Web 2.0 legal risks need coordinated approach

Web 2.0 legal risks need coordinated approach

Emerging technologies should be thoroughly assessed by interested businesses before use

Firms at this year’s E-commerce Expo in London have been warned not to rush into putting Web 2.0 features on their sites without considering how to mitigate the potential legal risks.

Kolvin Stone, a senior associate at law firm Fox Williams LLP, argued that firms hoping to exploit user generated content for their sites need to be aware that users may upload copyright-infringing or defamatory content.

“Basically, if you didn’t know about it or if you act to take it down as soon as you do find out, you won’t be held responsible,” he explained. “But if you moderate content your system must be robust, because if you moderate and miss this kind of content you could be taken as the publisher and [be held responsible].”

Stone added that it is important for legal, web and other teams to work together to ensure any potentially legal problems with the web site are dealt with swiftly. Defamatory content should be removed as soon as possible, but if content is taken down too soon it could cause a negative perception of the firm as suppressing freedom of speech, he argued.

“High profile sites need to make sure they get their sites in order – it requires coordination across all key functions,” he explained. “It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you have a community element to your site you have a duty of care to you users – especially the younger ones.”

For user-generated video content, Stone recommended firms use software analysis tools to vet potentially illegal content, and he urged that clear guidelines are also displayed on any B2C sites so that users know what they can and can’t upload.

Elsewhere at the show, representatives from various firms praised the business benefits of Web 2.0 and social media.

Gareth Gaston, head of e-commerce and distribution at Ramada Jarvis hotels, said the firm had put in place a monitoring practice to search the internet for comments about the company, before scoring and feeding the information back.

“But figuring out what to do with the information is much harder,” he added. “It’s about looking at a paradigm shift in culture and in the industry itself.”

Meanwhile the AA’s Roadside e-business manager, Steve Jay, said the organisation is looking to reach out to its member community through social media, and potentially use user-generated product reviews on the site to highlight the “breadth and importance of what we do, using customers to advocate that”.