traffic lightI say it all the time: Technology is revolutionizing marketing. But (no surprise) along with all the new opportunities, there are new challenges, new responsibilities and new questions.

Take drones, for instance. Sure, they’re enticing – just think of all the innovative ways you could use drones to engage or serve your market! But are you aware of all the rules and restrictions that apply? And did you know that anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in U.S. airspace needs some level of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)?

Marketers have always needed to heed regulations surrounding disclosures, commerce, how certain marketing campaigns are conducted, etc. These days, though, the regulatory landscape is more complicated than ever. Here are just a few topics that made headlines in 2014:

Net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently considering new rules for the internet. As the FCC states: “The ‘Open Internet’ is the Internet as we know it. It’s open because it uses free, publicly available standards that anyone can access and build to, and it treats all traffic that flows across the network in roughly the same way.” (This is what’s commonly referred to as “net neutrality.”) Will the internet remain open, “as we know it?” That remains to be seen. (Read one opinion in favor of changing the rules here.)

Spain’s so-called “Google Tax.” According to a new Spanish law that goes into effect January 1, 2015, Spain’s news publishers are required to receive payment for content even if they are willing to give it away. As a result, Google has shut down Google News in Spain. This is a good example of how fluid intellectual property laws are and how the ground can shift from country to country—which reminds me about…

SPAM and cookies. Earlier this year, Canada enacted comprehensive spam legislation which directly impacts email marketing sent to Canadian users. On January 15, 2015, sections of the Act related to the unsolicited installation of computer programs or software come into force. (Details here.) Meanwhile, the EU continues to take steps to regulate the protection of personal data. In 2012, I wrote about the EU’s e-Privacy Directive. This year, the European Parliament cemented its support of these data protection reforms. (Read more here.)

Social media law. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations can impact the way you conduct social media campaigns (even short tweets must abide by FTC standards). The FTC website is updated almost every day, so bookmark it and check it regularly for FTC news and views, including recent enforcement actions, speeches, public hearings and other business information. Which brings me back to…

Drones. CNN reports that the FAA is leaning toward strict oversight of drones, with new proposed rules expected by year’s end. So before you invest valuable resources in a marketing plan involving drones, do your homework. (See Busting Myths About the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft for more.)

Bottom line from all of this: Proceed with caution and stay up-to-date on evolving laws and restrictions. As you look ahead to 2015 and beyond, be mindful of how regulations may impact your digital marketing plans, but never EVER let regulation constrain your creativity! Creative thinking is happening all over the world –just remember that (for better or worse) the sky is not the limit and regulations can pose roadblocks you’ll need to work around.

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