Running an online community can be tricky business these days for many reasons, not least of which are the legal issues that can arise when you’re hosting content supplied by hundreds, thousand or even millions of people. However, there are some laws in place to protect both the service provider and even the content providers. The EFF, a non-profit legal organization that defends the rights of people expressing themselves online, hosted a Bootcamp last week. As a community manager wanting to look out for the best interests of our users while covering our collective butt in the process it was a useful and enlightening day.
Several EFF staff attorneys teamed up with various attorneys from the private sector to talk about issues like CDA 230 & Defamation, Copyright and Trademark infringement, DMCA protection (there are 4 safe harbors — you should know that!), how to deal with Takedown notices, Fair Use (the EFF loves this and so do we!), Creative Commons, obscenity and child porn, what to do when law enforcement shows up at your door, how to handle subpoenas and lots more fun stuff. A few highlights I took away from it were:
– Have a notice and takedown procedure in place (And remember, sometimes Takedown notices can be countered)
– Register a copyright agent with the copyright office
– Fair Use is your friend but be sure you understand when it applies and when it doesn’t
– Have an official policy in place for how you deal with obscene material (if it’s illegally obscene, like kiddy porn, you are actually required to notify law enforcement if it’s been posted to your site!)
– Minimize logging of customer activity if you want to completely avoid ever being forced into turning over customer records (there are actually a lot of safe-guards that protect you here, but the safest is to not log info at all. Not realistic for all sites, but good to be aware of)
– Establish a record-retention and deletion policy and stick to it
– Don’t be afraid to oppose a subpeona
– Linden Labs is pretty damn cool (they sent a “Proceed and Permit” notice to the makers of the “Get a First Life” web site and even gave them a license to use their Trademark. I love companies that have a sense of humor)
If you want to chat about any of these issues or ask questions of EFF, visit our EFF Satisfaction site.