Media law not only for journalists anymore

Gone are the days when only journalists, editors and broadcasters had to worry over the laws and guidelines that govern content - the world is changing and you need to change with it.

Businesses of all sizes find themselves creating marketing content and engaging with clients and customers online - but this engagement is not without regulations or risk. Companies today know that it is not enough to have a good product or service; if you do not market yourself appropriately, then you’re going to find yourself falling behind.

It is easier than ever to reach out to your target market, and have them reach back, but few businesses are aware of the various global and national laws and policies that govern their new role of ‘publisher’. With more companies running their own marketing and content on digital platforms, Micro-, Small and Medium Enterprises need basics in media law now more than ever before. This will help them understand the impact of these laws on the business and marketing model.

As too many businesses have learned, in this age of information, ignorance of the laws is no excuse.

Micro-, Small and Medium Enterprises Day is observed annually on June 27, and affords us a chance to talk about some of the common mistakes that businesses make, as well as some common infringements that companies find themselves making. This is especially true for companies or businesses that are too small to have in-house or on-call legal advice.

So which laws are important for my business?

Copyright law is the one that most business owners and marketers are familiar with, but copyright is only one of many recognised under national and international law to protect the rights of producers. While copyright infringements are seldom taken to court, accusations of infringement can do great harm to a company’s content strategy and brand.

The same goes for plagiarism, which is an expensive mistake and could potentially end careers and companies. On the bright side, however, plagiarism is entirely avoidable if you understand the laws that govern it and the concepts around it.

There are also opportunities in copyright law and companies can access the many copyright-free materials available for commercial and non-commercial use. Knowing the relevant laws can help you steer clear of ethical and legal pitfalls, while still producing top-notch, world-class content with these free materials.

New laws governing accessing, storage and sharing of information have also been introduced in recent years. While corporates with shareholders have been expected to share information about business and revenues, increasingly small businesses and even non-profit organisations may be forced to respond to requests for information. It is essential for businesses to know what information people are entitled to and have policies that govern the supply thereof.

Small businesses may also need information that is held by another business, and it is useful to understand the set process for accessing this information as and when needed.

Businesses should also know what the legal provisions are for the holding and storage of client data and website users. In order to avoid costly lawsuits, businesses should know which safeguards to put in place to protect their information and databases.

How do I protect my business?

Although initially developed for journalists and media practitioners, the fraycollege Introduction to Media Law is a tool to help businesses operate their content creation and distribution according to the legal standards and industry best practices. The course is a quick, cost-effective way for small businesses to get up to speed with the laws that govern them as content producers. The course consists of eight content modules, which will take participants through the various laws and policies that regulate content production in and around South Africa. The course content also sheds light on the legal limitations and opportunities in media law.

In the dynamic digital world that your company operates in, you cannot afford to be left behind. As leaders in media industry excellence, let us help you to take your business and your brand into the digital age, ensuring that you’re aware of the opportunities and safeguarded against the pitfalls of the digital tools at your disposal.

For more information, visit the fraycollege website here.

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