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COMPLICATED GROUND:

Tyra Hilliard(left) saidthat “intellectual-property infringement is rampant

now because we have elec- tronic access to so many things.” According to Jonathan Howe: “Business becomes much more com- plex as technology has rearedits ugly—or pleas- ant—head, depending on how you look at it.”

Foster: The latest addition to the list of legal issues applicable to meeting professionals is the liability lurking behind the use of email and social media. The risks include: employer liability for employee email, texts, and instant messages; event market- ing and spamming; privacy and confidentiality issues; website content; intellectual-property issues; linking and framing; antitrust violations; and issues with endorsements, testimonials, and advertising.

Hilliard: Intellectual-property infringement is rampant now that we have electronic access to so many things. It’s very easy to just right-click on an organization or meeting logo or service mark and copy it to another document, making something or some- one appear to be affiliated with the organization. This was an issue with [an industry organization] and a housing pirate that stuck the [organization’s] logo on its housing form and started contact- ing prospective members attending a meeting in Las Vegas. The use of the logo made it appear that the housing company (that was pirating the housing services)was officialwhen it wasn’t. Manyspeakers and other organizations have proprietary infor-

mation and photos. If posted on a website or provided through a webinar or virtual meeting, control over these items can slip, and intellectual property can be taken and/or infringed upon.

Howe:Business becomes much more complex as technology has reared its ugly—or pleasant—head, depending on how you look at it. Keeping upwith it becomes the key. What are you put- ting on your website to promote your meeting? Do your speak- ers have intellectual property right clearances? Are youspamming people? What have you done to limit your liability and moni- tor people who are making comments on your website that may be defamatory or infringe on someone’s copyright?

Foster:Don’t take chances with posted content. Assign amem- ber of the legal teamor another responsible individual to review all website content, including text, white papers, book excerpts, surveys, newsarticles, photos, videos, cartoons, and links to exter- nal sites.Avoid copyright-infringement claims by securing the writ-

70 pcma convene March 2012

ten permission of copyright holders before publishing third-party content on yourwebsite.Avoid defamation claims by eliminating negative comments about competitors and their products.

Howe:As far as social media goes, you need to look at user agree- ments.When you goontothe social-media site,what didyou agree to do or not do? Did you read the agreement? If you’re setting up a Facebook account for your meeting and then you decide to leave the organization,whoowns that account?You do.When you leave, all of that data goes with you. There are ways around it, and Facebook ismaking modifications, but the key is we’ve got to knowwhat we’re getting ourselves into. What about that person in a session who thinks it sucks and

CERTIFICATION MADE POSSIBLE

starts tweeting about it? I was at a program where people were leav- ing one session and going into another because of all the tweeting that was going on.You need to have someone doing somemonitoring.One of the reasons Southwest Airlines is so success- ful is that Southwest Airlines has peoplewho do nothing but monitor socialmedia. If they see a tweet from a guy complaining abouthowhe was in L.A. and his luggage was in Chicago, South-

west is immediately tweeting back and responding.

Heagney: While it may not be considered a major legal issue, we have recently received several questions regarding how meeting planners should address potential issues with bed bugs.We gen- erally recommend including a provision in the event contract requiring the hotel to warrant and represent that there have been no confirmed reports of bed bugs or any other pests or infestations in the hotel, its function space, guest rooms, or public areas within the 12 months prior to the date of execution of the contract; pro- vide notice upon any confirmed reports of bed bugs occurring within 12 months of the event date; and permit the organization to cancel without penalty in the event of such a report.

Howe: Every day brings a different challenge. I’m not worried about issues disappearing in this industry.

Contributing Editor Carol Bialkowski is a New Jersey–based freelance writer.

www.pcma.org

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