To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee has sued her agent over the loss of her copyright.
The agent named in the lawsuit is Samuel Pinkus, the son-in-law of Lee’s former agent, Eugene Winick, who took over some of Winick’s clients when he fell ill.
Lee, 87, alleges that Pinkus “engaged in a scheme to dupe” the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, convincing her to sign over the copyright of her modern classic novel for no compensation. The lawsuit maintains that Lee, who was 80 years old at the time, doesn’t remember agreeing to give up her rights or signing the agreement that transferred them.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Manhattan and requests that the court give Lee any rights that Pinkus or his companies have in the book and that Pinkus turn over any commissions made on the work since the 2007 transfer.
Neither party has commented publicly on it since its filing.
Copyrights protect books, songs, photographs, and other original works of authorship. With a federal copyright registration, the owner can do the following:
- control who may copy, use and distribute your work
- enforce your copyright in federal court
What do you think of the Harper Lee lawsuit?
For information on protecting your work through copyright, trademark, or patent application, check out this comparison chart.
The Washington Post recently featured on article on how to turn your small business into the next reality television star, but how many of you would really be interested in such a thing?
The information included in the piece discusses how businesses are chosen for reality television in the first place. Some people, like the group on “Pawn Stars,” just get lucky; for that show, the owner of Leftfield Productions came up with the idea of a TV show featuring a pawn shop while in Las Vegas for a bachelor party.
Others, of course, have to go about things the more old-fashioned way and actually pitch their ideas to production companies.
But beware: if your business is failing, according to the Washington Post article, it’s unlikely that you’ll be chosen as the next reality star. This makes sense as documenting the failure of a business probably wouldn’t make for very good — and definitely not inspiring — television (unless the show is something akin to Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” apparently, in which the world-famous chef tries to bring failing restaurants back from the brink of bankruptcy).
Be sure to read the full article for more information on how you can make your business reality TV material, but in the meantime we’re curious: would you be interested in putting your small business at the center of reality television? Why or why not?
And if you’re still looking for some help choosing the best business structure to start your business, check out the Start-a-Business Wizard.
Apparently in New Hampshire, you can Live Free or Die — except when it comes to your car’s license plate.
When Dover resident David Montenegro’s request for the personalized license plate “COPSLIE” was summarily denied by the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles, he appealed to the division’s director and the state commissioner of safety. Both sided with the DMV, and the director concluded that “a reasonable person would find COPSLIE offensive to good taste.”
At that point, Montenegro (who has since legally changed his name to “human”) decided to test the approval system by applying for both a pro-government license plate, “GR8GOVT,” and an anti-government plate, “GOVTSUX.”
GR8GOVT was approved, which to human proved that the DMV had not acted in a “viewpoint neutral” way when it OK’ed a plate praising the government but denied the other expressing criticism of government officials (police officers). Human maintains that this is a violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech, but New Hampshire courts have ruled in the DMV’s favor thus far.
Human is appealing the decision to the state Supreme Court, and the court is asking for amicus briefs from the public on whether the DMV violated human’s right to free speech or whether its justification is legally sound. The deadline for submitting briefs is June 24.
Personalized license plates are also known as vanity plates, and although all states permit them, the proposed plate must get past the DMV first. Standards vary greatly across the country.
The battle over vanity plates centers on the question of whether the unique set of letters and/or numbers on a given plate is individual expression or government speech. This question has not yet been definitively decided by our nation’s highest court.
Generally, government officials claim that because they issue the plates, the content is government speech. Therefore, the argument goes, the government can regulate what’s on the plates, as it has the authority to choose its own messages. If the plates are classified as private speech, however, the government does not have the power to use the First Amendment to restrict an individual’s right to print their viewpoint on the plate.
The government can restrict even private speech if it is defamatory or obscene; incites violence, crime, or sedition; causes panic; or is made up of “fighting words,” defined as “those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”
What do you think of the COPSLIE plate? Is the New Hampshire DMV restricting human’s First Amendment rights or are they correct in denying his request?
Welcome to this week’s small business news weekly roundup!
In this week’s roundup, we’ll discuss essentials for any small biz website, how to run your business from home, and how to know when it’s time to let an employee go.
First, here are two other roundups:
- This Week in Small Business: Apple, Gold and Cupcakes: The New York Times shares links to articles on what the Boston bombing means for the economy and the stock market, the crash of the market for expensive cupcakes, a teenager who has auctioned off 10 percent of her future earnings to start a website, a discussion of whether telecommuting will become a “flash in the pan,” and much more.
- Top Small Business News Stories: Week of April 19: From Small Business Trends, links to articles on social media’s dark side, YouTube live streaming on iPhones, CISPA making its way through the legislature, great resources for affiliate marketing managers, and much more.
And now, the rest!
- 10 Essentials Every Small Business Website Needs: Is your website doing everything it can and should to “attract and convert prospects into customers?” Here are ten must-have features on any small business website.
- How to run your business from home: Home-run businesses aren’t for everyone, but if you’re interested in running your biz from home (or looking for tips on how to make your home-run business better), check out this article from The Guardian.
- Overstaffing can break your small business — here’s how to know when to fire someone: From The Washington Post, the key metrics you should consider when deciding whether your business is overstaffed and losing money because of it.
What’s new in your small business world this week?
In December 2011, here on the blog we talked about Bo Muller-Moore’s “Eat More Kale” t-shirts, which got the lawyers at Chick-fil-A squawking about a potential trademark infringement of the company’s slogan, “Eat Mor Chikin.”
Bo Muller-Moore of Vermont thinks everyone should eat more kale, so he started EatMoreKale.com and printed up some t-shirts in his garage expressing that sentiment. But certain fast food executives in Atlanta aren’t feeling the kale love. Chick-fil-A has sent Muller-Moore’s pro bono attorney a cease and desist letter, claiming that the “Eat more kale” phrase infringes on its trademarked slogan “Eat Mor Chikin.”
. . .
The letter from Chick-Fil-A avers that “Eat More Kale” “plays off of and imitates Chick-fil-A’s valuable EAT MOR CHIKIN Intellectual Property by using a prefix confusingly similar to Chick-fil-A’s federally registered EAT MOR CHIKIN trademarks” and that the “misappropriation of Chick-fil-A’s EAT MOR CHIKIN Intellectual Property, to play off of and benefit from the extraordinary fame and goodwill of Chick-fil-A’s trademarks, copyrights, and popular promotional campaign, is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A’s intellectual property and diminishes its value.”
Well, this past week the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gave some credence to Chick-fil-A’s claims when it issued a preliminary denial of Muller-Moore’s trademark application for “Eat More Kale.”
The USPTO ruled that the kale-based slogan is too similar to “Eat mor chikin,” namely that “the marks urge action in the same way, only as to different substances, and both of them are commonly consumed types of food.
Muller-Moore has six months to respond, but for now he has commented publicly that, to him, “[the trademark process] seems designed to favor corporations and just roll over mom-and-pops.”
What do you think of the “Eat More Kale” trademark? Should it be granted or is it too similar to “Eat Mor Chikin?”
Chris “Birdman” Andersen of the NBA’s Miami Heat is seeking to trademark his nickname so that others cannot profit by using his name or likeness.
Andersen is well-known for the spark he has provided to the Heat in this season’s playoffs, his mohawk and colorful tattoos, as well as for his charitable work. As Andersen’s attorney and agent Mark Bryant has noted, “everything [Andersen] makes goes to charity. Plans are even in the works for the launch of the Freebird Foundation for the benefit of underprivileged children.
Trademarking “Birdman” would give Andersen the legal right to stop others from producing unauthorized merchandise with his likeness or name — the proceeds of which would most likely never see Andersen’s charity.
With his trademark application, Andersen joins an ever-growing group of athletes who have moved to trademark nicknames or phrases associated with them. Over the past several months, we’ve seen applications for “Linsanity” by the NBA’s Jeremy Lin, “Johnny Football” by Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, “Fear the Brow” and “Raise the Brow” by the NBA’s Anthony Davis, and “Kaepernicking” by San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
What do you think of this trend of athletes’ trademarking words or phrases linked with them?
Huffington Post has reported that two separate applications were made to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to secure the exclusive rights to use the phrase on merchandise. Both were filed on April 17, two days after the bombings, and both seek to use the phrase on “clothing and accessories.”
“Boston Strong” quickly became the slogan to represent the city’s resilient spirit, emerging as a hashtag on Twitter as well as on graphics, including t-shirts.
One application was made by Born Into It Inc., a Massachusetts-based t-shirt company that operates the online retail site Chowdaheadz.com; the other was filed by Kerim Senkal, also of Massachussetts. Chowdaheadz.com already sells several t-shirts related to the bombings, including at least two designs featuring the phrase “Boston Strong.”
According to the website, “ A donation of 20% of every online order will be donated [to the Boston One Fund] from 4/15-4/30.”
Born Into It owner Ryan Gormady told HuffPo that his company’s “interest isn’t to police the mark [but] more to indemnify and protect ourselves and our colleagues and partners.”
A statement on the company’s website expands:
This filing was done right away before the phrase really caught on and was simply done to protect us from someone else pursuing the term as an actual trademark, going through the process, and then trying to enforce it on us. We had no idea at the time that this phrase would grow to where it has and become such a big rally cry for our city.
What do you think of these attempts to trademark “Boston Strong?”
In Marion County, Oregon, a juror in a criminal trial was jailed for two days after the presiding judge caught him texting.
Benjamin Kohler, 26, was singled out by Judge Dennis Graves when the “light glow around [Kohler’s] chest” clued the judge in to the fact that the juror was using his cell phone. Graves had instructed the jurors specifically to not use mobile devices, but Kohler got busted texting during the transmission of a video interview with the defendant, who had been accused of armed robbery, while the lights were dimmed.
At that point, Graves ordered all the jurors but Kohler from the courtroom and imposed a two-day jail sentence for contempt of court.
“The duty to serve as a juror must be taken very seriously. Every juror has the responsibility to devote his entire attention to the witnesses and evidence being presented,” Graves said via statement. “In this case, Mr. Kohler failed to meet his obligations and failed to honor the direction of this court. My hope is that he will use his time in jail to reflect upon his behavior.”
Kohler “had no explanation for his actions” according to officials. He was dismissed from his role as a juror, and an alternate took his place to complete the trial, which ended in a conviction of the defendant.
What do you think of this judge’s action? Should texting while performing one’s civic duty as a juror be punishable by jail or otherwise? Or did the judge go too far? Do you have experience texting while serving on a jury?
Welcome to this week’s small business news weekly roundup!
In this week’s roundup, we’ll discuss whether you’re insured for growth, how you can prepare your small biz for disasters such as terrorist attacks, how you can streamline your business, how you can boost employee morale, and how you can help your business “go green.”
First, here is another great roundup:
- This Week in Small Business: Free Lunch?: The New York Times shares links to articles on everything small biz owners need to know about the president’s budget, tech companies that offer free lunches drawing the attention of the IRS, why your least engaged employees may be your top performers, what your business can learn from the NCAA tournament, and much more.
And now, the rest!
- Are You Insured for Growth?: Time discusses the importance of making sure your insurance coverage keeps pace with your business needs and how you can do so.
- What You Can Do, in the Face of Boston Bombings: Inc. offers practical advice on how your small business can be prepared for disasters, including terrorist acts.
- 4 Ways to Streamline Your Small Business Today: Forbes discusses how to make your business more efficient while reducing costs, maximizing resources, and increasing customer satisfaction.
- 5 Ways to Boost Employee Morale in Your Small Business: Great advice on how you can keep your employees happy to ensure optimal productivity.
- 4 Simple Ways to Help Your Small Business Go Green Today: Greener Ideal offers ideas on how you can “go green” and in the process benefit your business, reduce your carbon footprint, and even attract a new target market.
What’s new in your small business world this week?
The sister of deceased actor Michael Clarke Duncan has hired a lawyer to investigate whether her brother was unduly influenced when he changed his will several months before his death.
Duncan, best known for his role in The Green Mile, died last September at age 54 after a heart attack suffered two months previously. He had changed his will in April of 2012 in order to leave the bulk of his estate to his fiancée, Omarosa Manigault, noted Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice contestant.
According to TMZ, Duncan’s sister Judy, who was left $100,000 in Duncan’s will, has also said that Manigault sold some of Duncan’s personal effects while he was hospitalized without the family’s consent. Judy also alleges that when she saw her brother in December 2011, he was somewhat out of sorts, including slurring his words, which she may have mentioned to imply he may not have been of sound mind in April 2012 when he changed his will.
Manigault, however, as quoted at TMZ, maintains that she doesn’t “control the estate or the finances and Judy knows it. If you saw all of her emails and texts to me you would see that she is just trying to get money from me, and threatened going to the press if I did not give it to her and that is a crime!”
At this point, there has not been any formal challenge to Duncan’s will, but for more on what a will contest entails, have a look at What Does It Mean to Contest a Will?, which discusses who may contest a will as well as how and why a will contest may occur.