An advertising legal expert offers some tips on how to avoid trouble when advertising in cyberspace.
"It's surprising how many advertisers don't think the laws that govern print advertising apply in cyberspace," says Doug Wood of Hall Dickler Kent Friedman & Wood, in New York City, and author of Please Be Ad-vised, a legal guide for advertising executives. Below is Wood's advice about how to avoid some common trouble spots:
? Register your name. "You have to clear and protect your name in cyberspace just as in ordinary commerce. World Wide Webñsite owners should register domain names [cyberaddresses] not only with InterNIC, the primary clearinghouse for domain names, but also with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In addition, advertisers should monitor the Internet to be certain that others are not improperly using the company's trademarks, trade names, promotion names, and logos."
? Choose the right photos. "All living individuals, from employees to politicians, enjoy the right of privacy. That means you can't use names, photographs, or likenesses for advertising or promotions without written permission. While some might argue that the Internet is used for entertainment purposes rather than for advertising, that argument will rarely win the day unless it's a bona fide news report. Also, celebrities have the right to control the commercial exploitation of their names, photos, or likenesses. In Indiana, where the right even extends to expressions and mannerisms, Clint Eastwood presumably controls the use of the expression, 'Go ahead, make my day.' "
? Check out your agreements. "All new and existing agreements with suppliers, such as freelancers or stock-photo houses, should be reviewed before any of their materials are uploaded to a Web site. It's rare for older agreements to use terms like electronic rights, and it would be extremely unusual to find contracts that provided for worldwide distribution on the Internet. Failure to review old contracts could result in violations of the underlying contracts as well as infringement of the supplier's copyright."