Some Answers About Work for Hire Agreements, Part II

We continue our discussion of work for hire agreements by addressing "termination rights" and why they matter in the work for hire context.  (more…)

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Make Sure It Really Is “Made In The USA”

Under California law, it is unlawful to advertise something as being "Made In The USA" if it was not, in fact, "Made In The USA".  The California Business and Professions Code §17533.7 says: It is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or association to sell or offer for sale in this State any merchandise on which merchandise or on its container there appears the words "Made in U.S.A." "Made in America," "U. S.A.," or similar words when the merchandise or any article, unit, or part thereof, has been entirely or substantially made, manufactured, or produced ...

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When Is The Right Time To Present A Contract To A Client?

Getting a contract signed can be one of the more intimidating aspects of working with clients. You have established a good relationship, a good rapport, and a common vision. You're both ready to work. Who wants to drag the whole thing down with a contract?  I find that clients and creatives often exchange or talk contracts after both parties have already become invested in the project. Nothing wrong with that, but I propose a few improvements that might make the whole process just a little more palatable. Get a contract before getting invested. A problem arises ...

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Why What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You

I am doing a series on work for hire agreements, as they are something that creative professionals seem to have many questions about. In that series, I will be breaking down some of the law and hopefully make the issue clearer. This post serves a slight aside to discuss a potential danger that arises from using a work for hire agreement unnecessarily.  In California, at least, work for hire agreements have the potential to give rise to criminal liability. Let me say that again: criminal liability. Huh? Well, according to California Labor Code §3351.5(c), an ...

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Some Answers About Work For Hire Agreements, Part I

Lots of creative professionals have clients who ask them to sign “work for hire” agreements that presumably transfer all rights under copyright law to the client. This request does seem to provoke anxiety, and I imagine that much of the anxiety comes because it is not always clear what a work for hire agreement is and does. I hope to clarify things by looking more closely at the purpose and value of a work for hire agreement. Author’s note: This was originally written as one long article, so that is why it will be introduced in three parts. Hopefully that aids in ...

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How Bitcoin Can Improve Art Authentication and Provenance

Lately, I have been doing a good deal of work with two topics that initially do not seem connected: Bitcoin and art authentication. Bitcoin is a virtual currency, and art authentication serves to demonstrate a chain of title of artworks in order to establish market value. Since Bitcoin fundamentally acts as a public ledger of transactions, it could be useful in the world of art authentication. Here are the basics. Even though Bitcoin is commonly considered as a virtual currency, small portions of Bitcoins (whose dollar value may be negligible) could be used as markers ...

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How Professional Photographers Protect Their Images From Online Infringement

Last week, the New Yorker published an article entitled "Taking Pictures: A Way for Photographers to Protect Their Work". It chronicles the methods that one particular photographer, Yunghi Kim, protects her work. She uses a variety of techniques that would be helpful to any professional photographer who seeks to prevent the widespread duplication and circulation of their work. Here is a little more information on what any photographer can do to protect their work. Photographers make a living by making images. To the extent that the Internet makes copying and distribut...

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Is Your Brand Too Descriptive To Get The Trademark Protection It Deserves?

The best time to think about the legal aspects of your brand and trademark is when you pick the mark, before you invest marketing money or try to get it registered. That's when it's time to consider the trademark "spectrum of distinctiveness" of brands and how that spectrum either contracts or expands your legal rights. To competently choose a brand that will function as a trademark, a basic understanding of the "spectrum" is in order. Judge Learned Hand identified the problem over a 100 years ago: I have always been at a loss to know why so many marks are adopted ...

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Three Reasons Your Trademark Application Will Be Rejected

Smart brand owners want to register their trademarks at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Doing so gives them a great deal of protection to ensure that someone else will not encroach upon their distinctive brand. However, before committing to choosing a mark it makes sense to consider a few preliminary issues. It's not great to invest time and money in your brand and in completing a trademark application only to have the USPTO reject your application. The following are just a few reasons that the USPTO will reject your trademark, but there are ...

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Three Legal Myths That Destroy Creative Businesses

Understanding the law makes for better and more robust creative businesses. As soon as your creative project or service enters the wider world, and enters the wider world as part of commerce, law comes into play in a giant way. Many creative businesses with otherwise amazing offerings fail because of poor legal planning. Certain legal myths have taken hold and continue to cause problems for creative businesses. Let's bust a few: "We didn't have a written contract, so my client doesn't have to pay me." Lots of variations on this one, but all of them rely on the assump...

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