Branding products and services and how the law protects your brand is extremely important in the social media age. Recording artists, writers, and film makers are utilizing social media to create their brand and to include other brands in their work to attract the attention of corporate sponsors.
Recently, a New York Times article discussed how some entertainment contracts include specific branding clauses and that some talent feel pressured to include certain brands in their work to attract sponsors. Television product placement is not new. During most live television programs the announcers usually state throughout the program that the show or event is sponsored by xyz company. One of the most famous movie product placements was Reese's Pieces in the movie E.T. in 1982. When I watched the movie as a child I had no idea that this was a product placement. However, as an adult I would expect that most adults who watch the movie know or should know that including Reese's Pieces prominently in the movie was a big advertising coup for Hershey.
Under the recently revised FTC Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising "material connections" between advertisers and endorsers must be disclosed. However, I am wondering when is this threshold actually met? For example, if an artist includes a brand in his work in the hopes that the brand will end up sponsoring his work, and then the brand eventually sponsors the artist's work does this connection need to be disclosed since the original work was not created with a "material connection" between the artist and the brand? If an artist posts his original work on Youtube or another social media website before there is a "material connection" but later a corporate sponsor is attracted to the project does the artist now need to disclose this sponsorship?
These are some of the many legal issues that the social media age has created. Constantly changing technology will only make these issues more difficult to analyze. To learn more about these issues you may contact me at http://www.shearlaw.com/.
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