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9.5 International law 

Many social media tools are available worldwide and support for international recruitment and international research is indeed part of their appeal for HEIs. This does however mean that if content infringes a law in another country then those making the content available could be sued in that other country. As an example, copyright materials that could be made available under the US fair use provisions may fall foul of UK copyright law where the boundaries are more narrowly drawn. As an example it is possible for a wiki to be built up by a number of contributors across the world: each may have diligently followed local laws but some may have ended up doing things that would have been illegal in UK law. It is illegal to import something from another country which would be infringing copyright had the act in question been carried out in the UK, thus the wiki host could be liable for illegal content that was incorporated in good faith by a third party in another country. Defamation laws may also vary from country to country. Whilst the risks are real, actual examples of cross-border cases going to court are extremely rare (one of the most notable examples was the French state blocking the sale of Nazi memorabilia via Yahoo).

Good practice tips:

  • Keep guidance up to date – ensure that copyright guidance for staff and students covers use of social media. 

  • Clarify and communicate procedures – have a clear mechanism for reporting inappropriate content. 

  • Act quickly when you need to – apply a notice and takedown procedure.

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