Seattle Arts & Lectures Series: You Posted What on Facebook?

In partnership with Seattle Arts & Lectures, MCDM faculty member and Partner with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Kraig Baker, gave the third in the five-part lecture series: Storyteller Uprising: Narrative and Engagement Intelligence in the Digital Age – You Posted What on Facebook? Identifying and Managing Legal Risks in Social Media

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Students in Kraig Baker’s Digital Media Law course already appreciate his insistence that we understand the legal risks associated with new media and platforms. Understanding all the ramifications of taking these risks is “difficult under the best of circumstances,” Baker said during his SALu presentation Wednesday evening at UW’s Kane Hall.  Whether a strong union successfully defends a woman’s right to rip her workplace in a Facebook post, or a woman loses her job for calling her friended-in boss “dumb” (Oops!), there seems no real rhyme or reason to who or what is protected, and who or what is not.

“Social media and digital media offer unparalleled access to creative tools, new art forms like mash-ups [and] almost frictionless distribution through social media platforms,” said Baker, but these same media “jumble” the many traditional legal approaches to media and technology.

With the same style, timing and deadpan delivery of popular comedian Stephen Wright, Baker appears determined to show law for what he tells his students it is: “Just a word.” He relishes the challenge of clarifying basic legal structures “governing free expression, intellectual property and privacy” – ever evolving in this age of digital and social media.

When it comes to free expression, even (and perhaps especially) celebrities like Kim Kardashian enjoy no free pass to libel another celebrity – even in only 140 characters of a tweet. But it is OK for Yelp! to host Joe next door to rain on the parade of a restaurant by tweeting how horrible their food tastes (but, of course, Joe next door is not off the hook).

As for privacy, Baker points out even so much as “Liking” someone or something on Facebook sacrifices more than a little privacy. In fact, your friends’ privacy may also be compromised in just the half second it takes to click “Like.”

Intellectual (digital) property might just be the slope most slippery to navigate. Legend by now is Baker’s experience of meticulously sifting through decades of documents to untangle a Six Degrees of ‘Kevin Bacon-style’ web of Walt Disney, Star Trek genius Gene Roddenberry and, almost comically, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez.

When push comes to shove, Baker is fond of encouraging those who will listen to check with an attorney about anything that might expose you to liability for libel, slander or infringement upon intellectual property rights. However, he is quick to make one thing crystal clear with little more than a smirk:  If you open a social media account and are asked to confirm you’ve read all the terms and conditions, you are on your own. After all, Baker tells his students, “Writing all those things in fine print is what I do for a living.”

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