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Kelly Sheridan
Kelly Sheridan
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Navigating User-Generated Content and Liability Issues

More insurers are welcoming user-generated content for social campaigns. This is what they should know to avoid legal problems.

Occasionally, insurers encourage user-generated content for their websites and social campaigns. For example, a 2012 Nationwide promotion allowed users to upload videos for its “Join the Nation” campaign. Unfortunately, publishing user content can be a legal minefield. This is what insurers should know about the legal risk involved.

“When you’re using user-generated content, there are certain liabilities and concerns you have to be aware of,” said Jeff Neuburger, partner at Proskauer Rose LLP and co-chair of its Technology, Media and Communications Group in New York. Neuburger discussed the topic in a seminar at Social Media 2014: Addressing Corporate Risks, hosted by the Practising Law Institute on February 26.

Many of the concerns regarding potential liability for user-based content are addressed in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, which was created to modernize copyright laws in accordance with today’s technology.

[ Profiting from Great Insurance Customer Experiences. ]

Businesses that feature user-generated content on their websites must meet certain basic legal requirements. They must, first of all, adopt and inform subscribers of policies that require termination of those who repeatedly infringe copyright rules. While copyright infringement is punishable, the DMCA acknowledges that it can be tough for companies to monitor extensive amounts of content.

“If you’re a service provider without actual knowledge of infringing content, you won’t be held liable for certain types of damages,” said Neuburger. He noted the recent lawsuit between YouTube and Viacom, in which Viacom sued after seeing vast amounts of their content on the video-sharing site.

It was determined that YouTube was not wrong in hosting the videos because of the vast amount of content on the website; however, this case did give rise to issues regarding the ability to control what goes on a website. YouTube did not induce the uploading of copyrighted videos, which suggests that in order to violate the law, the company must participate in infringing behavior. Similarly, if an insurer’s subscriber posts copyrighted material on its website, the insurer is not in legal trouble unless it participates.

Businesses that publish user-generated content must also accommodate technical measures that protect copyrighted works and appoint agents to respond to takedown notices. These notices are submitted by copyright holders if they believe there is infringing content on a website. The recipient’s contact information must always be updated or else the publisher does not get legal immunity.

Insurers can also stay out of legal trouble by monitoring employee behavior and refraining from the encouragement of offensive content on their websites.

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Kelly Sheridan is an associate editor for Insurance & Technology. Prior to joining InformationWeek Financial Services, she was a staff writer for InformationWeek and InformationWeek Education. Kelly has also written for trade publication Promo Marketing and a number of ... View Full Bio

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Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
2/28/2014 | 7:03:09 PM
re: Navigating User-Generated Content and Liability Issues
Thanks, Crishay. The new laws are definitely making it easier for insurers to use user-generated content; they just have to read the fine print before publishing in order to avoid lawsuits.
Crishay
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Crishay,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2014 | 6:31:04 PM
re: Navigating User-Generated Content and Liability Issues
Excellent overview and good reminder about the foundational issues involved. It can be challenging to find ways to play by the rules and still make an impact, but I agree that new systems and solutions are making that easier for insurers every day.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 9:33:41 PM
re: Navigating User-Generated Content and Liability Issues
Interesting point on the copyrighted content. Of course, for insurers, there is still a professional courtesy Gă÷ don't want to host things that disparage other insurers or companies, or celebrate ones that you don't have a relationship with.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 7:43:04 PM
re: Navigating User-Generated Content and Liability Issues
Thanks, Kathy. I totally agree that firms need social media to meet the expectations of today's customers. Fortunately, steps are being taken to protect companies that encourage user-generated content, which should help put insurers at ease. They can easily avoid legal troubles so long as they stick to the rules.
KBurger
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KBurger,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 6:51:21 PM
re: Navigating User-Generated Content and Liability Issues
Good overview. It's important that insurers and other financial services firms really understand these "do's/don'ts" so that they can optimize their social media efforts and investments. Insurers can't afford to simply avoid leveraging social media just because there are too many potential legal pitfalls and risks. Hopefully most insurers today are beyond that old, risk-averse way of thinking.
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