The lawsuit against Katy Perry’s copyright infringement for her smash hit, “Dark Horse”, has come to a close. The singer was found guilty for copyright infringement in August 2019, and it cost her a whopping $2.78 million.
While the defense team argued Perry used basic pop music building blocks for the song, the jury found otherwise. The lesson to be learned is that one can never be too careful.
So what steps can creatives take to avoid getting sued for copyright infringement?
Be inspired, but don’t copy.
There’s a blurred line between saying one was inspired by a creative piece, and actually “taking” a part of it for your original idea. Even if Perry had admitted to using another artist’s song as inspiration for “Dark Horse”, the verdict shows that she was inspired a bit too much. The lesson here: admire others, but stay 100% original. If you question whether it may violate copyright laws, it probably does.
If you really love something, ask permission.
So let’s say you really, really love a song (or photograph or painting, etc.) and want to use some of it in your music (or artwork, etc.), you’re better off just asking and getting written permission. Find out who the owner is and ask if you could use it or have a license to use it. It’ll be a hit or miss (and may even cost you some — or a lot — of money), but it’s better than getting sued later on.
When in doubt, look it up.
If you have any questions regarding copyright — including how much of a work you can use (and in what manner) — definitely consider talking to a lawyer or doing some research through the U.S. Copyright Office website. Their FAQ page at the Copyright Office site has tons of answers you may be searching for, too.
“Choice, not circumstances, determines your success.” — Anonymous
Before social media, the typical business in America was sued an average of three times during its lifetime. Now that we have people and companies doing business on social media, I believe that number will probably double.
Why do I say this? Because what I’m seeing more often than not, are new business owners balancing elephants on their shoulders while walking on tightropes over shark-infested waters with their eyes closed. And here’s the kicker- they don’t even know they’re doing this.
The truth is, social media and related tools make it easy to “start a business,” and that’s great. But the reality is that many people are beginning this journey without any formal business experience. Even with the best intentions, they don’t understand or appreciate the importance of complying with mandatory rules, regulations, and laws. They’re completely unaware of the elephants and sharks in their lives.
Be Smart. Make Good Choices.
I’m a lawyer, and when it comes to doing business on social media, I want you to make good choices. To give you some context as to what I’ll be recommending, please know that over the last 32 years, I’ve helped hundreds of people start their business. I’ve also represented hundreds, and maybe even thousands of clients, with business-related claims and litigation matters.
I’ve been there, and done that, and know what landmines you need to be aware of.
Now before I dive too far into this post, I’d like to remind you that while I am a pretty good California lawyer, I’m not your lawyer. No legal advice is being given in this article. Reach out to an experienced lawyer in your state with questions or legal needs. If you need a good lawyer but don’t know where to start, I’m a big fan of the inexpensive LegalShield business model (it’s kind of like Uber for the law) which offers small to medium size business owners access to affordable legal services.
See what I just did? That’s called a disclaimer. I do try and walk my talk when sharing online 😉
With the above in mind, let’s get started. The first thing I recommend that you do when doing business online is to following these six suggestions:
#1: Do Business as a Corporation or Limited Liability Company.
A great way to maximize profits and minimize your personal liability exposure is to do business as a legal entity. The advantages include:
Reduce Personal Liability — these entities can shield you from liability for business debt or lawsuits. There’s a protective wall between your personal and business life. This wall helps protect your personal assets such as your home, cars, savings, and investments.
Reduce Taxes — these entities allow you to deduct expenses that a sole-proprietorship or partnership may not let you do. This includes healthcare, entertainment and travel expenses.
Maximize Retirement and Pension Plans– these plans can be grown more effectively and maximized faster using these entities. Additional tax benefits are also available, and these benefits result in increased profits.
Add Credibility to Your Business– these entities show that you’re serious about your business which is now registered in your state. Factors like credibility, prestige, and permanence are all byproducts of doing business as an entity.
Raise Money and Build Credit– these entities allow you more options to raise money through the sale of stock or transfer ownership via the transfer or sale of stock. You’ll also be able to establish and build a new credit profile distinct from your personal situation.
Manage Your Company– these entities allow you to use agreements that define how you will run your company and resolve disputes. Laws also control what you and other people involved in your business can and should do to run the business each day. This protects everyone involved.
Pro Tip: Most online business owners make this big mistake- They do business as a sole proprietor or general partnership. You never want to do this. There is just too much liability exposure.
In light of recent breaking news, business owners and entrepreneurs are wondering: what are the laws around recording conversations? Here’s what you need to know.
On the LegalHour.live, attorneys Joey Vitale and I share 36 combined years of legal and business experiencer and explain what every business owner, client and customer, needs to know when it comes to recording telephone calls. Click here to watch.
Many of you know me only as the “Streaming Lawyer.”
What you may not know is that for the past 32 years, I’ve been one of the Senior Partners of a California litigation and trial lawyer law firm that I started back in 1986 called “Jackson & Wilson, Inc.”
This past weekend we updated our law firm website with the help of Scorpion (full disclosure, I’m a brand ambassador for the company). We happen to think the new site is fantastic and would enjoy your feedback and suggestions. When you have a couple of minutes, please click here to take a look.
After 32 years of trying cases, representing thousands of clients, litigating against hundreds of defense attorneys, and appearing in front of hundreds of judges, here are the two most important things I believe you need to do BEFORE and AFTER hiring a lawyer. Please share if you think this adds value. Thank you!