Chapter 12: Public Relations and the Law
PR persons can be held legally liable if they provide advice or support an illegal activity of a client or employer. PR activity can lead to conspiracy charges
A. Libel and Slander
1. Written Defamation is libel
2. Spoken Defamation is slander
3.  Distinction often lost today
B.  What constitutes libel
1.  defamation—false statement that creates public hatred, contempt, ridicule, or inflict injury on reputation
2.  printed or broadcast
3.  direct or indirect identification
4.  Actual injury in form of money losses, mental suffering, loss of reputation
5.  malicious intent or negligent
C. Avoiding Lawsuits for Libel/Slander
1. Accompany opinion with supporting facts
2.  Clearly label statements of opinion
D.  Invasion of Privacy
Usually deals with information about employees in newsletters, photo releases, publicity, and media inquiries about employees
1. Employee status doesn't waive right to privacy
2. Personal employee news may invade privacy
3. Stereotypical or racial comments can cause suits
4. Guidelines for Employee news
a. Focus on Organization-related activities
b. Have employees submit personal news
c. Double check information
d. Tell employee how story/photo will be used
e. Have employee sign blanket release
5. Using employee’s picture or words in advertising
a. written permission is essential
b.  Compensation legally binds agreement
6. Media inquiries
a. Give only basic information: title, job description, date of employment but NOT salary (unless it is public info), home address, marital status, race, number of children, job performance
b. Serve as liason for reporter to obtain personal information directly from employee
c.  Can provide info on biographical sheets if  employee signed.  Only use recent materials
E. Copyright Law
1. Important from 2 perspectives: 1. What PR materials should be copyrighted; 2. How to use copyrighted materials of others correctly
2. Definition: protection of a creative work from  unauthorized use
3. Copyright does not cover “raw facts” and general ideas, but specific ways in which those ideas are expressed.
4. Material is copyrighted from the moment it is created.
a. Use the letter c in a circle, followed by the word copyright. Cite the year and name of owner
b.  Register with the Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
5.  For how long? Life of author plus 50 years. Work by    organizations is protected 75 years.
6.  Copyright issues on the Internet
a. Downloading or uploading material. Same rules apply to cyberspace. Authorization required.
7. Copyright guidelines
a. Ideas cannot be copyrighted but the expression of those ideas can.
b.  Major PR materials (brochures, annual reports, videotapes) should be copyrighted.
c.  Seek permission for material used for sale
d.  Seek permission for taped segments of TV, movies, or songs.
e.  Freelance photographers retain rights to photos
f.  Private letters, photos of celebrities require releases.
g.  Government documents are not copyrighted but avoid implying government endorsement
F. Trademarks
a. Trademarks Are Registered Words, Names, Symbols or Devices Used To Identify a Product.
b. Always capitalized and never used as nouns. You violate trademark law if you say “May I have a Kleenex?”
c. Avoid improper use of other registered trademarks
d. Guideline for determine trademark infringement
(1) Use of Name To Capitalize on other’s reputation
(2) Intent to Create Confusion
(3) Similarity of Two Organizations
(4) Has the trademark been actively protected
(5) Is the Trademark Unique
e. Misappropriation of Personality
(1)  Celebrity Holds Sole Right To Exploit Value of celebrity status
(2)  Includes still or video image, voice or likeness
G. Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
a.Jurisdiction over advertisements and Product News Releases/Photos
b. Commercial Speech is not protected
c. FTC Monitors For Deception
--Unsubstantiated Claims
--Ambiguous Claims
--Fraudulent Testimonials
--Puffery and Exaggerated Claims
--Deceptive Demonstrations
--Deceptive Pricing
--Defamation of the Competition
--Fraudulent contests
--Misuse of the word “Free”
--Bait and switch tactics
d. Guidelines to avoid abuses in Product Publicity
--Be sure information is accurate
--Make sure endorsers use the product
--Get permission for testimonials
--Provide detail about tests and surveys
--Describe prizes and awards accurately
--Be accurate about describing a product as new
H. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
a. SEC monitors Financial Affairs
b. Public disclosure and insider trading Laws Affect Corporate Public Relations Practice
c. SEC Guidelines
(1) Full information that materially affects Company’s Stock
(2) Timely Disclosure is essential
(3) Insider Trading is illegal
I. Other Regulatory Agencies
a. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
1. Covers Prescription Drugs, Cosmetics and Over-the-Counter Medicines
2. The General Concern is Misbranding
b. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fireanns
1. Main Concern Is Also Misbranding
c. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)