Don’t Make this Mistake: Company Sued for its Social Media Advertising Campaign

Social Media Advertising Law

A lawsuit filed against Anheuser-Busch offers several important considerations for businesses and their social media promotions.

Specifically, Anheuser-Busch was sued on February 20, 2017 in North Carolina federal court. The suit alleges that the brewer improperly used a picture of a woman, Kayla Kraft, drinking a beer. This picture was used in Anheuser-Busch’s “Every Natty Has a Story” promotion. The picture made its way to posters and coasters as part of the promotion. The lawsuit claims that all items infringed the woman’s copyright interest, invaded her privacy and misappropriated her image without permission.

According to plaintiff’s complaint, a friend of Ms. Kraft took the picture with Kraft’s phone. That picture was then posted to Facebook. The complaint does not identify who submitted the photo to Anheuser-Busch. Anheuser-Busch responded that the photo was submitted to Natural Light’s Facebook page as part of Natty Rewards.

Recommendations for Limiting Social Media Advertising Legal Risks

Companies marketing through products or services increasingly rely on social media campaigns and promotions. But it is important to make sure your marketing efforts don’t become overshadowed by lawsuits or other negative publicity. So what can your business takeaway from this lawsuit?

  1. First, obtain proper releases for your company’s marketing materials. This is true even if the person in the picture is not a celebrity. Those releases should be reviewed by an attorney. Also, the release should be obtained by the photographer and people in the picture.
  2. Second, posting a picture to social media sites like Facebook or Instagram does not necessarily mean any rights have been given up by the person taking the picture or anyone in it. So simply because someone post to Instagram a picture of your product that would be great for use in a promotion does not mean it should be used without permission.
  3. Third, even if your company requires users to agree to terms and conditions intended to give permission to use an image online, that agreement may not be enforceable if the image is used in other media, like posters, promotional materials, etc.

For more information about managing legal risks involving social media advertising and other Internet legal issues, contact Internet attorney Jason Shinn. Since 2001, Mr. Shinn has worked with established and start-up companies complying with and managing Internet legal issues. Before your next social media campaign, let’s talk about it and how to best eliminate legal risks.