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Legal Aid for Digital Events

Keep your digital events on the right side of the law by understanding your responsibilities around copyright and trademark issues, data privacy, intellectual property rights, and more.  

The Professional Convention Management Association’s Digital Experience Institute hosted a primer on the top legal considerations for digital events. Matthew G Miller, principal, MG Miller Intellectual Property Law, led the discussion, giving tips on protecting you, your audience, and your presenters during your digital events.

Miller broke down the three biggest legal considerations for presenter content:

1.    Copyright issues. Ask your presenters if they have the rights to all content, including charts and graphs, that appear in presentations. Ask if the right to use the content expires after a certain time—the content may be fine to use during a livestream but not for months afterwards on demand.

2.    Trademarks. Are your presenters in compliance with the use of trademarks in their presentations? Are they appropriately using a corporate logo or service symbol?

3.    Transfer of sensitive information. For example, during medical meetings, is patient information being used in accordance with HIPAA guidelines?   

Miller said if you are organizing the event, put the onus on the presenters to make sure that they have the rights to the content, and to verify that anything they didn’t create or commission is in the public domain. If the speaker signs a contract saying he has the right to the content and is giving you rights to it, you can disseminate it. If not, you may not make the content available for download and you could be liable for copyright infringement for hosting and distributing it.

When using music with an event, planners should ensure the usage rights for licensing the music have been cleared by either Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) or the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Miller says each organization has a website to browse to find out who owns the rights.

If you have acquired the rights to copyrighted content, for example a YouTube video or photography that is not labeled for reuse online, it might be wise to make contact ahead of the event with YouTube, Google, or any other hosting or search service that might take it down. The content can be reinstated, but there is a lag time that will disrupt your digital presence.

Digital Medical Events

Audience questions can present a few issues for medical events. If someone participating in the meeting mentions in the chat box that a device or drug harmed a patient, that is an adverse medical report and you are required to report it. Off-label usage can also be problematic as a topic. If, for example, someone posts about a heart drug being used for weight loss, you don’t want your presenters answering off-label questions in a public forum. To avoid these situations, it is best to have someone monitoring audience contributions before they post publicly. If the event is available for livestream or on demand outside the United States, consult a lawyer about different legal standards for medical claims and education in other countries and, if necessary, post a disclaimer. 

Digital Audience Protection

If you intend to collect audience registration data, post a disclaimer about how long you will keep it and who it will be shared with. You have a duty of care to protect personal and financial data from hackers, so investigate security at the hosting company. Europe has stricter data privacy rules than the United States, so be prepared to destroy collected data from international registrants sooner than American attendees.

In terms of protecting your audience and organization from digital threats, Miller outlined some basic steps.

1.    Educate your team on cyber security. One infected computer can spread a virus to potentially thousands of event attendees through one communication. Give your team anti-phishing training, so they know how to spot suspicious emails and will never click on embedded email links without proof of authenticity. 

2.    Keep all software up to date, even those annoying patches that seem to be released weekly. Those patches are usually to protect against a specific threat.

3.    When using a website, whether to livestream a digital event or to use the Wi-Fi at a meeting venue, make sure there is an “s” after the “http” in the URL. This means there is a layer of security. Miller recommended using the Electronic Frontier Foundations’ HTTPS Everywhere browser extension, which will always request the secure transmission protocol.

Stay Educated

Miller said it is important to understand that both the law and meeting technologies are changing quickly. He recommends having a lawyer with experience in this area of the law on board to consult for online events. A corporate lawyer focusing in another field may not understand the specific issues associated with digital events.








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