Response to Go Topless Day 2014 in Phoenix

2013 Topless Freedom Day by rahmmason from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

2013 Topless Freedom Day by rahmmason from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’m a big advocate for equal rights – whether we’re talking about gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. I firmly believe that the law should apply equally to everyone and I’m grateful that the U.S. Supreme Court supported that ideal when they decided that “separate is not equal” in 1896.

Last weekend, I participated in the third annual Go Topless Day Protest in Phoenix. The purpose of Go Topless Day is to bring awareness to the fact that there in gender inequality under the decency law in my places (Phoenix included). Since men are allowed to be shirtless in public and women are not, everyone covered their areolas at this protest because women are required to. If we want to say that men and women are equal then everyone should be able to be shirtless or everyone should have to cover up.

About three dozen people showed up for the event in Phoenix, as did the press. I was interviewed by Fox 10 – who tried to be creative by doing a Garden of Eden thing – which made me look more naked than I really was. We gathered at Steele Indian School Park and marched up and down Central Avenue where we were met with lots of honks, cheers, and people taking photos. Fox posted a link to their footage on Facebook, and the last time I checked, it had over 1,100 likes and over 600 comments.

This is an issue about equality, not sexuality. How can we tell women and girls that they are equal to their male counterparts and then treat them differently under the law? I reached out to my elected representatives recently about this issue and was disappointed when none of them responded. They’re all up for re-election this November and I’ll keep that in mind when I’m filling out my ballot.

By requiring women to cover up, I think it promotes the objectification of women and the notion that women should be ashamed of their bodies. I shared some of those thoughts earlier this year on my personal blog.

I wanted to share some of the reactions to Fox 10 Phoenix’s coverage of the event as well as my thoughts. (I corrected the grammar and spelling mistakes.)

Ok, walk around topless. But don’t get mad when I look at them.
Looking is fine – especially if you can be discreet about it. Ogling and leering is not.

Hey I don’t want to see either, man or woman, keep the shirts on.
That’s fine. I want is for the law to be the same for men and women.

I don’t need my son seeing women walk around topless.
I’m sure there are lots of things you don’t want you kids to see that are legal.

I’m a woman and would rather not go topless.
Ok. When women were given the right to vote, we didn’t force you to do it. We just gave you the option. There are lots of things that I can legally do but I choose not to because I don’t like it – eat sushi, wear flip flops, and listen to heavy metal music are on my list – but if you want to enjoy them, go right ahead. Plenty of guys choose to keep their shirts on and so can you if the law is changed.

I will go along as long as there is an age and weight limit to it.
Will you support age and weight limits for men too?

Those women who want to walk around topless are going to attract perverts and sex offenders. They need to keep their shirts on for their own safety.
They are asking to get raped and or assaulted.
You’re kidding, right? No one deserves to be sexually assaulted regardless of what they’re wearing.

A woman’s breast is still considered to be an object of sexuality and till that changes – things will never be equal.
This is a great point and that as a society we need to examine how objectified women are.  Don’t look at anyone as if they only exist for your visual or physical enjoyment. They are a person, not a piece of meat.

While they are at it, have them sign up for the draft. Silly women, they don’t realize we have it so good.
I’d support making everyone sign up for the draft at 18 years old. If I want gender equality, I can’t pick and choose which laws change.

To those who claimed that the people who participated in this event are pot heads, hoes, or have no morals, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Special thanks to Fox 10 Phoenix, Downtown Devil, and the Phoenix New Times for covering this event and thank you to the Phoenix Police Department who kept us safe during the protest.

If you want to follow this issue in Arizona, check out Topless AZ on Facebook. You can also chat with me about it by commenting below, connecting with me on TwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle+YouTube, or send me an email. If you want more information about Carter Law Firm, please visit the homepage.

More Unsolicited Advice for Law Grads in Professional No Man’s Land

Empty Montreal Apartment by Reuben Strayer from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Empty Montreal Apartment by Reuben Strayer from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Last week I put out a post about networking tips for new law school grads who are working on their job search while waiting on their bar results. A few days ago I got an email from a law grad who is in this professional no man’s land. She said she’s been trying to network with various lawyers via email and she hasn’t received a response from any of them.

Her email happened to come in while I had some down time and I responded with “give me a call right now.” I think that scared the hell out of her. But a few minutes later my phone rang, and I gave her some off-the-cuff suggestions. Here are some of the ideas I shared with her and some others I’ve thought of since then.

1.  Make sure your email has a clear call to action. Are you asking a question, are you requesting a meeting, what do you want? If you’re looking for advice, be clear about the type of advice you’re looking for. This student was asking for “any advice” which is pretty broad. I suggested she might want to rephrase it and ask the next lawyer “What’s one thing you wish you knew at the beginning of your legal career?”

2.  Be thoughtful about your subject line. One of the challenges facing people who send unsolicited emails is inducing the recipient to open the message. Think about what it might take to get through that lawyer’s impulse to delete any email from someone they don’t know.

3.  Ask your career services office what lawyers comes to their events. Those lawyers have a track record of wanting to meet and help law students so they’ll likely help new grads too.

4.  Tap into you network and ask a lawyer you know to introduce you to a specific person you want to meet that they know. You can also ask your contacts if the know the type of lawyer you want to me – i.e., a lawyer who does probate work at a small firm.

5.  Look for lawyers who are active on social media, teach CLEs, and blog. I suspect these lawyers are more likely to talk to strangers via email.

6.  Connect with lawyers you want to meet on social media and look for mutual interests. This could be your “in” with them. For example, if you’re a runner and a lawyer you want to meet is also a runner, ask them how they balance the demands of their job with their training schedule.

7.  Social media could also give you a hook to get into their good graces. For instance, I’ve been following The Namby Pamby online since law school, which included posts about his preferred snacks. If he wasn’t an anonymous lawyer, and I lived in the same city and wanted to meet him, I would send him an email that said, “Can I have 15 minutes to bring you a box of Cheez-its and ask what a typical day is like for you?”

Being in professional No Man’s Land is hard. You may send out dozens of emails before you get a response. Focus on quality, not quantity. And don’t forget about the value of following up. The person may miss your first message in the shuffle of a busy day but your second message may peak their interest or remind them that they meant to respond to you.

And as this one recent law grad learned, if you send me an email, I’ll probably respond. You can also connect with me on TwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle+, and/or YouTube.

Important Money Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Piggy Bank Awaits the Spring by Philip Brewer from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Piggy Bank Awaits the Spring by Philip Brewer from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’ve been listening to, and loving, The Mistake Podcast, hosted by Peter Shankman and Peter Keller. Each week they interview a successful business owner or C-level executive about their biggest business mistake and what they learned from it. Shankman and Keller started this podcast earlier this year and I’m really enjoying hearing about others’ experiences building their businesses. Ironically enough, I usually listen to The Mistake Podcast during my morning run.

Some of the mistakes featured on the podcast have been about poor money management. I wanted to share these people’s mistakes with you so you can learn from them instead of repeating them.

Now, I’m not a financial expert or an accountant, but I’m lucky that I had a fantastic business mentor who showed me how to read and analyze my financial reports during my first year in business. I also have an awesome accountant who takes care of me and my business from a tax perspective. So, I’ll share a little about how I manage my business’ financials.

Understand Your Business Cycle and Cash Flow Needs
Gary Kanning of 420 Science, a business that makes “stash jars” learned the hard way how important it is to understand your business’ financial reports. He’s in a business where there a cycle over the course of the year with periods of high volumes of sales and lower volume months. Lots of businesses have this type of ebb and flow and it’s important to plan ahead so you’re not short on cash or inventory when you need it.

One of the gems from Kanning’s interview is never assume that everything is OK. If you’re the owner, it’s your responsibility to check your financial reports like your profit and loss statement and cash flow report to see where your money is coming from, where it’s going, and watching for patterns so that you can be ready when there’s a natural drop off in business.

One of the benefits for me as a solo business owner is it’s all on me to do everything. The only work related to the business’ finances that I don’t do myself is my taxes. Every week, I pay my bills. Every month, I have a two-hour meeting with myself where I pull my reports from Quickbooks and analyze  how the business is doing, look back on whether I achieved the goals set for the previous month, and make plans for the future.

More Profit = More Taxes
Amanda Steinberg is the founder of Daily Worth, a financial media company that educates women about personal and business finance. She’s also a serial entrepreneur. She had the fortunate experience of growing one of her businesses from $300K to $800K in one year, and she wasn’t ready for the $90K tax bill that came with it. She recovered from this mistake and learned a lot about the financial side of running a business.

If you’re an entrepreneur, there’s a good chance you pay quarterly taxes. That amount will be based on your financial performance the previous year. If you have a substantial jump in financial success, you could be writing a big check come April 15th despite paying your quarterly taxes. If you are having this type of success, you may want to talk with your accountant about what that will mean for you tax-wise so you won’t be caught off guard.

I meet with my accountant twice a year. I sit down with him when I drop off my materials for him to do my taxes and I meet with him every December to discuss how the business did for the year, to determine if I should do a spend down before the end of the year, and he gives me ballpark figures on what I can expect to pay in quarterly taxes and for my annual taxes the following year. Since I’m paranoid, I increase this amount on my projected financial reports and plan accordingly. If it ends up being less, I’m pleased; but I’d rather be prepared to pay more than worry about my cash flow.

I’ve said it many times – a good accountant is worth their weight in gold, and yes, every business owner needs one. But your accountant can only help you if you give him/her accurate information about your business, so maintain an open line of communication.

If you want to chat or commiserate about the joys and challenges of being an entrepreneur, feel free to connect with me on TwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle+YouTube, or send me an email. You can also subscribe to the firm’s monthly newsletter. If you want more information about Carter Law Firm, please visit the homepage.

Unsolicited Advice for Law Students: Expand Your Network Beyond Lawyers

Photo by Sarah (Rosenau) Korf from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Photo by Sarah (Rosenau) Korf from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

When I was in law school, the career service office did a good job of regularly having events that brought different types of lawyers to the school to meet students. I’m actually going to a new student/alumni event at my law school this week. (Yes, I’ll be wearing my signature Legal Rebel high tops.) A lot of firms also hosted mixers at their offices and invited law students – usually 1Ls – to visit at the beginning of each year.

Meeting local lawyers is a great way to learn about different areas of practice, the local legal industry, and to build a network of contacts that can help you find internships and a job after graduation. These will hopefully be people who will eventually refer work to you, but if they’re in the same area of practice, they’ll only refer cases that they can’t take or don’t want to take.

Many law schools don’t stress this, but it’s imperative that you have a life outside of law school – for personal and professional reasons.  This is especially true if you plan to live where you’re going to school after you graduate.

1. It’s important to remember what typical life is like. From what I can tell, the lifestyle of a law student or lawyer is not normal.

2. You’ll need things in your life that help you stay balanced and healthy – recreation, hobbies, exercise, spiritual life, etc.

3. Get involved in the community that you think will be your future clients. Understand what their lives are like – on a professional and personal level. And don’t “network” in the shake hands/exchange cards kind of way. Form real friendships with these people. This is your community – be part of it. Someday you may be in the running to become a partner or you may open your own firm and you’ll want a strong network of connection to build your book of business.

4. You never know where you’re going to discover a niche. You may become the go-to lawyer for football fans who need help with their child support arrangements or members of your church who get in car accidents. I never would have considered flash mob law as a career path until I got involved in the flash mob community.

5. Lawyers are everywhere. It may be easier to meet a lawyer at a legal networking event, but you’re more likely to form a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with one if share mutual interests. Some of my best lawyer contacts have come from introductions made by my non-lawyer friends. One of my favorite fellow lawyers is a guy I met at the dog park. We both have basset hounds.

One more thing – as you network with people, you’re going to need a way to keep track of your contacts. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a stack of business cards of people you met once and after a few months you won’t remember who’s who to do any effective follow up. You can probably make due with a spreadsheet, but I recommend getting a contact database like ACT! by Sage. It’s the only way I can keep track of my 1850+ contacts (only 333 of which are lawyers).

If you want to chat with me more about effective networking,  feel free to connect with me on TwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle+YouTube, or send me an email. Or if you really like me, tell your school you want them to be part of The Undeniable Law School Tour – happening in the spring of 2015.

Unsolicited Advice for Law Grads in Professional No Man’s Land

TransparencyCamp 2012 - #tcamp12 social network graph [1/2] by Justin Grimes from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

TransparencyCamp 2012 – #tcamp12 social network graph [1/2] by Justin Grimes from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I feel for new law school graduates who are in professional limbo. You’ve taken the bar exam but you won’t have results for weeks. You’re starting to look for jobs, but you know a lot of firms aren’t interested in you until you’ve gotten your law license.

If you haven’t secured a job, now is an optimal time to network with lawyers who practice in the type of firm you want to work at or in the area of law you hope to practice. If you started building some of these relationships prior to graduation, reach back out and invite these people to coffee or lunch now that you’ve re-surfaced after the bar exam. (Congrats on taking the bar exam, by the way. That thing’s a bitch!)

If you haven’t formed relationships with the lawyers you hope will become your professional friends and colleagues, there’s no better time to start conversations with them. You want to be top of mind when they hear that their firm or a friend’s firm has an opening for a new associate.

I got a painfully awkward email from a law grad in No Man’s Land this past weekend. I know how hard it is to try to strike up a conversation from nothing but there are ways to make it easier. His email inspired me to share some suggestions to help him and others be more effective when trying to network online.

1.  Start the email with “Dear Mr./Miss.” I will tell you to call me “Ruth” in my response but it’s a sign of respect and decorum to start out by calling the person by their title and last name, bonus points if you know that I am a Captain in Starfleet.

2.  Don’t ask for a job in the first email. Unless the firm is actively hiring, don’t ask about job openings or say that you want to work for me. You want to be building friendships, not working the legal job phone tree. Ideally, you want to build a network of friends, who happen to be lawyers with similar interests, who will come to you when they hear of an opening, not the other way around.

3.  Tell me where you went to law school. If you don’t say what school you graduated from, I’ll assume you’re ashamed of it and I’ll wonder what else you’re hiding.

4. If you tell me you’re “keenly interested” in an area of law I practice, bolster that statement with information about classes you took on the subject, work experience, or even books, blogs, or situations you’ve followed – something that shows your statement is sincere.

5.  Finish your LinkedIn profile. Before I respond to your email, I will look you up on LinkedIn. Make sure your profile at least has a decent photo of you, states where you went to law school, and any internships, clinics, or clubs you were involved in. It’s ok if it doesn’t say what type of law you’re interested in – I know lots of grads will take any job they can get. It would be great if you could get recommendations from your internship and clinic supervisors, but that’s not always possible.

6.  If you’re on Twitter and the person you want to meet is on Twitter, follow them and look for opportunities to converse with them. Ditto for LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube. Feel free to connect with me on TwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle+, and/or YouTube.

When you send an unsolicited email, ask for a meeting with the person – coffee, lunch, or even just a 20-minute visit or video chat. (If I do coffee with you, I’m probably giving up at least an hour of my day so often times a short visit or video chat is preferred for a first conversation.) If you’re interested in an area of law they practice, ask about what a typical day/week of work is like. Ask them what kind of life they have outside of work – that may open the door to talk about mutual interests/hobbies. Afterwards, send a thank you note and do some type of follow-up within thirty days – send a useful article or just chat with them on social media.

If you’re interested in resources to supplement your job search, I recommend the following books:

I don’t envy anyone who is in post-bar exam No Man’s Land. It was a stagnant time in my life where my professional future was in limbo until I had bar results. I hope you’re enjoying your down time and building towards your professional future.

How To Trademark Your Own Name

0688 Pittsburgh - Senator John Heinz History Center by Klaus Nahr from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

0688 Pittsburgh – Senator John Heinz History Center by Klaus Nahr from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Recently a friend posted on my Facebook page, “I’m considering trademarking my name. Can I do that?”

Yes you can, but it’s a little complicated. Let’s start with some trademark basics.

There are five ways to describe a potential trademark: fanciful, arbitrary, suggestive, descriptive or generic. Fanciful, arbitrary, and suggestive marks can be registered on what’s called the primary registry of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as soon as you’re using them in commerce. When yo have a registered trademark, no one can enter the market in your industry and use your trademark or something confusingly similar to it. Generic marks can never be registered. Descriptive marks fall in between these two groups.

Descriptive trademarks describe the product they’re attached to. If you have a descriptive mark, you can put on the USPTO’s secondary registry when you start using it in commerce, but you can’t bump it to the primary registry until have “acquired distinctiveness,” which typically happens after five years of continuous use.

When you name your business after yourself – i.e., John Smith Graphic Design (and your name is John Smith), you have a descriptive trademark. If you’ve only been in business for a short time, the USPTO doesn’t want to give you the exclusive rights to your name in your industry – thus all the other John Smiths who are graphic designers couldn’t call their companies, “John Smith Graphic Design” or something similar to it. They make you wait until you’ve been in business for five years before giving you nationwide exclusivity over your company name in your industry.

So can my friend register a trademark for her name? Probably, but I’d have to take a closer look at her situation to determine how long she’s been using it as a trademark and whether someone else has already registered the same name in the same industry.

If you have any questions about whether you can register your desired trademark, feel free to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, or send me an email. You can also subscribe to the firm’s monthly newsletter. If you want more information about Carter Law Firm, please visit the homepage.

Thoughts About Effective Contracts

Signing Paperwork by Dan Moyle from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Signing Paperwork by Dan Moyle from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Some people think contracts are intimidating and others find them mind-numbingly boring. In general, I like working with contracts. I know this makes me sound like a big dork, but it’s true. I get to help my clients protect themselves and write for a living – two things I enjoy.

When it comes to contracts, some clients hire me to review an existing contract and some hire me to draft a contract from scratch. Here’s one thing I learned in law school and have verified to be true in practice: the person who writes the contract, does so in the best interest of their client. So when you read a contract, think about which side wrote the first draft because I will guarantee it’s biased in their favor.

For example, I’ve written plenty of contracts for situations where a business hires an independent contractor to work on a project. The contract verbiage can be very different when I’m representing the business than when I’m representing the contractor. This is why a lot of lawyers want to be the side that writes the first draft of a contract because they want to write in their client’s favor and negotiate from there.

Recently, I’ve worked on a few contracts that reminded me how important it is to still be reasonable when writing contracts. If your contract template is too biased in your favor, or doesn’t give the other side any sense of security in the relationship, you may have a hard time finding people who are willing to sign it.

I’ve seen this in particular to contract provisions about changing or terminating a contract. There are times, like when you’re a long-term service provider, where you need to be able to change the terms of the original agreement to reflect changes in the industry, your services, or your rates and it would be bad business practice to let the customer change the agreement. In some circumstances, the contract says that the provider can make any changes at any time and if the customer doesn’t like it, they can take their business elsewhere – very take it or leave it. Other times, it’s prudent to specify under what circumstances changes will be made, how much warning the customer will have prior to changes going into effect, and how that notification will be delivered.

I prefer to think about contracts as relationship management documents.   When you’re writing or reviewing a contract, think about the expected lifespan of your relationship with the other side and how you want to feel about that relationship at the end of the day. And remember that contracts are binding documents so it’s important that your contracts reflect your needs and protect your interests. This is one of the times where it’s important to make sure you have an accurate document before you sign it because you may not be able to change it later if you realize after the fact that you’ve made a mistake.

If you want to chat more about contracts, you can connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me. You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm monthly newsletter.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

No Path to Follow When You’re a Non-Traditional Lawyer

Me and the Skies by Jesse! S? from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Me and the Skies by Jesse! S? from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Let me tell you about a pivotal day that happened early in my legal career. I was a second-year law student at Arizona State University. During a study break, I was hanging outside the law library with my classmate Julia who is also one of my best friends. Out of nowhere a thought popped into my head and I blurted out, “I don’t want to be a traditional lawyer.”  She responded with a look that screamed, “Duh.”

It was an incredibly scary moment of clarity for me. By that point, I’d had enough experiences in internships and my pre-law school career that I knew a lot about what I didn’t want in a job. I wasn’t sure how I wanted my future to look, so I had no path to follow to make it happen.

About eighteen months later, I had lunch with the family friend who would become my business mentor. I’d taken the bar exam but I was still waiting on my results. I told her some of my ideas about what I was looking for in a legal career and she bluntly asked, “Why don’t you just start your own practice?” The idea of opening a solo law practice excited and frightened me so much that I started sweating profusely. My dress was soaked by the end of that meal. I knew no one would hire me as a first year associate and let me continue to blog, write, speak, or dig into the depths of topics like social media law and flash mob law.

Besides the basic information about how to start a law practice and practical advice from my mentor about accounting and marketing, I felt like I was operating without a map. It seemed like my classmates had clear paths to follow – paved by the lawyers who came before them – while I had an expanse of beautiful terrain to traverse, but not even a dirt path to guide me. My path and my destinations were for me to determine. This provided a tremendous amount of freedom in my life but also an unsettling amount of uncertainty. I’m grateful that I’ve found fellow adventurers – solo attorneys and other entrepreneurial minds – who have helped me along the way and who I continue to rely on for guidance and support.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t always know what I’m doing. I have goals for the year, but I don’t have a ten-year plan. I let my experience, creativity, and passion guide me. And it’s scary to know that I don’t have a steady paycheck coming every month, but it’s the price I pay to have a life with autonomy.

In everything I do, I try to remain teachable, strive for excellence, and learn all I can about the subjects that intrigue me like persuasive writing and how the law applies to new technology and business practices. I think there’s a lot of change on the horizon, and I want to be part of it.

As I reflect on my life as a non-traditional solo attorney thus far, I find myself thinking of the John Shedd quote, “A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” I have an amazing opportunity to have the career and the life I’ve always wanted, if I’m willing to take the risk and go after it.

And one of the things I want to do is share more about my behind-the-scenes journey – how I got here, what keeps me going, and the methods I use every day to make my business, and my life, a success. Stay tuned for more about my life as a non-traditional lawyer.

If you’re interested in chatting more, feel free to connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me.  Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

The Legalities of Feeding Expired Parking Meters in Phoenix – According to the Police

Parking Meter by Lauri Väin from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Parking Meter by Lauri Väin from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Starting on August 1st, Phoenix is changing to variable prices at its parking meters. Depending on when and where you park, the rate could range from $0.50 to $4.00/hour. This is a big change from the $1.50/hour rate that used to be at every meter. The other big change is enforcement times will be every day from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. – no more free nights and weekends.

The Phoenix City Council said they’re making this change in part because of the city’s $37.7 million deficit and that these new rates will bring in $800,000 for the city. I wonder how much of this expected amount is based on people paying to park versus getting tickets for expired meters.

Some people are upset by the increase – like students at the ASU downtown campus and people who work downtown. I’ve seen people on social media say that the increase will decrease the likelihood of them coming downtown, or if they do, that they’ll take the light rail ($4 for an all-day pass is probably cheaper than paying $4/hour to park). On the other hand, the increase has given me a chance to a flash mob I’ve been thinking of for years.

My partners-in-crime and I all have day jobs so our shenanigans are mostly restricted to the weekend. I had an idea years ago about being parking meter fairies – dressing up in tutus, wings, and the like and feeding people’s expired meters. Now that people will have to pay to park on the weekends, we’ll finally have a chance to pull this off if we want.

I contacted the City of Phoenix Police Department and asked them about the legalities of feeding other people’s expired parking meters and here’s what they said:

“I am not aware of any City ordinance that precludes you from putting money into someone else parking meter here in Phoenix. I know there are jurisdictions that prohibit that activity. The only concern I have is if a person were to put money in a meter after a vehicle was cited or somehow interfered with a parking enforcement officer that could be a violation of the law.”

I interpret this to mean that it’s OK to feed an expired meter (while wearing a tutu and glitter) as long as the vehicle doesn’t already have a ticket on it. (I know it’s illegal to do this in other cities, so do your research before you try to pull off a similar stunt.)

Flash Mob Law bookBesides my flash mob idea, I wonder if downtown businesses will feed their patrons’ parking meters in front of their establishments or if someone will create a sponsored crew of meter feeders like the Surfers Paradise Meter Maids in Australia.

As always, if you want to do a flash mob, do you research in advance to ensure that you don’t set yourself up to get sued or arrested because of your event. If you need a resource, check out my book Flash Mob Law or contact me on TwitterFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me. You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm monthly newsletter.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

What Are You Buying When You Use an Independent Contractor?

Photographer Dan by Kevin Dooley from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Photographer Dan by Kevin Dooley from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I get questions all the time from people involved in situations where a business outsources the creation of their website, marketing materials, or other photography work about who owns the copyright in the final work product and what can the other side do with it. And I get these questions from people on both sides of the relationship – the hiring company and the artist.

In these situations, my first question is always, “What does the contract say?” Under the U.S. Copyright Laws, if you hire a third party to do your graphic design, photography, or similar work, the artist owns the copyright in whatever you’ve hired them to create unless you have a written and signed contract that says you will own the copyright in the final product. A lot of business owners don’t understand this. They think they automatically get the rights in whatever they’ve hired someone to create just because they’ve paid for it. And that’s not true. Without an explicit contract that says they own the copyright, the artist owns it and the business has an implied license to use it.

Look at it this way – if you buy a poster for your office, you’re only buying the print. You don’t get the copyright with it. You can decide where you’re going to hang it or if you’re going to get rid of it, but you can’t make copies of it and sell them. Likewise, if you hire someone to do photography work for your website, you’re only buying the digital images, not the copyright in them. If you wanted to do something else with the images, you would need the photographer’s permission. If wanted to buy the rights, you could do that, but expect to pay extra.

There are many artists who write their contracts to say that the business hiring them owns the copyright in whatever they’ve hired the artist to create once they’ve paid their bill in full. That means if the client hasn’t paid their bill, they don’t own the rights to the work product, and the artist has rights to remove it from the client’s website if the client is using it without complying with the terms of the contract. I recently had a discussion with a website designer about modifying her contract template to explicitly state that she can and will shut down the client’s website if they are using her work and they haven’t paid the balance owed to her.

Here’s a video I did on additional issues you want to consider if you are or working with a third party contractor.

If you are a third party contractor or working with one, please read your contract carefully. This is the document for managing your relationship, including who owns the final work product and what happens if a problem arises. If you have contract templates in your work, make sure a skilled business and intellectual property attorney reviews them before you use it, because otherwise you may be stuck with terms that you don’t like.

If you want to chat more about working with contractors, copyright, and/or contracts, feel free to connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me. You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm monthly newsletter.
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