Tuesday, June 25, 2013

$2 Million Lawsuit After a School Uses Student's Facebook Photo Without Permission

Public secondary and post-secondary schools around the country may be creating tremendous legal liability issues for taxpayers because of their lack of understanding regarding social media and the law. According to The Daily Mail, a college freshman at the University of Georgia is suing her former Georgia school district for $2 million dollars after it utilized a photograph that she posted on her personal Facebook account without her permission in a district seminar about the Internet.

The Director of Technology at the Fayette County Schools allegedly used a personal photo of a former student to discuss the issues inherent with social media.  It appears that before the seminar the former student's photo was not newsworthy or publicized other than being on Facebook.  Some questions that need to be answered may include:  How did the school district obtain the photograph?; Did the school district know who was in the photograph?;  Why didn't the school district obtain permission before utilizing the photograph?  

This litigation demonstrates the tremendous legal liability issues that secondary and post-secondary schools may encounter regarding the use of personal student photographs that appear on social media platforms.  There are a handful of consulting firms that are approaching schools that claim they can properly advise schools on how to "educate" and "monitor" students online. 

Unfortunately, many of these services utilize methods to "educate" and/or "track" students online that states around the country are banning.  In addition, some of these services are abusing their access to students' personal digital content.  For example, according to Time Magazine, a company called UDiligence was caught last year displaying the personal photographs of the students that it was monitoring to sell its services.

The bottom line is that secondary and post-secondary schools must better understand the legal ramifications of social and digital media content and platforms before they are sued.

Copyright 2013 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.    

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