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Copyright & Tweeting Your Images

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Shutterstock/Scott Maxwell/LuMaxArt

Shutterstock/Scott Maxwell/LuMaxArt

Daniel Morel was born in Haiti in 1951. As a young child he already knew that wanted to become a photographer, because he thought it would teach him to be fearless. For decades, his award-winning photographs have captured the culture and history of Haiti.

During the January 2010 earthquake, Morel captured images of the destruction through his camera’s lens. He shared the pictures via Twitpic, a free service which let him tweet his photos very quickly to Twitter. However, someone else copied his photos to their Twitpic account and claimed ownership. Eventually Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Getty Images obtained the images and dispersed them to hundreds of newspapers and websites around the world.

A Mashable article followed the resulting litigation. In 2010, Morel sued AFP and Getty Images for copyright infringement in a New York federal court.

“AFP initially argued that Twitter allows for the fair use of photographs, but Judge Nathan ultimately ruled that Twitter allows for posting and retweeting, but not commercial use of photographs posted by users.”

In November 2013, a jury found in Morel’s favor and awarded him $1.2 million dollars based on a finding of willful infringement. According to PDN Pulse, AFP and Getty are now seeking to undo the jury verdict, which they call “a miscarriage of justice.”

AFP and Getty argued that their distribution of the images were mistakes and not willful. However an AFP employee testified in court that he did not follow company guidelines when he obtained images online. Further, a juror stated that, “the jury consider[ed] Getty’s infringement willful because e-mail evidence showed some Getty employees knew almost immediately that the images were Morel’s.” Yet they were credited to someone else.

It’s up to the judge to decide what happens next. However, all businesses should think twice before assuming that an image found via social media or online in general is subject to fair use. A photographer like Morel may very well hold the copyright.

Written by Lisa Johnson, Esq.

February 12th, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Facebook Eases Privacy Rules for Teenagers

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Shutterstock/Gil C

Shutterstock/Gil C

Parents beware: Your teenager’s Facebook posts may not be as private as you think.

The largest social media network of all, with a user base of more than a billion people worldwide, recently loosened available privacy settings for posts made by youths aged 13 to 17. With recent changes to default settings, only friends of the Facebook user will be able to see his/her post (as opposed to those friends’ friends). However, that user now also has the option to expand the reach of the post but making it completely public—an option that wasn’t previously available to teens on Facebook.

“Teens are among the savviest people using social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard,” stated an official post from Facebook announcing the change.

While new for Facebook, the option to share publicly via social media isn’t that novel for rival networks like Twitter, Instagram and Vine, where any user of any age can create public posts. This change for Facebook is perhaps tied to not just being able to compete with other social platforms’ functionality, but also for the ad dollars being spent on them. The stakes are certainly high: industry research projects brands will spend $10 billion dollars a year on social media advertising by 2017.

This change may also indicate that Facebook is struggling to retain the 13-17-year-old demographic—coveted by big brands that want to market to them—and wants to make the network appear more open and, well, social. Recent reports indicate that daily activity on Facebook by teens is trending downward.

Regardless of which social media networks gain popularity with kids in the future, the key takeaway for concerned parents is to talk to teens about being a responsible user of social platforms, and reminding them that anything that’s posted online is going to be there forever. Being careful of what’s posted—and making an effort to review and understand each post’s visibility settings—can go a long way in protecting one’s privacy.

 

Written by Bilal Kaiser

February 11th, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Privacy

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Bill Would Prevent Employers From Using Credit Checks in Hiring

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AP Photo

Shutterstock/Ivelin Radkov

Too often in the United States, potential employees aren’t hired for positions because of a bad credit score. But some lawmakers are hoping to curb this practice with a new bill.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, along with six of her colleagues, introduced a bill last December that “would prevent employers from using credit checks in the hiring process, a practice that disproportionately hurts poor people,” according to Mother Jones. Warren, a Democrat who represents Massachusetts, aims to protect people from being discriminated against simply because of their credit reports.

In a poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, it was found that 47 percent of employers use credit checks to determine if an applicant would be fit for a job. It’s also been shown that credit checks are unfair for minorities, low-wage employees, and women, who are frequently offered sub-prime mortgages and tend to be less financially stable than their ex-husbands following a divorce.

In an interview with Mother Jones, Warren stressed that a credit score doesn’t reveal a person’s character. It simply demonstrates that he or she has been through rough financial times. “A bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected medical costs, unemployment, economic downturns, or other bad breaks than it is a reflection on an individual’s character or abilities,” she said.

Along with support from colleagues like senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), and Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts), the bill is also being backed by more than 40 different financial reform, community, and civil and labor rights groups. Three years ago, House Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) initiated legislation that was similar to Warren’s. Nine states have so far enacted laws that curtail employers’ rights to use credit checks in the hiring process.

Rather than looking at someone’s credit score, employers should be paying attention to applicants’ skills and resume, according to Warren. “Families have not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and too many Americans are still searching for jobs,” she told Mother Jones. “This is about basic fairness—let people compete on the merits, not on whether they already have enough money to pay all their bills.”

Written by Kylie Jane Wakefield

February 4th, 2014 at 8:28 am

How Enforceable Is a “No Overnight Guests” Clause in a Lease?

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Joe Escalante, Attorney

Signed a year lease (generic form), because of options and time crunch (closing of home vs. finding an apartment who accepts pets). Landlord’s daughter had handwritten on the lease that I cannot have any overnight guests. Please tell me how enforceable by the landlord this is (I’m a 45-year-old woman, not a teenie-bopper). If my cousin or boyfriend for that matter is too tired to drive home or the weather is bad out, I have to tell them, “Too bad, take your chances?” I am paying monthly to live here and no one is overstaying their welcome or moving in with me.

Thanks Joe, tell me something good—

– Cathy Frusciante

 

Barely Legal Radio w/ Joe Escalante

From the circumstances you’ve described, I would say that would be hardly enforceable as a material breach if the overnight stay was reasonable as you described.

What you might do is declare in a letter that sometimes you have overnight guests in emergencies and you do not consider that a material breach of the agreement. If the landlord writes back objecting, then fight it out, but that probably won’t happen.

Your landlord will most likely ignore it, or tell you it’s OK. Either way, you are going to be fine. An ignored written notification will be good evidence against her if she ever tries to evict you for it.

Attorney Joe Escalante answers your legal questions for free on our Facebook page every Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m. PT.

Written by Johanna

February 3rd, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Legal News

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How Important Is a Band Partnership Agreement?

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Joe Escalante, Attorney

Hey Joe – How important is a partnership agreement between the band before distribution and any money comes in?

– Mike Bush

 

Barely Legal Radio w/ Joe Escalante

This is way more important than copyrighting songs in my opinion. If you have a partnership agreement in place before there is a hint of success or money, you will prevent thousands, if not millions of dollars going to lawyers for fights that will occur. And I repeat, they will occur. They ALWAYS do.

Your band will always break up and fight over income and assets. Chances of songs being stolen are very small, but the band fight is inevitable. That’s why I created the band partnership agreement for LegalZoom. It’s very important.

Check this out for more info on band partnership agreements: https://www.legalzoom.com/legalforms/band-partnership-agreement

Attorney Joe Escalante answers your legal questions for free on our Facebook page every Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m. PT.

Written by Joe Escalante

February 3rd, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I Have a Great Idea for a Business But No Money – Any Advice?

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Joe Escalante, Attorney

I have a great idea for a business that I am at least 90% positive would succeed. Problem is I am not a millionaire, so I don’t really have the money to even get the ball rolling, so to speak. Any advice or ideas?

– Nick Greco

 

Barely Legal Radio w/ Joe Escalante

My advice is to partner with someone who has an existing complementary business. Like if your idea is a cheap do-it-yourself doughnut kit, propose the idea to someone succeeding in the food industry, like a guy with a successful cupcake shop.

He will supply the money and the business infrastructure, and you will supply the enthusiasm and sweat equity. You will split everything 50/50 or 60/40, or 75/25, depending on how valuable you are to the project.

What if he steals your idea? Well, that could be a problem. The official way to avoid this is to have potential partners sign a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA.

However, those are kind of hard to get people to sign if you are new. You might just have to blurt out your idea to people you trust and hope for the best. Check out all the NDAs that LegalZoom has. Good luck.

Check this out for more info on NDAs: https://www.legalzoom.com/legalforms/

Attorney Joe Escalante answers your legal questions for free on our Facebook page every Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m. PT.

Written by Johanna

February 3rd, 2014 at 2:57 pm

In Search of a Quickie Divorce?

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Shutterstock/Dirk Ercken

Shutterstock/Dirk Ercken

Once upon a time, the state of Alabama offered couples looking for a “quickie divorce” a good option. In fact, as noted by columnist Steve Flowers, between the years of 1945 and 1970, the so-called Bible Belt state “flourished as a divorce mill” and was even labeled as the divorce capital of the country by a Time magazine article in 1962.

This distinction came about because of an Alabama law passed in 1945 that did away with the requirement that the petitioners for divorce had to be state residents for one year. The possibility of a quickie divorce even attracted celebrities and made many an Alabama lawyer quite wealthy in the process.

Today, however, Alabama requires that the plaintiff in a divorce proceeding to have been a resident of the state for at least six months if the defendant is not a resident. Most states, in fact, have a similar residency requirement and/or a “cooling off” period that can prolong divorce proceedings.

So what is a couple in search of a quickie divorce to do?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the state of Nevada, in addition to being famous for its offering of the quickie marriage, is also the best state in the country for those seeking a fast divorce. Even Nevada, however, does require in-state residency of at least six weeks before filing.

Some other options for U.S. residents are the Dominican Republic and Guam, though each has some potential hurdles as well. For instance, the Dominican Republic requires that at least one party attend the divorce hearing and also, many states do not recognize the validity of a divorce granted there.

A divorce in Guam, however, is recognized in all U.S. states as the territory falls under U.S. jurisdiction, but there is a 90-day residency requirement, which can often be sidestepped through the use of loopholes in the law. A Guam divorce may be granted in as little as a few days.

So although Alabama may be out of the question for those who want to get unhitched quickly, there are still other options out there for a quickie divorce — especially if you’re willing to travel, armchair or otherwise.

Written by Michelle Fabio

January 31st, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Divorce

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House Passes Anti-Troll Legislation

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DoNotFeedTroll by Sam Fentress via Wikipedia Commons

DoNotFeedTroll by Sam Fentress via Wikipedia Commons

You may have noticed an increase in the mention of patent trolls in the news and the negative impact that they often have on small businesses. A recent LegalZoom article discussed some of the issues.

“A Patent Assertion Entity (PAE), also known as a “patent troll,” is an individual or company that acquires patent rights for innovations developed by others—either by purchasing questionable business method patents or other active patents, sometimes from companies in bankruptcy—solely for the purpose of filing claims against unwitting infringers. In some estimates, more than 60 percent of patent lawsuits are brought by NPEs today, while in 2006 the rate was about 19 percent. These estimates don’t include those who were threatened with a lawsuit but never sued. For most victims, the only two choices are to pay the claim or fight it in court, a daunting prospect most can’t afford. The threat of lawsuit alone leads many to settle rather than risk a costly court battle.”

On December 5, 2013, the House of Representatives passed the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309). The legislation, introduced back in October,  was sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. The Innovation Act seeks to halt abusive patent litigation. Goodlatte released a statement in response to the bill’s passage.

“In recent years, we have seen an exponential increase in the use of weak or poorly-granted patents by so-called patent trolls to file numerous patent infringement lawsuits against American businesses with the hopes of securing a quick payday.  Everyone from independent inventors, to start-ups, to mid and large sized businesses face this constant threat.

“The enactment of the Innovation Act is something I consider central to U.S. competiveness, job creation, and our nation’s future economic security. The bipartisan legislation takes meaningful steps to address the abusive practices that have damaged our patent system and resulted in significant economic harm to our nation.  I am encouraged by the overwhelming support the Innovation Act received in the House and I look forward to working with the Senate to see that patent litigation reform legislation is signed into law.”

Written by Lisa Johnson, Esq.

January 29th, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Plagiarism In A First Draft

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AP Photo

Kent State University seal by JonRidinger via Wikipedia Commons

Many of us may remember a particularly harrowing paper that we wrote for school. Writing, researching and editing draft after draft until it was finally ready to be seen by a teacher or professor. Very few, if any of us, would have wanted to be judged by the first draft. A first draft is just the start.

However, according to an article by writer Doug Brown of Scene, that is what happened to Carolyn Pfeiffer-Fiala. Further, she was also charged with plagiarism. The charge might not have been as serious if she had been in grade school, high school or maybe even pursuing her undergraduate degree. It would probably not have resulted in her filing a lawsuit against her school. But it did.

The November 2013 Complaint alleges breach of contract among other things. Pfeiffer-Fiala was a doctoral candidate (Ph.D) in education at Kent State in Ohio enrolled from 2008 through 2013. She spent over $50,000.00 pursuing her Education Specialist Degree.

In the fall of 2012, Pfeiffer-Fiala was working on her dissertation and submitted more than 50 pages of a first draft of Chapter One. The plan was to discuss her progress and the content with Kristie Pretti-Frontzcak, who was supervising her work. Instead, her supervisor accused her of plagiarism and she ended up having to withdraw from Kent State without her degree.

The Complaint states, “Defendant knew that the dissertation to be submitted was merely a first draft submittal and that the draft was subject to revision, correction, and incompleteness.”

Pfeiffer-Fiala denies the allegations of plagiarism and states that her reputation has suffered and is impacting her ability to find work. She is seeking reinstatement at Kent or to be awarded her degree and monetary damages. The case was referred for mediation by the Court of Claims of Ohio to the Dispute Resolution Section of the Ohio Supreme Court, where it remains.

Do you think that it’s fair to hold a first draft to the same plagiarism standard as a final version?

Written by Lisa Johnson, Esq.

January 27th, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Legal News

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Ripping Off Indie Artists

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Owls by (L-R) Abigail Brown and Cody Foster

Owls by (L-R) Abigail Brown and Cody Foster

The next time you’re in the market for a unique, handmade, locally crafted ornament for your home or necklace for your loved one, make sure you’re buying the real thing. According to one anonymous source, there are a lot of imitators out there.

A popular wholesaler of homemade items and accessories, Cody Foster and Co., has been accused of stealing designs from artists and selling them as their own, according to Yahoo Shine. The company was outed by an anonymous Flickr user who, since 2010, has been posting photos of its products alongside that of the artists’ original work. Currently Cody Foster sells to big stores like Nordstrom, Madewell, and Anthropologie, as well as to small boutiques.

“People seem to think lines of ownership are blurred now that it’s so easy to share images on Facebook and Pinterest, but an artists’ intellectual property is always their own unless they express otherwise,” the anonymous woman told Yahoo Shine.

She also alerted some of the artists like Lisa Congdon and Abigail Brown, who were shocked to see that their work was copied and being pawned off as original by Cody Foster. Congdon draws illustrations of polar bears and elks, while Brown makes owl-themed products. Both of their work was allegedly imitated and sold for cheap prices to stores.

Cassandra Smith, an artist who paints deer antlers that are to be hung on the wall, sells her products for $138 each. Cody Foster makes them available for $7.50 each. Smith said that Cody Foster changed nothing about their copies, including the paint jobs and patterns.

After the anonymous source went public with the imitation allegations, Cody Foster’s catalogue, Twitter feed, and blog became subscription only. The company claims to be a small, mom-and-pop wholesaler, but Smith doesn’t buy it. Now, both Congdon and Smith have gotten in touch with lawyers and are pursuing legal action.

Congdon told Yahoo Shine that by hiring a lawyer, she’s not claiming that she’s owed a ton of money. She said, “My main goal is to expose them.”

Written by Kylie Jane Wakefield

January 21st, 2014 at 8:48 am

Posted in Legal News

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