140 logo Attorney Glenn Manishin (@glennm) tells amusing lawyer jokes at the 140 Characters Conference this past week in Los Angeles. Scroll down and hit play.

Glenn was on the panel that discussed public policy, legal issues within the context of social media and who owns what on the web.

Says Glenn, “if you ask a lawyer a question, they’ll say, it depends.” Well, in this space, it really does depend because there is no law about social media right now. There are doctrines of law that affect social media, you can be fired, not hired, but he asserts, that in many ways, “its still the wild wild west.”

Because the wild wild west is abbreviated to www….now what? What about linking? Caching? Twitter? Answers are evolving as we speak. Risks are high but if you don’t take the risks, you also don’t yield the rewards.

So, who owns the content on social media networks? Can employers prohibit employees from using social media?

Employers could learn a lot about their employees by not only allowing them to voice an opinion but engaging with them in the process. If you let employees use social media, you can monitor their voice and their behavior. Instruct them out to use it and give them concise guidelines but give up the control. In the long term, that control won’t work to serve corporations.

Larger corporations don’t just think about the legal risk but also the business risk. Brett Trout (@bretttrout) talked to us about intellectual property law. He says with a grin, “social media isn’t like baby bottles or the phone – it’s a tool you have to use. If your lawyer isn’t using social media, you need to get a new lawyer. You need a lawyer who understands what it is and its implications.”

As for endorsements and being up front about what you’re doing, we are given this analogy: sharks don’t know much about playing badminton but they do know how to hunt & kill.

On copyright and trademark issues, 90% of tweets are repetition of facts that are already public and out there.

Tweets live forever and anyone can see them. There’s a difference between that model and Facebook, a walled community, which means you decide who sees your content.

Normally the copyright rule is that if you use the entire article or quote, it’s not considered fair use. You can use a portion of something for commentary or parady. If you retweet, by definition, you’re basically repeating everything someone said.

By posting something on Twitter, you are not copying it, you’re reposting someone’s stuff and as Pete Cashmore once said about reposting stuff, it’s great to extend that reach of what you said. Hear hear. Distribution distribution distribution.

@glennm below tells us some amusing lawyer jokes on-site at the Kodak Theater last week.

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