Avoiding Legal Hassles

Book: Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques

Author: Dennis L. Wilcox

  • Conspiracy- PR can be held legally liable if they provide advice or tacitly support a client or employers illegal activity.
  • According to the AP Stylebook, “Libel is injury to reputation. Such as words, pictures or cartoons that expose a persons to public hatred.”
  • The term libel was a printed falsehood and slander involved an oral communication such as speech or a broadcast mention.
  • Defamation, a term used as a collective term.
  • Fair commitment privilege- 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.
  • PHOTO RELEASES: A PR practitioner doesn’t need a signed release if a person gives “implied consent” by posing for a picture and its told how it would be used.

PR departments should take a precaution of three things:

  1. Filing all photographs
  2. Dating them
  3. Giving the context of the situation
  • Misappropriate of Personality– the use of persons image, particularly a popular personality, without permission
  • Copyright– means protection of a creative work from unauthorized use.
  • Copyright Issues: The downloading of copyrighted material & The unauthorized uploading of such material.

The Protection of Trademarks

  1. Trademarks are proper adjectives and should be capitalized and followed by a generic noun or phrase. For example, Kleenex tissues or Rollerblade skates
  2. Trademarks should not be pluralized or used in the possessive form. Saying ” American Express’s credit card” is improper.
  3. Trademarks are never verbs. Saying “The client FedExed the package” violates the rule.

The “fair use” doctrine allows limited use of copyrighted material if it is properly attributed and quotation marks are used.


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