Book Review and Coupon: “Social Media and the Law”

The Practising Law Institute sent me a free copy of its new book “Social Media and the Law” and asked me to review it. (See what I did there?) This was interesting, since I market my own e-treatise, Wassom on Social Media Law, as a free online alternative to chunky desktop books like this one.

Nevertheless, the ethos of social media is all about acknowledging good work by others. And this book is a nice effort at summarizing the legal issues surrounding social media–one that may especially appeal to in-house counsel who want to read a few key facts about several different legal issues, rather than a deep dive into any of them. Simply flipping through the table of contents shows that its ten chapters hit the major highlights:

1. The Social Media Phenomenon

2. Privacy

3. Copyrights, Ownership, and Control of Content

4. Trademarks and Brand Protection

5. Defamation, Other Torts, and Related Cybercrimes

6. Employment and Workplace Issues

7. Compliance Considerations for Regulated Industries

8. Advertising

9. Crimes, Prosecution, and Evidence

10. Civil Discovery Issues

There are a number of other legal issues in social media that go beyond these, of course, but this covers most of what PLI’s readers will be interested in.  The book provides a neatly packaged, well-organized summary of each issue. “Summary” is the key word, because the actual book is thinner than the thick binder it comes in would suggest.  No doubt this is to leave room for future updates, but there are several topics on which I would’ve liked to see more analysis.

The book also has the same limitations inherent to any print publication–which is one reason that I’ve declined offers to publish my treatise in hard copy. You can’t follow hyperlinks to read the cases and websites cited in the footnotes. And by the time the text makes it from author to editor to publisher to distributor to reader, some of it is inevitably going to be out of date, especially with this subject matter.  As one example, Chapter 2 mentions that “the FTC is currently seeking comments on proposed amendments to the COPPA Rules,” when in fact the FTC has already received public comments, announced final rules, and seen those rules go into effect several months ago.

But that does not take away from the hard work and real value that the authors have contributed to this book.  Their team approach provides more diverse views than any one author could provide. And I particularly enjoy the well-researched appendices that accompany most chapters.  For example, there are 50-state survey charts of citations to all the data security breach and cybercrime statutes across the country, and several form letters for various applications. These are likely to be handy references from which I’ll get real value going forward.

In addition to asking for my review, the Practising Law Institute also gave me a code to share with my readers for 20% off this title.  If you’re interested in picking up a copy, by all means make sure to save yourself some money this way.