Internet Law Resource Center

RM Warner is a leading law firm in all manner of internet law issues. Here you will find a trove of case studies and information on the standards and rules of internet law.

The attorneys at RM Warner have been around since the beginning of online commerce. While regulations were initially slow to adapt to changing technology, the laws of the virtual marketplace have mostly settled.

Marketing on the Internet

The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for investigating “unfair and deceptive marketing” tactics in the United States, as well as “unfair competition.”

Although the exact definition of “unfair and deceptive marketing” differs from case to case, the FTC has set general expectations for advertisers:

  1. Don’t make dishonest claims about your products or services.
  2. Don’t mischaracterize unusual results as normal.
  3. Don’t falsely label a product “all natural”.
  4. Don’t make unproven health claims.
  5. Don’t use fake news to mislead consumers or pay for fake reviews.
  6. Don’t try to contractually suppress negative reviews.
  7. Don’t try to trick people into subscribing to automatic billing scams.
  8. Don’t try to disguise advertisements as content.
  9. Don’t give away customer data without authorization.
  10. Don’t forget to tag sponsored content on social media.
  11. Don’t charge customers’ credit cards without permission.
  12. Don’t try to trick customers to collect their data.
  13. Don’t try to market to consumers via SMS without their permission.
  14. Always disclose partnerships, sponsorships, and endorsements to consumers.
  15. Don’t hide required disclosures from consumers.
  16. Take responsibility for the marketing actions of your freelance promoters.
  17. Don’t abandon a crowdsourced project without offering refunds.
  18. Don’t price anchor; always advertise your products according to their actual value.
  19. Don’t try to re-open your business under a different name or ownership if the FTC shuts it down.

Online Marketing Guidelines, Laws, and Regulations

  1. Section 5 of The FTC Act
  2. TCPA
  3. Can-SPAM Act
  4. Dot Com Disclosures
  5. Native Advertising Guidelines
  6. FTC Bizopp Rules

Intellectual Property on the Internet

  1. It is illegal to profit from someone else’s copyright, trademark, or patent.
  2. Check attribution requirements before using a graphic on your website. The only exception is a fair use application.
  3. The technicalities of HTML and XHTML make website code difficult to copyright.
  4. If you hire writers, be sure to get the exclusive permission to use their work.
  5. Check all written content for plagiarism before posting.
  6. Register all intellectual property with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and your state Secretary of State, if applicable.
  7. Most U.S. jurisdictions agree that using competitors’ names in adword campaigns doesn’t amount to infringement. Nonetheless you should talk to an attorney about possible exceptions.
  8. Read the backstory about online piracy.

Online Intellectual Property Rules, Laws, and Regulations

  1. Lanham Act
  2. Digital Millennium Copyright Act
  3. Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA)
  4. Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
  5. Fair Use Doctrine
  6. Uniform Domain Dispute Resolution Process
  7. No Electronic Theft Act (NET Act)
  8. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
  9. Right of Publicity (State Level)
  10. The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act or the CAN-SPAM Act
  11. Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

Defamation on the Internet

  1. The elements of an online defamation case are falsity, harm, and negligence.
  2. Slander and libel are both types of defamation. Slander is spoken, libel is written or pictographic.
  3. An opinion by itself cannot be defamatory under U.S. law. However, an opinion can be considered defamatory if it is combined with a false statement of fact.
  4. In certain defamation cases a court may allow the discovery of the identity of an anonymous online defendant.
  5. Most online defamation situations are settled before going to trial.
  6. With some exceptions, the truth of a statement is an defense to defamation. Go here to read about exceptions.
  7. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects internet service providers and online service providers from responsibility for the defamatory statements of their customers or users.
  8. In certain situations it is possible to remove or redact defamatory reviews from various feedback platforms.
  9. Higher burdens of proof apply to public figures when suing for defamation.

Laws That Govern Internet Defamation:

  1. State Defamation Laws
  2. Federal Defamation Law
  3. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

Privacy on the Internet

On the internet the rights of privacy and free speech can sometimes interact in unexpected ways. Free speech is a citizen’s right to voice their opinions without fear of legal reprisals or government censorship. The government must be careful not to enact privacy protections that are so broad that they also restrict certain types of protected speech such as speculation.

Nevertheless, the law does uphold the right to privacy in certain circumstances. For instance, revenge porn laws allow plaintiffs to sue those who, without permission, post their “intimate” pictures online. In some state you can even sue over the publication of unauthorized private information in general. For example, Hulk Hogan won a high-profile online privacy case against a large media conglomerate.

Certain categories of online data are always protected under U.S. laws. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act lays out standards that must be followed by all ISPs and OSPs, virtual health services must adhere to HIPPA’s privacy parameters, and electronic financial transactions must comply with the Financial Modernization Act (a.k.a., the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act). California also has its own online privacy laws for all commercial websites that are accessible to its citizens.

Finally, the FTC can also punish online businesses for failing to take proper data security precautions. Read more about it here.

Laws Governing Online Privacy

  1. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
  2. The Computer Fraud And Abuse Act
  3. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA)
  4. Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

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