Do You Have the Right Insurance for Your Social Media Activities?

Associations continue to embrace social, ranging from those learning how to others deep into analyzing their results. But according to my social media buds, they still get lots of questions from clients about its risks. Review my SocialFish posts (search “risk management†to find them or click here) discuss the risks and how to manage them.

Risk identification is just the first step in the risk management process. It is equally important to choose the right techniques to manage these risks. ASAE Business Services recognized the importance of social media risk management and sponsored a webinar, Managing an Association’s Social Media Risks and Coverage Exposures. The webinar offered good information but the insurance section was a little weak… so here are my thoughts.

Back in June 2010 I wrote a post, Social Media, Liability and Insurance, offering a “quick and dirty†explanation of the social media insurance coverages needed by associations. The general liability policy doesn’t cover these risks effectively. Your association needs a media liability policy.

Content, Content, Content

The advent of the Internet and web sites increased exponentially the amount of information available to all. Associations and their members create and curate astonishing amounts of content. Consequently, all associations are publishers and have unique liability exposures.

Media Exposures

Web 2.0 fostered a significant shift to electronic distribution and storage of information.  Anyone can now make a video, recording, create a blog or publish a book. Despite associations’ concern about loss of control, most media liability claims are mundane. Allegations focus on copyright infringement, trademark or trade dress infringement, plagiarism, libel, slander, defamation and invasion of privacy. All exposures associations had before social media; the only difference is the speed of information.

Ideally any association with a magazine or journal, books, pamphlets, newsletters, white papers, research articles and a web site has purchased media liability insurance. However many associations don’t have media liability insurance. Some organizations rely upon the Directors & Officers Liability policy’s Personal Injury and Publishers Liability but it is not adequate today for other than the smallest of associations.

King Henry VI
Media Liability Insurance

Every media liability or publishers liability policy is different, so you need to work with your insurance agent or broker to get the right policy for your exposures. In general terms, the insurer will pay on behalf of the insured all loss the insured is legally required to pay to third parties arising from an occurrence committed by the insured related to the “scheduled media.†The policy lists the perils insured against that may include:

  • Libel, slander, defamation, disparagement; infliction of emotional distress (personal or organizational)
  • Invasion, infringement or interference with rights of privacy or publicity
  • Infringement of title, slogan, trademark, trade name, trade dress, service mark or service name
  • Copyright infringement, plagiarism, piracy or misappropriation of ideas
  • Wrongful entry or eviction, trespass, eavesdropping
  • False arrest, abuse of process, detention or malicious prosecution

Errors & Omissions Liability

In addition to media liability, you should consider purchasing coverage for “negligent publication.†The coverage is written as Errors & Omissions (E&O) Liability for your publications that insures against any form of negligence in the content of “matter†uttered or disseminated in “scheduled media.†The policy will pay a third party injured or harmed by the information within the publication. The insurance company may also be willing to include bodily injury and property coverage in its E&O extension.

Your association may have an Errors & Omissions policy for your standards setting, certification and/or accreditation programs. The insurance company may be willing to expand the E&O policy to cover your publishers and social media exposures.

Defense Costs

The cost of defense is usually written as a part of the policy limit, so factor the potential defense costs when deciding the desired policy limit. You may be able to purchase an endorsement to have the defense costs outside the policy limit but it may be expensive.

Scheduled Media

The key to coverage is the definition of “scheduled media.†The policy may have a definition but you can broaden it by endorsement.

One concern is that many policies do not extend coverage for activities on third party social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and other group and networking sites not hosted on the association’s web site. If you use any third party sites make sure the policy covers your use of these sites. Many insurers now have a “social media†endorsement.

Insurance Professional

Media liability insurance is complicated so you need to talk to your association’s insurance agent or broker. Explain your social media strategy and plan including all sites used to reach your audiences. Include all owned web sites and urls in the definition.  Your insurance agent can’t recommend the appropriate coverage if he or she doesn’t understand all of your “publishing†and social media activities. It is time well spent to protect your association.

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