels and bulletin boards to employees who have specific business to conduct in those forums.

?   Put your rules in writing. Employees should sign agreements stating that they understand that unauthorized use of the Internet could be grounds for dismissal.

?   Give advanced notice of monitoring. To avoid being cited for invasion of privacy, be sure to inform employees clearly and in advance if you plan to monitor their E-mail or Internet use.

?   Limit downloading of information. To protect against copyright-infringement liability, allow employees to download or distribute only those Internet materials that include a copyright notice and specifically permit such dissemination.

?   Pass by legal. Have your lawyer review your formal Internet policy.