Promoting your music on the internet - McLaughlin Law
The first legal consideration relates to the privacy of personal information that people may have made available to you. In New Zealand most privacy related issues are covered by the Privacy Act 1993. One of the key aspects of the Privacy Act is that it requires any information which is collected from another person which may personally identify that person to be treated with respect in terms of how that information is used. In this regard a key principal of the Privacy Act is that information which you collect (e.g. names and email addresses) can only be used for the purposes for which you made known at the time of collection. What this means is that if someone has provided you their name and email address for the purpose of say following through with a purchase you had listed on Trade Me, this does not mean you automatically have the right to add this person to your internet database for the purposes of promoting your music or your band. Similarly if you run a business which is in no way connected to your music you can’t assume you can use your customer contacts from this business for the purpose of promoting your music. If you work for someone else as an employee or contractor then even greater contractual restrictions outside of the provisions of the Privacy Act in your employment agreement or contracting agreement would similarly prevent you from making use of contacts you initially acquire in the course of your job.
Intended Use of Information
When you do openly collect information directly from people for the purposes of promoting your musical endeavours online, to avoid any issues that may arise under the Privacy Act it also pays to let people know as precisely as possible the full extent of what you would like to do with any information that they may submit to you. This can be achieved by simply having a brief statement on your website or social networking site setting this out. If for whatever reason you wanted to pass this information on to a third party (e.g. any record label or venue) then this is the kind of thing you should also be clear about.
In practice the Privacy Act does not have significant penalties for breach of its terms, however these days people are constantly becoming more and more concerned about the use of their personal information, as some of the issues confronted by Facebook in recent times have shown. Consequently ensuring people know exactly how any information they submit to you will be used is not just important to ensure you comply with the Privacy Act but is also vital so as people feel safe and confident in transacting with you via the internet.
It is worth noting that these issues in terms of collection and use of personal information apply equally to the physical world as they do to the online world (e.g. the same kinds of issues need to be thought through for anyone who maybe signs up to your emailing list at a gig).
The ‘SPAM’ Act
When it comes to promoting your music online there is another piece of legislation that is particularly important to be aware of. This is the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 ("UEMA”) and this applies to any kind of communication in a digital fashion such as emails, texting and instant messaging. The UEMA was primarily aimed at stopping email SPAM sent within New Zealand and is enforced by the Department of Internal Affairs. Unlike the Privacy Act it does provide for significant penalties and such can be enforced against persistent senders of SPAM. Although to date the UEMA has only been used to target large scale commercial senders of unsolicited emails, it is perhaps another reminder of the need to ensure you use appropriately any individuals contact information you collect.
As a final point to be aware of when it comes to the internet you do need to remember that different countries will have different laws that govern how and from whom information can be collected and subsequently used. Although compliance with the general legal framework we have for such matters in New Zealand will put you in good standing in most other parts of the world, if there is a particular country (or state within a country) that you wish to particularly target via the internet for marketing and promoting your music, it may also pay to do some research as to whether any local laws provide any particular considerations you need to be aware of.