In today’s litigious society, virtually any adverse occurrence could result in a lawsuit. Savvy meeting professionals need to make risk management techniques as much a part of their portfolio as meeting management skills.
Here are four common potential lawsuits and what you can do to mitigate the damage.
1) Misuse of Intellectual Property (Part 1)
Did you know that if you create an audio or video recording of a speaker’s presentation to rebroadcast on your Web site or make a speaker’s handout material available to non-attendees without permission, you are potentially infringing on the speaker’s copyright interests?
A speaker’s presentation constitutes intellectual property and creates a copyright in favor of the speaker at the time of the presentation (including any accompanying handouts or visuals). Thus, the speaker has the right to control the reuse of the presentation.
How to protect yourself: Have all speakers sign a copyright release allowing the organization to archive the presentation, including handouts and visual aids, and to make it available in the future in certain specified ways, such as audio, visual, webcast, or . Discourage attendees from taking photographs of a speaker or recording the presentation unless permission has been obtained.
2) Misuse of Intellectual Property (Part 2)
Just as an organization should not misuse a speaker’s copyrighted material, neither should a speaker infringe on the work of others by copying—even in small part—material produced by colleagues or other sources. The use of even a few sentences, regardless of whether a sourcing credit is given or not, could subject the speaker—and your company—to an infringement lawsuit.
How to protect yourself: A speaker’s copyright release should contain provisions in which the speaker warrants that all material in the presentation is original or used with permission of the copyright holder. Additional language should require the speaker to indemnify the organization in the event of a lawsuit alleging infringement.
3) Unlawful Transmission of Individualized Information
Meeting planners sometimes provide registration lists to their hotels for the purpose of cross-checking, to minimize anypenalties. These lists generally contain personally identifiable information (PII), which is typically defined as “any information which differentiates one individual from another, such as address or business affiliation.” PII need not include a social security number or credit-card information to fall within the definition.
While there is no general federal law regarding individual privacy, many states do have statutes prohibiting the transfer of PII without notice to and consent by the individual(s) whose information is being transferred. At least two major hotel chains have provisions in their standard Unfortunately, many planners agree to these provisions without understanding their impact, which could be civil penalties from state agencies or lawsuits by individuals.templates in which the group represents that it has obtained consent to transfer PII.
How to protect yourself: A good way to avoid potential liability is to include language in the registration material indicating the limited uses of the PII supplied by the registrant and noting that, by registering, the attendees consent to such usage.
4) Outsourced Athletic Events
Some organizations contract with outside vendors to conduct events such as golf tournaments. While such events are usually not considered dangerous, accidents can, and do, occur. If the participant’s injury is severe enough and if the vendor’s negligence is somewhat obvious (e.g., selecting a highly rigorous course for a “fun run”), the meeting sponsor can be swept into any resulting litigation on a theory of negligent selection of the vendor.
How to protect yourself: Every participant in an athletic activity should be required to sign a carefully drafted release. While a fairly detailed document is best, even a more general release, sometimes referred to as “assumption of risk,” may suffice.