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Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc.

publishing as Prentice Hall

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There is a natural tension between public relations practitioners and lawyers.


Ideally, the two should work together to achieve a clients desired outcomes. This usually works well.
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Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall

However, there is a basic difference in legal versus public relations advice:

Lawyers correctly advise clients on what they must legally do to defend themselves in the court of law.

Public relations advisers counsel clients on what they should do to defend themselves in the court of public opinion.
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Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall

Public relations and the law both begin with the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech in our society.
But in the 21st century, ensuring freedom of speech is not as easy as it sounds.

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Where does ones freedom of speech start and anothers end? How much freedom of speech is appropriate or advisable in any given situation? How does the freedom of the Internet impact communications rights and responsibilities?

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PR practitioners must always understand the legal implications of any issue. The firms legal position must always be the first consideration. From a legal point of view, the less an organization says prior to its day in court, the better.

The lawyer advises you to say nothing, and say it slowly!

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However, from a public relations standpoint, it often makes sense to go public early.

This is especially true if the organizations integrity or credibility is being questioned.

Can you think of a recent case in which this was true?


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Ethics tell us what we should do, while the law tells what we must do. In public relations, we must always make sure we are on the right side of the ethical and legal line. Practitioners must analyze both the legal ramifications and legal considerations in any decision.

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The First Amendment is the cornerstone of free speech in our society. It distinguishes democratic nations from many others. Defending the First Amendment is a frontline responsibility for public relations.
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Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall

Defamation law

Insider trading
Disclosure law

Ethics law
Copyright law

Internet law
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Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall

Defamation is used to describe libel and slander. Libel is a printed falsehood. Slander is an oral falsehood.

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In order to prove defamation, the plaintiff must meet at least three standards:
The falsehood was communicated through print, broadcast or electronic means. The subject was identified or identifiable. The identified person suffered injury: monetary loss, reputation loss, or mental suffering.

1.

2. 3.

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Public relations practitioners must be careful not to defame others when they write. As the spokesperson, practitioners must be careful in statements to the media on behalf of their organization or clients.

Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall

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Although you dont have to be a financial expert, you should know something about securities law. Every public company has an obligation to deal frankly, comprehensively and immediately with any information that is considered material. What is a material announcement? One that might cause an investor to buy, hold or sell a stock.
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Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall

Investors must be made aware of any new material information as soon as possible, since any information can affect stock value. Rule 10b-5 strictly prohibits the dissemination of false or misleading information to investors. It also prohibits insider trading of securities on the basis of material information not disclosed to the public.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires all practitioners to observe disclosure requirements.

Public relations professionals must:


know disclosure law. be sensitive to disclosure requirements. tend toward disclosing, rather than withholding, material

information.

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Laws on ethical misconduct have been severely tested over the last two decades.

More than ever, Congress is scrutinizing the activities of lobbyists. Campaign finance reform has limited legislators ability to accept favors or money.
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Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall

Copyright law provides basic automatic protection for writers, whether a manuscript is registered with the Copyright Office or even published. The Copyright Act of l976 states that an original work of authorship has copyright protection from the moment the work is in fixed form.

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Fixed forms include:


Literary works Musical works Dramatic works Pantomimes and choreographic works Pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works Motion pictures Sound recordings

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It gives them the exclusive right to reproduce and authorize others to:

reproduce their work prepare derivative works perform and/or display the work publicly

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Trademark law covers a word, symbol or slogan, used alone or in combination, that identifies a product or its sponsor.

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Criticism News reporting Teaching Scholarship or research are traditionally considered to be fair use of copyrighted materials. However, the definition of fair use is open to interpretation by the courts.

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The Internet has introduced a new dimension to the law affecting free speech. The premise of American law is that all speech is not created equal. Rather, there is a hierarchy of speech that determines First Amendment protection. Cyber-law has raised new questions about many of the most revered principles of communication law.
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Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall

Censorship: In 1996, Congress introduced the Communications Decency Act. Soon afterward, the law was struck down.
Intellectual property: In 2001, Napster was targeted for file sharing violations. Since then, illegal downloading has become even harder to control. Cybersquatting: Taking domain names in bad faith, then tormenting the rightful registrant. E-fraud: This runs rampant on the Internet. Perpetrators are difficult to define and to stop.

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Despite judges warnings, do plaintiffs and defendants try to influence verdicts outside the courtroom? Of course they do! Thats why litigation PR has become a key strategy. Essentially, it means managing the media process during a legal dispute to affect its outcome or impact on the clients reputation.

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1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Learn the process. Develop a message strategy. Settle fast. Anticipate high-profile variables. Keep the focus positive. Try settling again. And finally, fight nicely!

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As our society grows more contentious and litigious, public relations must become more concerned with the law. Public relations professionals must understand the laws that govern their organizations and industries. The connection between public relations and the law is certain to intensify in the 21st century.
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Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall

Tap-Tap-Tappin on the Stall Room Door


Review this case on page 133. As a class, discuss:

Had you been Sen. Craigs public relations advisor, what would you have advised him after his guilty plea in Minneapolis? What were the public relations vs. legal arguments in considering appealing the guilty plea?

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