Magazine article Risk Management

The Incidental Publisher. (Technology Trends)

Magazine article Risk Management

The Incidental Publisher. (Technology Trends)

Article excerpt

Do you think of yourself as a publisher? In the past, a publishing company was any such organization that dealt with books, magazines, newspapers, TV or radio. Now, however, it is easy for any company with an online presence to fall into this category.

For instance, an e-tailor that makes money by offering site visitors links or banner space for other sites is in the publishing business. This designation can also be given to business-to-business marketplaces and traditional brick-and-mortar companies.

Once you have crossed the line into electronic publishing you face a variety of exposures that your general liability insurance was never designed to cover. Before looking at these exposures, it is important to define electronic publishing: the reproduction, publication, dissemination, transmission or release of information (including electronic data, image files, audio files or text) through your electronic business systems.

Where are your biggest exposures?

Libel, slander, trade libel or disparagement resulting from the electronic publishing of material that defames a person or organization or disparages a person's or organization's goods, products or services. You probably do not use your company Web site to slam other people or their organizations. But do you publish articles or reviews by others? or host chat rooms or customer comment areas? If you do, you might have an electronic publishing exposure that could open you up to claims of libel or slander. Recently, a major Internet portal was cracked by a hacker who altered several news stories and inserted phony quotes and erroneous information; imagine the possible claims arising out of a similar scenario happening to a financial services firm.

Plagiarism, false light or false advertising. The same common sense and laws that rule print advertising also govern the Web: you have to be able to back up your advertising claims; and you cannot claim or imply someone else's words and concepts as being your own. Unfortunately, overzealous efforts to reach your audience may lead your company--in an effort to fill up Web space--to take liberties that would never be allowed in print.

Violation of the right of privacy or right of publicity of any person. This is a large area of exposure for many. For instance, you could place a customer testimonial on your Web site and have a claim made against you by the customer because you did not get expressed permission to publish their name or comments. …

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