Chapter 3 Reading Notes

June 12, 2010 at 5:41 pm (PRCA 3330 Reading Notes)

          The third chapter in Public Relations Writing & Media Techniques, entitled Avoiding Legal Hassles, covered many useful topics for a PR writer including a sampling of legal problems, various areas of the law such as: libel and defamation, invasion of privacy, copyright and trademark laws, dealing with regulatory and other federal agencies, and working with lawyers. It is extremely important for a PR professional to be familiar with these areas of the law because much of our writing involves promoting an event or organization and we must be sure not to misuse any information such as names, events, etc.

          A PR writer must be sure to avoid defamation and libel suits by properly using the names, likeness, words, pictures, or even cartoons of another person and making sure that in doing so their reputation is not harmed. According to the text:

“Truth is the traditional defense against libel charges, but opinions also have a degree of legal protection under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects the freedom of speech. This legal concept is known as fair comment privilege.”

          Invasion of privacy is also discussed in chapter 3; there are at least five areas where PR writers and staff are vulnerable to litigation involving the invasion of employees’ privacy:

  1. Employee newsletters
  2. Photo releases
  3. Product publicity and advertising
  4. Media inquiries about employees
  5. Employee blogs and virtual communities

          It is extremely important for a PR writer to be familiar with copyright laws in order to avoid lawsuits. There are two specific perspectives where knowledge of copyright law comes into play: knowing what organizational materials should be copyrighted, and how to correctly utilize the copyrighted materials of others.

          Public Relations writers should also avoid misappropriating the personality of another; this is a trademark infringement that can result from using well-known entertainers, professional athletes, and other public figures in an organization’s publicity and advertising materials without permission. Also, PR professionals should know when it is appropriate to contact a lawyer regarding specialized questions about libel, trademarks, copyright, government regulation, invasion of privacy, and any other legal matters they may come across.

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