This information is found in PUBLIC RELATION WRITING AND MEDIA TECHNIQUES, 6th edition, by Dennis L. Wilcox
A Sampling of Legal Problems:
- You must understand basic legal concepts that provide a framework for all your writing.
- A false product claim in a news release or the unauthorized use of a celebrity’s photograph can least to costly lawsuits.
- Once you have mastered persuasive writing, you must also become familiar with law.
Libel and Defamation:
- Libel is injury to reputation.
- Libel is written.
- Slander is spoken.
- Defamation is awarded if the following four points can be proven
- the statement was published to other by print or broadcast
- the plaintiff was identified or is identifiable
- there was actual injury in the form of monetary losses, impairment of reputation, humiliation, or mental anguish and suffering
- the publisher of the statement was malicious or negligent
Invasion of Privacy:
- Public relations writers and staff are vulnerable to litigation with regard to invasion of employee’s privacy in these five areas:
- employee newsletters
- photo releases
- product publicity and advertising
- media inquires about employees
- employee blogs and virtual communities
- Knowledge of copyright law is important from two perspectives:
- what organizational materials should be copyrighted
- how to correctly utilize the copyright materials of others
- Authorship is defined in seven categories:
- literary works
- musical works
- dramatic works
- pantomimes and choreographic works
- pictorials, graphics or sculptural works
- motion pictures
- sound recordings
- Under the U.S. law, a copyright protects original material for the life of the creator plus 70 years for individual works and 95 years from publication for copyrights held by corporations.
- Trademark – a word, symbol or slogan, used singly or in combination, that identifies a product’s origin.
- The protection if trademarks:
- Trademarks are proper adjectives and should be capitalized and followed by a generic noun or pronoun.
- Trademarks should not be pluralized or used in the possessive form.
- Trademarks are never verbs.
- Federal Trade Commission:
- The FTC ensures that advertisements are not deceptive or misleading.
- A few general guidelines, adapted from FTC regulations, should be taken into account with writing product publicity material:
- Make sure the information is accurate and can be substantiated.
- Stick to the facts.Make sure celebrities or others who endorse the product actually use it.
- Watch the language.
- Provide proper context for statements and statistics attributed to government agencies.
- Describe tests and surveys in sufficient detail so the consumer understands what was tested under what conditions.
- Remember that a product is not “new: if only the packaging has been changed or the product is more than six months old.
- When comparing products or services with a competitor’s, make certain you can substantiate your claims.
- Avoid misleading and deceptive product demonstrations.
- Securities and Exchange Commission:
- The SEC closely monitors the financial affairs of publicly traded companies and protects the interests of stockholders.
- Three basic concepts:
- Full information must be given on anything that might materially affect the company’s stock.
- Timely disclosure is essential
- Insider trading is illegal.
Other Federal Agencies:
- Federal Communications Commission – provides licenses to radio and television stations, allocates frequencies, and ensure that the public airwaves are used in the public interest.
- The Food and Drug Administration – oversees the advertising and promotion of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and cosmetics.
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms