Tag Archives: legal

Just ASK – Making Photo-Legal Groundwork Add Up

ari-2

There are few mediums which can universally capture the hearts and minds of people like the perfect photo.  When updating your website, blogging or developing ads for your business, the hunt is always on for the images that say it all.  Just don’t be tempted to turn a blind eye to the origins of those perfect images and the conditions for copying them, in case you find yourself exposed because of a copyright violation.

Your exposure is no less just because you may have relied on someone else to put your website, blog content or ad together and get those little copyright details right. Your business is your business and you have the responsibility to make sure it is not threatened by wasted investment, a senseless tarnishing of its reputation and in some cases, litigation that bleeds your time and your profits. Taking the time to find photo perfection may mean digging around a bit, but in the end the effort will help you and your business stand tall above the rest.

Let’s start from the obvious – the mantra everyone knows – just because a photo can be downloaded from the internet does not mean it is free to use.

Okay, great, so you know that, but what about stock photos?  You may have paid for them, but you still have to read the fine print.  Not all stock photos can be used for any purpose, or come with permission for indefinite usage.  Similarly, accessing images under a Creative Commons license (e.g. through Flickr) is still a license and has terms that have to be respected to stay on the right side of the law. These are issues you have to educate yourself about, either through your own research or by asking the professional who helps you put your ad together.

And what about those photos you commission? Again, there are questions you need to ask to be sure you can put them to the uses you are contemplating to market your business:

  • If there are models in the photos, were model release forms executed?
  • Will you own the copyright in those photos? This is a question to discuss with the photographer in advance.
  • If the photographer won’t assign to you their copyrights in the photos taken for the benefit of your business, do you have a solid agreement (license) that you can rely on to use the photos the way you want to?

When it comes to getting the ‘pics’ you want for your business use, you always have to be prepared to assess your resources, seek the appropriate rights to use them and be prepared to adapt if too many unknowns are left unanswered. While it may feel like only one image can say it all, remember that neither you nor your business is one, or even two dimensional – there is more than one photo waiting to be snapped, or out there, to help capture the brilliance of your enterprise and message.

In summary, your photo-legal groundwork boils down to a simple practice – Just ASK:

Approach, get consent and acknowledge the original source of the images you use.

Substitute with other images, if in doubt about making copies of your first choice ‘pics’.

Know your options because today there are many, and there is really no reason you can’t be efficient finding the imagery you want without jeopardizing the integrity of your enterprise.

 

Ariadni Athanassiadis is the lead attorney of Kyma Professional Corporation, which provides intellectual property (IP) legal services to help your business develop and benefit from the creative efforts and assets that make it distinctive. Whether it is your brand, product, services, designs, technology or business processes, Ariadni can help design IP legal solutions which let you make the most of what you give to your business.

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Ariadni Athanassiadis

Kyma Professional Corporation

T: 613-327-7245

E: ariadni@kymalaw.com

W: www.kymalaw.com

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Reaching for the Moon – Entrepreneurship and the Alchemy of Ideas and Relationships

 

ari-2In the coming months, I plan to cover those indispensable tips for working with various forms of intellectual property (IP) in your business, such as copyrights and trademarks.  To set the stage, I would like to touch on the desire we have as entrepreneurs to protect our “ideas”.  At the risk of bursting some bubbles, the reality is that the legal system is really not designed to protect ideas. Instead, the whole premise behind having IP legal regimes is to promote the conceptualization, application and exchange of ideas. So if this is the case, why have IP legal regimes or “protect” anything in the first place?

 Before going down a rabbit hole, let me back-up for a moment and try to clarify what I mean when I use the word “idea”. To me an idea is what comes from inspiration, like the epiphany in the mid-20th century that we could fly to the moon. Examples of innovation and creativity around this idea are everywhere, and include everything from Sinatra’s classic rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon,” to NASA’s Apollo missions, to today’s quest by Branson and others to make private space travel a reality. Our drive to innovate is so core to our humanity it bubbles up everywhere, all the time, in all corners of the universe, in all arts, fine or technical, and in all human enterprise and cultures.

So it is not the ideas, but the innovation that flows from them that is addressed by our society. One way this is done is reflected in IP legal regimes. These regimes speak to what happens when an idea is being translated into a result and made accessible to the public. This can only happen in the co-creative processes that take place in relationship with one another. In these relationships there will be intersecting interests and layered rights that arise and are engaged. Innovation in business is no less personal or fundamental to our existence as it is in other areas of our life, and like many other social imperatives can be supported by guidelines and frameworks for balancing interests and contributions to it. While the debate is always open about whether or not existing frameworks help or take away from achieving the best balance, society will always seek to find harmony through constructs for managing relationships.

The two primary issues that IP legal regimes address are who benefits from intellectual endeavour and how. In general terms, the various regimes create economic rights for creators/innovators and rights of use for the public because, after all, the governments and legal systems that grant rights in the form of patents, trademarks, copyright, industrial designs and trade secrets (confidential information) are there for and on behalf of the public.

So when NASA decides to release a chunk of its patent portfolio (under certain terms and conditions of course –http://www.sciencealert.com/nasa-just-released-56-patented-space-and-rocket-technologies-to-the-public) we are witnessing that the way things may have been done in the past can change and adapt to the way they need to be for the future, shifting the balance point in the relationship between governments, the marketplace, and the public interest.

At the end of the day, innovation is fueled by a continuing tradition of alchemy between ideas and the relationships which shape and mould them. In my experience, the ideas can be relatively easy to come by, but the magic comes from what we do in relationship with one another on our quests for the philosopher stone, or perhaps, just a little moon rock.

Ariadni Athanassiadis is the lead attorney of Kyma Professional Corporation, which provides intellectual property (IP) legal services to help your business develop and benefit from the creative efforts and assets that make it distinctive. Whether it is your brand, product, services, designs, technology or business processes, Ariadni can help design IP legal solutions which let you make the most of what you give to your business.

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Ariadni Athanassiadis

Kyma Professional Corporation

T: 613-327-7245

E: ariadni@kymalaw.com

W: www.kymalaw.com

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Intellectual Property is Your Business and “A rose by any other name …”

 

ari-2

I remember my first exposure to Shakespeare in high school and the stress it caused when I realized that somehow I had to understand what looked like English, but which to me, might as well have been written in Klingon. I have witnessed the same stress in business owners when the topic and lingo of intellectual property comes up. The way to get through it, like anything else, is to start with what does make sense and go from there. So, with that in mind, let me recount to you the gist of two conversations I recently had with business owners about intellectual property and their business.

 

Do I really need to bother with intellectual property?

The short answer to that question is IP is always part of your business, so why wouldn’t you? Let’s also consider, however, the context for the question.

The question was prompted after a business owner received mixed messages from her board of advisors about the relevance of intellectual property (IP) to her business, an enterprise focused on educating young entrepreneurs. The different perspectives of her advisors ranged from “forget about IP” to “worry about it later”; focus instead on your “value proposition and managing risk”.

This thinking reveals some common misconceptions about what IP is and the role it plays in a business. The first was that IP can somehow be disassociated from managing risk and is extraneous to the brand, content, and expertise, at the core of her business. In fact, in this case, content is her product, and so the value proposition of her business is all about IP.  Selling her brand of content fundamentally relies on working with her copyrights and trademark rights. Whether or not she chooses to register these IP rights is another question, but even if she does not, she will still be using those rights in her transactions with publishers, distributors and customers.

Then there is the idea that you can put off addressing IP issues until you have some traction in the marketplace and some cash to spare. While addressing IP issues early on can indeed pull on meager start-up resources, suggesting you can cut IP out of the business incubation stage is like saying you can add yeast to bread to make it rise after you have baked it. In reality, you can make the most of the bread (and butter) of your business if you take the time to consider the legal nature of your creative assets from the get go. To do otherwise, is to risk not achieving the very thing you set out to do.

 

If I am dealing with intellectual property in my business, I don’t know it.

The business owner who raised this point works with a number of artisans and was thoughtfully reflecting on how business relationships seem to work fine without bringing intellectual property into the conversation. I get it. The more you talk about “legal stuff”, the harder it can be to get folks on board. The thing is, at the risk of being repetitive, IP is part of the equation even if not seen or acknowledged, and the math generally will not work in the long run if it is not somehow accounted for. So knowing this, would you rather address IP issues before or after they become a problem?

While the language of IP is not the most prosaic, understanding and talking about what something is, instead of around it, makes for clear, transparent and informed conversations, conducive to building solid business relationships. You can also save everyone the trouble of investing in relationships which are not a fit to begin with.

Whenever I have had this discussion with small business owners, I am reminded of my early days as a gardener, going to the nursery, buying plants and overlooking some of the details about how to care for them in different seasons. During the summer, flowers bloomed and there was new growth. In the fall and winter I would bypass a few steps to help the plants weather the colder days, and then when spring arrived, there was not much of a garden to speak of. Out of pocket and starting over, it was clear that there is no substitute for having a few targeted conversations and paying attention to the details.

And so it is with IP and your business relationships –  a more thorough understanding of your creative assets is always a plus and with this knowledge, the options for cultivating business plans and relationships become more numerous, adaptable, sustainable and reflective of the real value of your business.

 

Ariadni Athanassiadis is the lead attorney of Kyma Professional Corporation, which provides intellectual property (IP) legal services to help your business develop and benefit from the creative efforts and assets that make it distinctive. Whether it is your brand, product, services, designs, technology or business processes, Ariadni can help design IP legal solutions which let you make the most of what you give to your business.

———————————

Ariadni Athanassiadis

Kyma Professional Corporation

T: 613-327-7245

E: ariadni@kymalaw.com

W: www.kymalaw.com

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Why you should not download a legal template from the Internet

Karima

As a Canadian entrepreneur and small business owner, chances are you’ve downloaded, at least once, a legal document from the Internet. Whether for an employment contract, a partnership agreement, a finder’s fee, a non-disclosure agreement, a final invoice letter or a general agreement, you’ve probably turned to the Internet in the hope that a free template would help you cut costs. After all, the terminology looks complex enough, so we may think the document will be good to use.

Here enters Randy Ai, an employment lawyer I met through my professional networking group. A couple of weeks later, we sat down to learn more about each other and our businesses. While we chatted – him about employment law and me about how social media can help businesses establish their online presence and grow – it became clear to me that we had great synergies. Most entrepreneurs and small business owners are always looking for ways to sustain our business while keeping costs down and stay profitable. The Internet and Google is where most of us turn for responses to our questions and for free documents. One of the topics Randy Ai and I tackled was how entrepreneurs and small businesses download legal templates from the Internet, and the cases he frequently sees in his practice. The conclusion is, “don’t cheap out on legal by downloading templates from the Internet”, and here is why.

The legal document you are downloading from the Internet contains irrelevant or too much information. Chances are that the template you found on the Internet is not customized to your business and situation. In addition, most templates are American or have an American focus, so they likely won’t be valid in Canada. The document may contain a high volume of extra noise that does not apply to your business situation and just adds irrelevant information. Unless you are legally trained, you don’t know how to separate the “junk” and the part of the contract that applies. As an example, the notion of Employment at will exists in most employment contract templates you’ll find online, but as this is an American concept, it can’t be enforced in Canada. Thus, you are exposing yourself and your business to liability and in case of dispute, you will have to hire a lawyer because part of the contract is invalid.

The legal document you are downloading from the Internet is missing key clauses. When you’re using a template off the Internet, these documents are not customized for your situation, as we’ve established. That means it puts you and your business at risk of liability. In case of a dispute, this sort of template is not tailored to your needs and you might as well have no agreement. Having missing information is as bad as having too little information or inadequate clauses that don’t protect you. When you are a business owner entering into a legally binding relationship with someone else, you need a solid contract that will take into account the types of issues that may take place.

The legal document you are using is easily attacked. A template downloaded from the Internet easily falls apart, since it was not drafted specifically for you and your business. A defense lawyer could easily attack the integrity of the document and compromise its validity in court. Furthermore, as the law changes frequently, a contract is not a static document. Thus, the downloaded template you’re using may be obsolete and no longer applicable. In addition, the wording alone can make your document unenforceable and easily attackable in case of a dispute. The judge can look at your document and decide it does not make sense. By using one of these documents, you’re exposing yourself to liability.

Now that I’ve explained why using a legal document from the Internet is useless at best and, at worse, dangerous for you and your business, there a few ways you can protect yourself and what you’re working so hard for:

1 – Legal fees are typically seen as a cost instead of an investment. Spending two to three hours with a lawyer can prevent you from being sued, being dragged to court or simply having to settle and pay someone large amounts of money. If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, you still may seek some legal advice through Legal Aid or through the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Lawyer Referral Service.

2 – If you still decide to download the template, we advise you to send it to a lawyer for review. This may cut down on costs. The industry standard is that entrepreneurs and small business owners should spend 5 to 8 percent of their initial capital on legal fees. As Randy Ai says, “If you’re not going to spend any money towards setting up your business, you are not doing your job as an entrepreneur.”

3 – Another reason to seek legal advice is that it brings credibility to your business and sends a strong signal to your ecosystem that you are serious about your success.

As an entrepreneur, I am aware that setting up a business requires lots of hard work and dedication. But there are areas where you can’t cut corners. Randy emphasized that legal advice is one of the cornerstones to setting up a successful and sustainable business. For any legal advice related to employment law, connect with Randy Ai by email (Randy@Randyai.com) or by telephone (416-716-2256).

Karima-Catherine is the co-founder of Red Dot Digital, a digital agency that strives to deliver top-notch solutions to various clients.  Red Dot Digital drives real, meaningful, quantifiable business outcomes for companies. Karima-Catherine is also the co-moderator of #MMchat, a Twitter weekly forum which focuses on business, marketing and social media.  

Connect with Karima-Catherine:

karima@reddotdigital.net

Website, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest

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