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Top 5 mistakes startups make in their privacy polices

Privacy policies are a critical pre-launch step for many web based companies. But not all privacy policies are created equal. Here are the top five common mistakes we see startups make in their privacy policies.


5.    The company doesn't have a privacy policy.
Collecting information from your users without a privacy policy is remarkably risky. In some states it may even be illegal depending on the type of website you operate. For example in California, commercial websites that collect personally identifiable user information which includes information that is commonly collected by commercial websites like names, emails and addresses are required to have a privacy policy.  Even if you’re not in a state that requires your website to have a privacy policy, privacy policies are still helpful for setting consumer expectations regarding your use of their data.


4.    The company copy and pasted (insert big companies name here) privacy policy as their own.
While most major companies do employ very good privacy law attorneys to write their privacy policies, these policies are tailored for that company’s specific needs. Copying and pasting their privacy policies as your own use can lead to a whole host of problems. While some problems, like forgetting to replace their business name with your business name, hurt you more from a business and customer trust perspective. Other problems, like making promises to do things you don’t do and can’t actually do (i.e. removing user data in a set period of time), could be legally actionable. So while having a privacy policy is important, it’s even more important to have a privacy policy that fits your company’s specific needs.


3.    The privacy policy violates the privacy laws of the state in which the company is located.
Privacy law is a bit of a moving target and laws vary significantly from state to state. Certain state laws even contradict other states laws. However, as a rule of thumb it’s a very good idea to make sure you comply with any relevant federal privacy laws as well as the privacy laws of the state(s) where your business is located.  If you’re not sure what laws you need to comply with, we highly recommend consulting an attorney in your area.

2.    Consumers can’t find the privacy policy on the website.
It’s not just enough to have a privacy policy that is tailored to your company; your customers also need to be able to find it. Although legal standards do vary as to what kind of notice is sufficient. It’s often a good best practice to make sure your privacy policy is linked (in a working link), in a legible font in the header, footer or other highly visible part of your website.  In addition, wherever users will be giving you their personal information it’s a good idea to link to your privacy policy on that form above the send button to ensure that users have a chance to read it before they submit information.


1.    The privacy policy makes a promise the company can’t keep.
The number one rule of writing a good privacy policy is to only make promises you can actually keep. Making promises that sound privacy conscious that you can’t actually keep lulls your users into a false sense of trust and when that trust is broken it can be a PR nightmare. It can also be a legal nightmare. For example, the Federal Trade Commission can bring legal action against companies who misled their users about their privacy practices.

And as important as this rule is, it can also be the hardest to comply with because making truthful statements in your privacy doesn’t end with the drafting of your policy. It means making sure you keep that information up to date as your data collection practices change. It means making sure that your marketing and business teams understand what promises the company made so your advertising and business practices are in line with your privacy policy. Unfortunately, lack of communication between these teams is so common it’s become a business cliché.  But despite the cliché making sure you only make promises you can keep in your privacy policy is the number one rule when it comes to privacy policies and the number one mistake we see startups make when it comes to privacy policies.

Are you making any of these common privacy policy mistakes? Make it your new year’s resolution to get your privacy policy in shape! If you have questions about your privacy policy or privacy law in general, feel free to reach out to New Media Rights via our contact form.

 

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New Media Rights joins Electronic Frontier Foundation in urging court to reaffirm the denial of a dangerous preliminary injunction in the case of Garcia v Google

New Media Rights has joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, and others in filing an Amicus Brief urging the court to reaffirm the district court’s denial of a dangerous and over reaching injunction that forced Google to take down the controversial "Innocence of Muslims" video while a copyright lawsuit is pending.

Most of our work at New Media Rights is preventative and transactional, focused on helping people avoid legal problems and lengthy court battles before they begin.  In this case, however, we've joined in filing this Amicus Brief because the recent Garcia v Google decision, if not reconsidered, will have negative consequences for free speech that will directly affect the creators and innovators we assist.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit's court's decision required an online service provider, Google, to censor the historical record by removing all copies of the video. The court then added a gag order to its decision preventing Google from talking about the controversial decision for a full week.  The decision contradicted an earlier district court ruling that refused to restrain speech based on a highly debatable copyright claim.

The video in question, "Innocence of Muslims," sparked worldwide protests and debate in the fall of 2012. Actress Cindy Lee Garcia sued claiming she held a copyright in her 5-second performance the film.  Although one can understand Garcia's interest in distancing herself from the film, the reality is copyright law was not the proper legal mechanism to do that. As a result, the court's decision threatens to create sprawling, poorly defined copyright protection in a variety of creative contributors, altering the way that copyright law protects contributions to film and video productions. Moreover, it’s misapplication of the preliminary injunction standard sets a dangerous precedent for online speech and global enforcement of US laws.

New Media Rights joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union, Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries in this brief.

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Garcia v. Google Amicus 11.25.14.pdf357.43 KB

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November Newsletter: Giving Tuesday--Night Owl Edition


New Media Rights



 

This Giving Tuesday, December 2, New Media Rights is running a one-day, 24-hour fundraiser where your donations will be matched dollar for dollar up to $10,000. So mark your calendar now and please pledge to give now by sending the dollar amount you want to pledge support@newmediarights.org.

Without your continued support, we can't do work like like helping local San Diego filmmaker Bill Perrine with his latest documentary film It’s Gonna Blow: San Diego's Music Underground 1986-1996.
 




Your donations help ensure we have the resources to reach a wide variety of clients to provide critical legal services, like the services we provided to Bill.
 
This year, we have a unique opportunity to double your impact to New Media Rights on Giving Tuesday. But there’s a catch. We’ll be competing will all of the other wonderful programs at California Western School of Law for that $10,000 match on a first come, first matched basis.
 
That means in order to maximize your impact we are asking
donors to give at 12:00am PST on December 2nd. As an added bonus, the first person to make a donation on Giving Tuesday at the Open Internet Defender Level or above will get a T-shirt from Bill Perrine’s latest documentary, It’s Gonna Blow.

 
Steps to help us rock Giving Tuesday:
Step 1:Pledge to give now by sending the dollar amount you want to pledge support@newmediarights.org.
Step 2 Click here to add a reminder to your calendar to give to New Media Rights on Giving Tuesday or join the facebook event!
Step 3: Don't forget to give on Giving Tuesday!
 
But wait?!? Why Should you give on Giving Tuesday?
 
By giving on Giving Tuesday, you can double your impact, and help us to do more great work like the work we did this year.
Thanks to your continued support we:

See a full list of our accomplishments for the year and our exciting plans for next year here!
 

All the best,

Art Neill, Teri Karobonik, and the New Media Rights team

 

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Our 2014 accomplishments!

Whether you’ve joined us as a Student or an Open Internet Defender we're stronger than ever thanks to support from individuals like you!

Please consider joining our community of supporters by making a donation and help us continue to fulfill our mission to:

  • Provide free and dramatically reduced fee one-to-one legal services to underserved creators and innovators that need specialized help with Internet, intellectual property, media, and technology law
  • Defend the Open Internet and push for badly needed copyright reform.
  • Create high quality legal educational materials and to educate the next generation of lawyers.

With your support we’ve done this and more in 2014 by:

In 2015, with your support we plan to:

  • Continuing to provide free and dramatically reduced fee one-to-one legal services to  400+ underserved creators and innovators.
  • Release a ground-breaking new legal educational tool to help creators.
  •  Sponsoring and organizing more than 12 workshops and community events throughout the San Diego region and throughout the United States about digital rights.
  • Working on policy initiatives to encourage the FCC to adopt real Net Neutrality measures.
  • Participating in the Copyright Offices 1201 hearings to make sure creators can access the materials they need to create and we can all make modifications to the technologies we own without risking criminal charges.

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Bryan Martinez

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Joined NMR in: 

September 2014

My name is Bryan Martinez I am currently a 3rd year at California Western School of Law. I attended the University of California at Irvine and graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in Chicano Studies. I took two years off where at worked at various law firms ranging from workers compensation, personal injury, corporate, and criminal. However, I have become interested in Intellectual Property and am currently part of the Trademark Clinic at California Western School of Law. In my free time I like to lift weights, hike, play sports, and run.

Andrew Sanchez

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Legal Intern

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September 2014

Andrew is entering his 2L year at California Western School of Law in San Diego where he plans to focus on International Business Law. He received his undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice while serving in the Army. After working for the Department of Defense for an additional four years; he decided that government work was not his passion he decided to start a new career path and attend law school. He decided to focus on international business because of his background in foreign policy. He also intends to obtain a MBA with SDSU. In his free time Andrew enjoys traveling mainly to visit his family and friends across the US, and occasionally internationally.

New Media Rights Sponsors Startup Weekend San Diego MEGA: Web / Mobile / Maker

New Media Rights, proudly announces our sponsorship of Startup Weekend San Diego MEGA: Web / Mobile / Maker, beginning November 14th at San Diego’s new downtown library. The event is a weekend-long, hands-on experience where innovators and aspiring technology entrepreneurs can hear from industry experts whether their startup ideas are viable.  New Media Rights' sponsorship of the event includes an offer of free legal services for the winning team.

Startup Weekend San Diego is just one of the ways New Media Rights supports the next generation of innovators creating jobs for the San Diego region, and developing technologies to help improve the world.  New Media Rights works directly with technology startups, creators, and internet users every day in San Diego, offering free and reduced fee legal services on internet, media, and technology law matters.

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PRESS RELEASE: President Obama urges the FCC to adopt real net neutrality

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 10, 2014

Contact 619-591-8870, art@newmediarights.org

New Media Rights welcomes President Obama's statement supporting real net neutrality

New Media Rights is pleased to announce that this morning President Barack Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reclassify the Internet under Title II. In plain language, the President came out in support of real net neutrality, the principle that says Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all internet traffic equally. New Media Rights has been advocating for reclassification in our recent Open Internet comments  to the FCC (and our reply comments) as well as in our letter to the President and his Office of Science and Technology Policy. We thank the President for his support of Title II reclassification and encourage the FCC to adopt the President's position. Here's the President's statement.

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Put a mugshot on it? Things to think about before using mugshots on commercial products.

At New Media Rights we’ve received a surprising amount of contact forms related to using mugshots on commercially sold items. Although we cover whether mugshots are in the public domain here, this blog post tailors that information a bit more specifically for people who may want to put a mug shot on something and sell it.

A word of caution upfront, putting a mugshot on any commercially sold items raises some serious legal questions. If you’re serious about starting a business like this you should consult with an attorney since this blog only raises some of the issues you may need to look out for and is NOT legal advice.

Copyright
Copyright law protects creative works including, believe it or not, mugshots. But the exact copyright status of mugshots from different law enforcement agencies is a bit more complex.

In general mugshots taken by federal law enforcement agencies(such as federal prisons and the FBI) are in the public domain and are not protected by copyright law. This is because a photo taken by a federal employee as part of their work for the federal government is in the public domain and not protected by copyright law.

However, for mugshots taken by state law enforcement the mugshots may or may not be in the public domain since state, city and other local entities can make their own decisions on whether or not to release mugshots and other photos taken by their employees into the public domain. In addition, some states may chose to restrict access to some mugshots under certain circumstances for reasons unrelated to copyright law.

For photos that are under copyright and access is not restricted, depending on your use of the photo, fair use may apply. However, for commercial use in particular we strongly recommend seeking out legal counsel before you release your product commercially to ensure you have a strong fair use argument.

Right of publicity & privacy laws
Even if the mugshot you intend to use is in the public domain(or your use is fair use) there are still other legal issues to consider. Approximately half of all US states have right of publicity laws. Although statues vary significantly from state to state, they are designed to prevent unauthorized commercial use of a person’s image, name, and likeness, although some are expansive enough to cover things like the sound of a person’s voice. Thus in some states, when mugshots are used commercially in certain ways they may violate a person’s right of publicity.  Keep in mind that some states, like California, even extend this right after death.

Also, just because your state doesn’t have a law called “right of publicity” doesn’t necessarily mean your state doesn’t have a law that would prevent a mugshot from being used commercially. Sometimes that kind of law may be part of the states privacy laws or even unfair competition laws.

These are just a few of the legal issues that come up when using mugshots commercially on products. If you are seriously considering putting mugshots on products and selling them, we highly recommend seeking out an attorney to advise you on the full array of legal issues that may arise from this type of business.

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