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Free guide helps brands navigate legal side of social networks

LONDON - Law firm Reed Smith is helping businesses to navigate the legal ins and outs of social networking with a new task force and the publication of a 10-chapter whitepaper aimed at preventing problems before they start.

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The white paper can be accessed for free. It looks at the legal problems businesses and non-profit organisations can encounter when using sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube for marketing and advertising purposes and how they might be avoided.

The guide looks at areas including running competitions on such sites, using them to provide customer services, issues over the ownership of copyright on user-generated content and more.

It has been written because of the increasing number of enquiries that Reed Smith has been receiving from clients over legal problems that they are having with regard to marketing via social networks.

Reed Smith is also launching what it has dubbed a "digital media task force" that will combine the expertise of staff working across a number of fields to tackle issues arising from social networking. The white paper will also be updated online.

Douglas Wood, chair of Reed Smith's media and entertainment group and editor of the white paper, said: "The social media marketplace has exploded in the past year as major businesses and government agencies worldwide frenetically compete to develop and deploy newer and flashier ways of reaching their employees and customers.

"Many of them are more concerned about being left behind than about the potentially serious and long-lasting legal liabilities their emerging online activities can create. They typically don't know what they're getting into, until they're in over their heads."

Reed Smith has offices throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East and employs nearly 1,600 lawyers.

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