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Archive for April, 2007

gavel.jpgAs part of one of my courses, Law of Advertising and PR, I was invited to attend a conference on ‘The Changing Face of Media Law’ at Kent State’s Stark Campus yesterday morning. While this counted as CLEs for practicing lawyers and provided great insight to the attendees in various news media fields, I learned a few things as well.

We just covered copyright issues in class and are now moving into corporate speech, so the first panel discussion I sat through, ‘Copyright, Trademark and the Internet,’ was a nice review and also brought up some public relations challenges I haven’t had to face just yet.

  • Copyright: Rights and Exemptions- Although the copyright owner has the right to distribute, perform publicly and create derivative works from the copyrighted material, other parties are only allowed limited access as an exemption under the Fair Use policy. This allows for the reproduction of copyright materials for the purpose of comment, criticism or parody. Our presenter, Jeffrey Samuels, a professor at the University of Akron School of Law, also mentioned that factual work receives less protection under Fair Use than fiction, and that the reason behind the use is also a factor. (i.e. Using that copyright for commercial purposes receives little protection under Fair Use.)

Why does this matter? Well, I found out that blogging is actually a perfect example of a public relations forum specifically asking for trouble with copyright issues. Using large amounts of copyright material, or even small thumbnail images that are not yours can be a copyright infringement, and I didn’t realize that attribution is only a defense to plagiarism, not copyright.

Blogging follows the guidelines of transparent information flow with linking and attributing at the heart of it all, but service providers like WordPress have to address copyright issues all the time. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act limits service providers from some copyright infringement suits because they are simply providing a forum, not the actual infringing activity, but it is still their responsibility to remove said content if asked or they could face real trouble.

With the move to open, two-way communication methods being employed by corporations everywhere, I see public relations professionals getting the job of monitoring those discussions. I don’t pretend to know all the details, and if I were put in that position I would definitely be visiting my corporation’s legal department to learn more about what kind of potential troubles could ensue.

I’m all about blogging for business as long as I know all the legal repercussions of that tactic. It would be a bad PR strategy to just play it safe and not allow for any discussion, but I wouldn’t suggest inviting a crisis either.

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green-plant.jpgSocial media lesson for the week: Don’t knock it till you try it. That’s what our PR Online Tactics class has learned this semester as we’ve delved into all kinds of new experiences— creating Web content, building Web sites, designing e-newsletters, blogging and now an upcoming project on podcasting. I know we’re going to graduate with tools under our belts that current professionals are trying to learn in seminars and continued education sessions, and that makes me feel a little better about being young and green.

This class has required a lot more time and effort than I anticipated, but I never could have gained this knowledge just from reading our book. That’s the beauty of social media as I see it. You just have to try it to know how it works and whether or not using it will benefit your company or client. (I know some people will argue that there’s no question as to whether it will benefit the client, but I still have some hesitations. Drop me a note about your thoughts…)

This blog, which originally began as a short-term classroom project, has grown in leaps and bounds and is getting more attention than I ever dreamed possible. Not that I mind… it’s the best lesson I’ve ever had in experiencing the instantaneous access the Internet provides for information sharing and networking. If it can do that for me, think of what it could do for my client. (more…)

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img_0176.jpgI took a little break from the blog last week during my spring break trip to China… limited Internet access up on the Great Wall for those of you who haven’t been there yet, although I did see a guy on his cell phone. Technology creeps me out a little these days.

 My trip was amazing, although the jet-lag is killing me. While I don’t recommend flying to the other side of the world for as few as 10 days, there are many businessmen and PR professionals who do just that. Despite my complaining, I hope that’s me someday.

img_0294.jpgIf you’ve checked out my ‘About’ page, you know I love to travel, and if you’ve been reading my blog, you know I love public relations. Although I’m not yet sure how I’m personally going to make those two things work together for me, it’s more than possible in today’s global community.

While international traveling may not be every public relations student’s cup of tea, it’s almost impossible to ignore the need for a broader understanding of other cultures. As I mentioned before, Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman Worldwide Public Relations, recommended learning another language or taking advantage of travel opportunities in order to set yourself apart from other well-qualifies public relations soon-to-be professionals when I heard him speak.

My classmate and friend Holly Mueller focuses her blog, Mundo PR, on this very topic, discussing the importance of cultural awareness for public relations professionals developing trans-continental campaigns, or even campaigns within one country that will reach individuals of different backgrounds. A key to defining and understanding key publics is to know what cultural beliefs and customs affect the way they think and how they might respond to certain situations. (more…)

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