As digital marketing takes center stage, it is essential to know where to draw the line when it comes to legal considerations.
Yes, just like traditional marketing modules, digital marketers are also required to operate within a set of pre-defined legal boundaries. Unfortunately, many digital marketers fail to comply with the rules and ultimately find themselves in ‘hot waters’ with the law authorities.
In this guide, let’s take a look at some of the critical legal areas you need to be aware of in the world of digital marketing.
1. Intellectual Property
Marketers sometimes use other content creator’s property to assist in their advertising. This includes using copyright material such as artwork, photographs, music, and even video footage from other creators without getting permission or obtaining a license to do so.
For example, some marketers simply take a random image generated from a Google search and use it in their own branding. However, most images present on Google are not ‘free to use.’ You need permission from the authorized owner before integrating it with your own work.
The same rule applies to music and video clips. If you would like to include any form of media in your advertising, you have to get consent – depending on how you want to use it.
And remember, modifying the content of others will also not avoid copyright infringement. In fact, this can land you in deeper trouble in case the author decides to file a lawsuit for altering material without their consent.
How to Avoid Legal Action:
- Use original and customized multimedia
- Read licensing details associated with the content carefully
- Make use of Creative Commons material that allows free public use
- Obtain permission from the content creator
- Only purchase licensed photos
- Don’t use images that include recognizable features of a person, trademark, logo, landmarks, or private properties
- While it is not necessary by law, give credit or attribution to the original author as an act of appreciation
If you work with third parties that provide the marketing content for you, ensure that their work is free from plagiarism.
2. Privacy Law
Suppose you are sending out emails and messages to your consumers and visitors. In that case, you have to establish a policy that explains:
- What information you are collecting;
- How you will store, protect, and utilize the specific information; and
- The effective date of the policy.
Most countries worldwide have privacy laws in place that require marketers to notify consumers before they collect their personal information.
How to Avoid Legal Action:
Keep a separate policy for ‘Cookies’ that you are using to track consumers’ behavior through your website.
It is also necessary to have appropriate cybersecurity measures in place and inform customers that you are securing their personal data.
- Enable SSL encryption to provide a secure connection between your website and the visitor’s
- Secure the collected information with a reputable and reliable cloud storage provider
Finally, regulatory bodies prohibit sending spam messages, so make sure you have the recipient’s proper consent before you send marketing material.
3. Consumer Marketing
The FTC prohibits marketers from making any false claims to mislead consumers or influence their buying decisions. Marketing claims should be evidence-based and not leave out any relevant information about the product’s functionality.
Misleading marketing and advertising representations include:
- A false claim about the characteristic of a product/service. For example, selling a product that is different in color, size, or weight than the one advertised
- Adding manipulative illustrations or using images from other brands to make the product look more appealing
- Misrepresenting a price. For instance, advertising that a particular product is offered at a 50% discount from the original price of $100. But factually, the original price was never $100 but less
- False claims about the quality or origin of a product. For example, labeled as ‘Made in America’ when it is not
- Making false environmental claims, such as labeling a product as ‘recyclable,’ ‘biodegradable,’ and ‘environment-friendly’
- ‘Hidden’ fees that are not specified
- Making claims based on flawed research
- Leaving out important information, such as how long a packet of milk is consumable, etc.
Bait and Switch is another tactic that advertises a specific product to the customer but substitutes it for a similar high-priced product. Bait and Switch generally works by stating that the first product is not available or sold out when the customer comes to buy.
How to Avoid Legal Action:
Being careful when advertising your product/service is the best way to protect yourself from consumer marketing laws. Educate yourself with the best practices and refer to FTC’s guidelines to ensure you are following them as stated.
Have your advertising material re-checked by a third-party, preferably someone from your legal team.
Besides the FTC, keep in mind the policies stated by other regulators as well. This includes the National Advertising Review Board and the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU). If you are endorsing a product targeted towards children, make sure you comply with the rules stated by the CARU.
How to Protect Your Own Data?
While you may be proactive about using others’ material, don’t forget to safeguard your own from being misused on the internet. If you have a brand or logo, do trademark it to prevent others from using it.
Ensure that the logo you are using is not similar to other brands and have it assessed by an attorney specializing in the format.
You may also want to copyright any specific font, illustration, graphic, or name you are using in marketing.
Marketers are often ignorant of the law. But as digital marketing gains pace, the risks of litigation also increase. This is why keeping ‘potential legal issues’ in mind will ensure that you won’t run into any problems and allow you to tap into the world of digital marketing seamlessly.
And in case you do fall into any legal trouble, take guidance from a lawyer specializing in digital marketing laws for assistance immediately.