The Risk of New Media Isn’t a Result of its Newness

Attorney Shelia Huggins

Attorney Shelia Huggins

New media is exactly like traditional media, or is it? Podcasts. Tweets. Live Streams. Video shares. They represent only a small segment of the growing social commerce sector called new media. But are platforms like YouTube, Twitter, or Periscope really new, or are these platforms simply a result of the changing way in which we communicate and entertain? In other words, aren’t these changes reminiscent of going from the telegraph to the telephone? We still use an object to connect to people who aren’t close enough for hollering, and we can’t mind meld like Spock, just yet. In essence, it’s still just talk.

Things have changed in some ways…sure, but they haven’t changed at a level that’s unimaginable. What would be really new…what would be really disruptive is having people connect their thoughts without the use of a separate object or device. People would communicate and entertain by somehow controlling and directing their thoughts to others, either at an individual or group level. Imagine somehow experiencing a concert, a racing event, or a boxing match in that manner. What would it look like? What would it feel like? The sensation would be so new to us that we probably couldn’t even describe it in advance.

So, maybe new media isn’t the most appropriate label to define the current social commerce sector. In fact, maybe a label isn’t even needed at all. Maybe the discussion should be focused on how to use sharing platforms in ways that don’t increase the liability of those using it. We live in a world where information wants to be free, so it’s been said. Many businesses have a freemium level that provides the most basic level of service at no cost to their customers. However, if a customer wants the service without advertising or with customer service, it costs more. It’s the premium level of service. It’s the one you pay for…supposedly.

The rise of new media, along with the ease of access and the anonymity of the internet, provide many opportunities for people to run afoul of intellectual property laws. Add to that the need to build content, for educational, entertainment, and edutainment purposes, and the prospects for legal risks rise. Setting up YouTube channels, Google Hangouts, and webinars can be tricky for even the savviest attorney.

Today, it’s hard to attend a party, a concert, or a neighborhood parade without seeing people holding their cameras high, arms stretched out in front of them. They take pictures and videos, to share later or to live stream. Although it’s less of a problem when there is no commercial purpose, the moment someone decides to share a video on their company website or live stream from a concert, a host of legal issues emerge. Who owns the music playing in the background? Is there a location release for the site? For the brands and images that are captured and shared, has there been any notification and approval for product appearances. These problems emerge more quickly than can be imagined.

For the business owner who Periscopes from a home office with books and products in the background, how many risks are you taking until that video disintegrates into thin air? For the blogger, YouTuber, podcaster, webinar speaker, or internet radio host, you’re talking and seeking comments from those with whom you connect frequently. How is that content being managed?

Today everyone is building a reputation and a brand, and they are using sharing platforms to make it happen. The connecting, linking, and partnering that occur as a result use both traditional media and new media at the same time. It may just be that although the sharing platform may be somewhat different, the worries are still the same.

Shelia A. Huggins is a North Carolina licensed attorney who practices primarily in the areas business and contract law. Her niche is working with new and expanding businesses in the entertainment and sports worlds. Ms. Huggins obtained both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from North Carolina State University. She has a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Certificate in Documentary Arts from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. As an attorney, she has worked with musicians, filmmakers, writers, performing artists, restauranteurs, and a variety of small business owners across the state. As an artist, she has been recognized as an Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artist in Photography and was selected as a 2015 Documentary Fellow.