Many business of all sizes experiment with various different types of weird and wonderful advertising stunts rather than adopting an old fashioned, straight forward approach such as brochures or mailing catalogues and flyers.
Since the inception of the world wide web in the 90’s there has been an explosive growth in the area of internet marketing. This growth can be attributed to the fact that the internet gives businesses the potential to reach many more prospective customers than could be accomplished through traditional means of advertising for a lot less money. Sounds irresistible, doesn’t it?
However many businesses are unaware of the regulations contained within the new “Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008”. These consumer protection regulations have an impact on what is called “buzz marketing” and also marketing via social networking web sites such as Facebook and MySpace.
A reputable intellectual property law solicitor should be able to advise you on all the rules and regulations in this area and make sure your business is not falling foul of them.
The regulations introduce a new criminal offence which is described as:
Falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession or falsely representing oneself as a consumer” (sched 1 para 22).
This has huge, wide reaching implications for the advertising and internet marketing industry as some cutting edge advertising methods work on the basis that individuals online are engaged to recommend a product to their friends or a group of individuals or to even go to the lengths of sitting in a bar, restaurant or other public place and talk loudly about the virtues of a particular product or service.
These new regulations have wide ranging implications for the blogging community as planting a comment in a blog without making clear that the message has been placed by or on behalf of the business could be a criminal offence.
Sites that rank highly in search engines such as Google, Yahoo or MSN are usually in an elevated position because many other websites link to them. A link is a clickable piece of text that takes web browsers from the site they are on to another website. Internet marketers promoting a business can build links to their client by leaving comments on blogs that link back to their client’s site. If they do this without making it clear that they are working on behalf of another business they could be in serious trouble.
In addition, anyone seeding viral advertisements online in a way that implies they are just a member of the public could also infringe that prohibition. Another area where businesses often fall foul of the law is where they use photographs in brochures, on websites and online without permission from the copyright owner.
It always pays to check difficult legal issues with lawyers before an expensive marketing campaign is launched and also to ensure there are written contracts with advertising agencies which makes clear whether the agency or customer are responsible for legal compliance.
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