Mr. Workman has intimate knowledge of all aspects of Internet law, having served as General Counsel to a successful group of Internet media and marketing companies from 2001 – 2009.
Internet law is a species of media law, and which can also encompasses advertising and marketing law, entertainment law and/or e-commerce law, depending on the nature of the web site, portal or electronic communication. Businesses and individuals who post content on the Internet must be mindful of various legal principles. If the content posted involves copyrighted material (that is, the content is not an original creation of the person doing the posting) which has not been licensed for distribution by the posting party, then the posting may constitute copyright infringement, unless the fair use doctrine applies. Website Operators and Online Service Providers have immunity from copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) but only if their operations and activities fall within one of four designated “safe harbors.”
Website designers – whether in house or providing services through a web design firm - must be mindful of copyright law. It is not altogether uncommon for designers to “knock off” content, whether the content is images, text, or design layout, from existing third party websites. This can result in liability to their client or their employer, as the case may be. For a more complete discussion of copyright law and the DMCA, visit the “Copyright Law” page in the Areas of Practice section of this website.
Internet law can also involve principles of trademark law, particularly with regard to domain names. Using – or even registering - a domain name that is identical, or confusingly similar, to a trademark, service mark, or trade name that is being used in commerce, is usually unlawful. For a complete discussion of domain name dispute law, please visit the “Domain Disputes” page in the Areas of Practice section of this website.
Internet law, when it involves the online marketing of goods or services, also involves advertising law. For example, promotion of goods or services by bloggers, involves compliance with FTC (Federal Trade Commission) rules. The FTC polices advertising messages in the marketplace, whether on television, in print, or over the Internet, to ensure consumers aren’t being deceived or misled. In 2009, the FTC set up a new regime of rules designed to prevent manufactures and advertisers of products or services from enlisting the promotional aid of bloggers without disclosing if the blogger is receiving a sales commission, a fee, or other thing of value in exchange for the promotional services.
In addition, Internet law can involve or raise many other legal issues, such as personal jurisdiction, taxation “nexus”, international treaties, intellectual property, online contracting, cybercrime, online privacy, recordkeeping, online billing and secure transactions.