The average person spends about seven hours of their day online. Some stay updated on the latest TikTok dance craze, some are hooked on online shopping, some lurk their exes on Facebook, and some enjoy watching funny cat videos. There’s plenty to do in the virtual world, and there’s sure to be an online niche no matter your cup of tea.
But while the internet is enough to keep you entertained for hours on end, it’s not as safe as it seems. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself in court just by doing the most mundane things. Here are some ways you could get sued for doing some things that people normally do online.
1. Sharing funny pictures
What could possibly go wrong with posting the latest meme on Facebook? A lot, actually. It’s easy to forget that an image might be copyrighted, especially if millions of people have already shared it on their social media. But in fact, even if you were not the first person to share an image containing copyrighted material, you could still be on the hook for copyright infringement. This applies even to images that were posted years ago or don’t have a visible copyright mark.
And even if the copyright holder doesn't sue you, they could still demand that you take down the meme or pay them for damages. So the next time you're tempted to share a funny pic, think twice about whether the LOLs are worth the legal trouble you might get into.
2. Talking bad about your ex
There’s nothing wrong with venting about your recent breakup on social media for all your friends to see. But if you embellish your tale by adding sordid details about your ex-lover, the law might see it as defamation. This is because you’re still writing a public post, and a false statement about your ex that leads to their harm, reputational damage, or financial loss can get you sued for libel. Even if your former boo totally deserves to be dragged through the mud, better stick to the facts when talking about them.
Related reading: An essential guide to announcing your divorce on social media
3. Posting your child’s dance video on YouTube
Your child just had a dance recital and you’re super proud of their performance, so you decide to immortalize the moment by uploading it on YouTube. No harm done, right?
Wrong. If you use any copyrighted music, whether it be in a video of a dance recital, stage play, a lip sync battle, or any other activity, you can go to court for stealing intellectual property. And by the way, adding a “No copyright infringement intended” caption doesn’t exempt you from the law. To prevent any legal trouble, just use royalty-free songs in your video. You can also not add music at all, although that’s much less fun.
4. Selling your crafts online
eCommerce has made it easier for artists to market and sell their products, enabling them to turn their crafts into profitable small businesses. And technically, there is nothing wrong with making money off of your art. But if you’re going to sell your crafts online through your own website, then you have to be very, very careful.
You’ll have to ensure that your customer data is protected at all times from relentless cybercriminals who launch attacks on small businesses 24/7. If you suffer from a breach, you can get sued by customers who got their data compromised. And if the court decides that you didn’t do enough to protect your website from cyberattacks, you can get in serious trouble. Your business reputation can suffer and you may also need to pay thousands of dollars, which can definitively end your small business.
If you can’t hire a professional to implement robust cybersecurity measures on your website, it’s better to use a service like Etsy or eBay that helps businesses sell their products securely online. These services will charge fees, but that’s a small price to pay for preventing run-ins with the law.
5. Getting tagged in an Instagram picture
Is it even possible to get sued for something you didn’t do? Apparently, it is. If you get tagged in an incriminating picture, you can find yourself in a pretty sticky situation. For instance, if you’re spotted having a vacation with your new lover who is still in the process of divorcing their ex, you can face an alienation of affection lawsuit. It can also affect your lover’s settlement negotiations, alimony claims, child custody, and other legal matters.
The bottom line? Change your social media privacy settings so that you can’t be tagged in a photo without your knowledge.
Many people get sued for grand, preposterous reasons, but some can also get in trouble for doing the most ordinary things. If you find yourself in legal trouble in the Evergreen State, count on the offices of Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams to provide experienced, dedicated, and personal counsel.