media-liability-insurance

Media Liability Insurance Guide

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Rachel Jenkins

Since the dot-com bubble, online marketing has been necessary to reach new clients and nurture relationships with current ones. Many companies use blogs, video streaming platforms, and social media to communicate their message to the masses. The Digital Age has presented corporations with many opportunities to tell their business story, and the internet has made nearly everyone some type of online publisher. 

However, an even older marketing strategy is the written word. Authors and publishers face many of the same challenges that online producers face: defamation, plagiarism, copyright infringements, to name a few. As a result, the insurance industry designed media liability insurance to cover these specific vulnerabilities.

Unfortunately, organizations that distribute or broadcast ideas — online or in print — can encounter a plethora of risks. Media liability lawsuits have been on the rise for several years, from Oprah’s $1M anti-beef case in the late 90s to the many social influencer lawsuits surfacing within the past few years. What’s more, these claims have evolved to become more complicated and costly.

Media Liabilities 

The term “media” merely refers to a communication outlet that typically reaches collective society. Broadcasting, publishing, and digital media are standard tools to spread ideas, news, art, messages, etc. 

For decades, mass communication has been a part of our lives. However, never before has the media reached so many individuals as effortlessly as the current day. Naturally, with such influence also comes plenty of exposure. The following outline a few of the most widespread media channels and their unique liabilities. 

Distributed Media 

Many companies turned to content marketing in the late 90s and early 2000s when blogging was deemed a viable strategy. Since then, this medium has exploded. It’s no surprise that 57% of marketers report that they’ve won customers strictly by blogging, and nearly as many marketers claim that blogging is their top marketing strategy.

However, blogging isn’t the only medium taking the corporate world by storm. Vlogging and newsletters have proven to be powerful marketing tools, as well. Even more so, many companies combine a handful of mediums, harnessing the power of online marketing to form near-perfect sales funnels.

As you might have guessed, with so many thoughts and ideas swirling around, corporations take a risk in how their listeners or readers respond. Furthermore, competitors could also take offense at the information circulating online. Costly media liability cases are only a lawsuit away when it comes to distributed media.

Broadcasting

Aside from digital media, one of the oldest and cheapest forms of entertainment  (at the time) dates back to the 1920s: radio. At first, radio engineers broadcast prizefights and baseball games. But one newspaper after another established radio stations of their own, further solidifying this media outlet as a professional channel vs. mere entertainment. 

It wasn’t long before corporate marketers realized the opportunity radio waves provided. The chronology continued until advertising expenditures reached well into the millions. From commercials to corporate sponsorships to podcasting, radio media and the business world have been coupled since the Roaring Twenties. 

Radio famously has a long arm, reaching wealthy and poor ears in rural and urban areas alike. Popular jingles, familiar voices, and strong advertising messages have filled our lives since most of us were children. But this incredible influence doesn’t come without its unique risks. Violations of privacy, false advertising, and defamation are only a few of the many lawsuits frequently filed against broadcasters. 

Publishing

Take a more significant leap back in time, however, when the written word was king. From clay tablets to papyrus rolls to handwritten books, the written word is likely the most influential media in history. It wasn’t until 1534 that Henry VIII founded the Cambridge University Press, and this publishing house began releasing print books in 1584 — and it hasn’t ever stopped. 

Today, nearly 3,000 publishing houses exist in the United States alone. Add in other nations, and that figure skyrockets. According to Publishers Weekly, print book sales rose 8.2% in 2020, which are telling statistics. The publishing industry isn’t anywhere near being dead, as many people think. 

With the written word having such a deep-rooted influence on the American culture, professionals in this space have carefully monitored our litigious society. Lamentably, media liability lawsuits surface every day for authors, publishers, and distributors. After all, once words are in ink, it’s hard to take them back — but some people merely want a piece of your pie.

Social Influencers

One marketing strategy with less history than any other is for organizations to use social influencers as a marketing campaign. Many companies have turned to social influencers to reach their audience instead of publishing print or curating blogging content. While this has proven to be successful for many businesses, it has risks unlike other media forms. 

In response to these unique vulnerabilities, an insurance policy exists for social influencers. The coverage is similar to a media liability policy but slightly modified to fit the needs of individuals dominating social media platforms and contracting with corporations. 

Media Liability Coverage Details

With such an array of risks, companies can rely on media liability insurance to cover for many widespread fears. The following list highlights what this particular policy covers:

  • Copyright infringement
  • Trademark infringement
  • Plagiarism
  • Defamation
  • Advertising injury
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Intentional torts
  • False light
  • False imprisonment
  • Infliction of emotional distress
  • Failure to maintain the confidentiality of a source
  • Outrageous conduct

Media liability does not cover the following:

  • Bodily injury
  • Property damage
  • Criminal acts
  • Breach of contract
  • Patent infringement
  • Securities fraud

Media Liability Lawsuit Scenarios 

It’s often hard to imagine well-intended words or actions producing unfortunate consequences, such as the emotional distress of another person or even an invasion of someone’s privacy. But these sorts of lawsuits surface daily.

For example, when the Daily Mail published an article claiming that Kiera Knightley had an eating disorder, not only did she sue the Daily Mail, but she won the case and donated her settlement to charity. 

Aside from celebrities, though, consider the following everyday scenarios: 

  • In a $3 million libel lawsuit, a school principal sued a newspaper publisher over an article alleging the principal was partial to his own son regarding disciplinary action.
  • A client filed suit against a financial services company based on advice published on their blog. The client, who acted on the blog post’s advice, lost money because of the direction.
  • A book publisher sued another publisher in a trademark infringement case, claiming an unpublished book’s cover created marketplace confusion because of its similarities to another series of books.
  • Several competitors were named in a corporate blog post detailing the quality of local services. One of the competitors sued the corporation, claiming the post had caused reputational damage. 
  • When a product failed to work for customers the way a popular YouTube video claimed it would, an upset individual sued the video producer for misleading the public.
  • After releasing a marketing video clip for a new product line, a music publisher sued the company for using their song in the video without obtaining permission. 

Understanding Specialized Policies 

Media liability insurance is similar to several other policies. For example, cyber liability safeguards your business against damages from any electronic activities. And errors and omissions (E&O) insurance, otherwise known as professional liability, protects companies against lawsuits of inferior work or service. 

Both of these policies are akin to media liability insurance; however, let’s review the detailed differences. At its heart, media liability is a specialized form of E&O, specifically designed for media professionals. It offers broader coverage than an E&O policy. Cyber liability also focuses on digital activities, but it hones in on scammers and cybercriminals. Here’s a brief overview of the two:

  • Errors and omission (E&O) insurance, also known as professional liability, covers companies in third-party or client lawsuits claiming substandard work or service. Work errors or oversights, missed deadlines, budget overruns, etc., often result in costly cases — but E&O insurance responds to these mishaps.
  • Cyber liability insurance protects companies from third-party lawsuits relating to electric activities (i.e., phishing scams). Plus, it offers many recovery benefits, supporting data restoration and reimbursement for income lost and payroll spent.

Understanding the details of what coverage your company needs can be a confusing process. Founder Shield specializes in knowing the risks your industry faces to make sure you have adequate protection. Feel free to reach out to us, and we’ll walk you through the process of finding the right policy for you. 


Want to know more about media liability insurance? Talk to us! You can contact us at ​info@foundershield.com​ or create an account ​here​ to get started on a quote.

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