Internet marketing laws are real laws! Anybody who has worked under my management has heard me say this many times.
Let me tell you, there are a lot of folks – often those with many years of marketing experience – who really do not want to hear that there are actual rules to what you can and can’t do with internet marketing campaigns. Frankly, that is too bad. Internet marketing laws are real and so are the consequences for breaking them.
Why do marketing professionals think they can get away with breaking internet marketing laws? In my experience, it breaks down to two misguided philosophies.
Everybody else is doing it.
On some levels, I do get it. As an example, there are some really big media outlets that play dumb when it comes to image copyright. They pretend that citing (often in fine print) that an image came from another website is enough to grant them the right to use that image. Much less for for commercial purposes without asking permission and/or holding any sort of license. That’s just not true.
There are a ton of laws around image licensing and rights. Just because you can ‘save images as’ doesn’t mean that copyright infringement isn’t a real thing . Even on the internet. Don’t believe me? Try using a Getty Image and see how quickly you get a demand letter from their lawyers.
How do you compete with that when content is king in the internet marketing game? The answer is you just do because those are the rules. You are doing your client and your professional dignity a disservice to do anything less.
Nobody is going to catch me.
Cutting my marketing teeth in the ‘wild west’ days of highly-regulated markets is why I am so passionate about helping people understand that internet marketing laws are real laws. Way back in the crazy days of the mid to late 90’s, you really could do just about anything you wanted. We’re talking about some really scammy stuff. In the scheme of things though, this lasted about five minutes before the sheriffs showed up and started laying down the law.
Ask anybody who was working in internet marketing at the time that the CAN-SPAM Act came down. I personally knew at least three people that went to real life jail because they thought they would never get caught for violating it.
Real life jail because internet marketing laws are real laws.
Yet, nearly 15 years after CAN-SPAM, rarely a month goes by when I don’t hear somebody declare they don’t have to worry about honoring opt-out requests on their mailing lists. Never mind not having a physical address or any other of the information they are required by law to have included in their email marketing.
Inexcusable when the CAN-SPAM Compliance Guidelines are easily found on the FTC (yes, the F stands for Federal) website. Not just that but it is in remarkably straightforward language for a government document.
My favorite of the guidelines on that page, by the way, is number seven which is about the importance of monitoring what others are doing on your behalf.
“The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.”
So, there you go. You can not contract away your legal responsibility. Are you an agency working on behalf of a client? Great. Thinking you won’t get caught just put both you and your client in legal jeopardy. Did you hire an outsourcer to do the email marketing for you? Too bad, you get in trouble too.
Staying the right side of internet marketing laws is the way to go for any digital campaign but especially when you are working in a highly-regulated marketing. Don’t risk going any other path. It just isn’t worth it.