Legal implications of our final project

One would think a website dedicated to helping people locate beer would be fraught with legal implications but it appears this is not the case.  Though there are grave responsibilities that accompany a website that deals with alcohol consumption, it appears that not much legislation exists to govern this type of content.

One immediate concern is the site’s design as we had envisioned using images of real beer bottles as part of the site’s global header.  This could present a legal issue as we’d be using images that are chicory-stouttrademarked.  For example, if we used an image of a Dogfish Head bottle, we’d presumably need permission from the brewer as their logo is trademarked.  With smaller brewers this may not present a problem as we’re giving their product free promotion.  If necessary, we could always visit the brewery to show the brewmaster how earnest and sincere we are about the quality of our endeavour.  :>) If our site is not commercial, then possibly the reproduction could be covered under ‘fair use.’ The US Copyright Office ‘sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:’

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

samadams.comThe sites created by major brewers all have a barrier to entry.  You must enter your age before you are permitted to see the site’s content.  On samadams.com they actually make you enter the year of your birth twice! However, these measures seem to be a type of policing encouraged within the industry itself and not created as a result of legislation.  The  Distilled Spirits Council of the United States has 2009 Media ‘Buying’ Guidelines posted on their site and one section pertains directly to the internet.  They also have a ‘Code of Responsible Practices’ which states:

“DISCUS members are committed to the responsible placement and content of their brand communications.  The overriding principle of our Code is to market our products to adults in a responsible and appropriate manner.  Towards this end, DISCUS members pledge voluntarily to conduct their advertising and marketing practices in the United States in accordance with the provisions of this Code.”

It seems as though the barrier to entry created by large breweries, are self-imposed as a result of their membership in DISCUS would not apply to an independent site like ours.

One area of the site that could raise legal implications is the portion that allows users to rate establishments.  The litigious disposition of American society leads one to believe that a lawsuit could ensue if an owner didn’t feel that the review was fair.  However given the ubiquitous nature of reviews, especially on the internet, this seems unlikely.  These days, companies actually hire people simply to monitor what’s being said about them, and the smart ones take the feedback into consideration when making changes to their organization.

Overall there are definitely many factors to consider, legal, moral and otherwise when creating a website of this kind, but due diligence and some common sense should prevent any legal implications from arising.

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