Proposed AZ Law Would Outlaw Wearing a Disguise While Committing a Crime

Improv AZ - Flash Mob Fiction by Sheila Dee (used with permission)

Improv AZ – Flash Mob Fiction by Sheila Dee (used with permission)

The Arizona legislature is considering a law that would make it a crime to conceal your identity while breaking the law or to avoid being arrested or punished. Proposed by State Representatives Bob Thorpe, Brenda Barton, and David Livingston, HB 2143, would add the following t the Arizona criminal code:


Punishment for a Class 1 misdemeanor in Arizona is up to 6 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.

Speed Camera Snaps Man in a Monkey Mask (Image from CBS 5 News)

Speed Camera Snaps Man in a Monkey Mask (Image from CBS 5 News)

The purpose of this bill appears to be to go after guys like Dave VonTesmar. Dave gained notoriety in 2009 because people were driving his car and speeding past the speed cameras while wearing a monkey mask. He reportedly received close to 40 tickets, and at least half of them were thrown out because the prosecution couldn’t prove that he was the person in the picture, and therefore the driver when the offenses occurred. To date, he’s refused to pay the other tickets.

As a flash mob organizer and participant, this proposed law makes me a little nervous. If it passes, I hope law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office make a distinction between people who use a disguise in order to commit a crime or evade law enforcement and people who commit crimes while wearing costumes. It’s an issue of intent. It’s clearly wrong to wear a Nixon mask while robbing a bank to avoid being identified. But if you’re doing a flash mob or a prank that involves wearing a costume, or you’re involved in cosplay and you happen to commit a crime while you’re in costume, you shouldn’t be punished for concealing your identity, just the other crime you committed.

Let’s say somebody organized a Zombie Die-In and they did it in the street without permission, the participants could be arrested for blocking a thoroughfare. They shouldn’t be charged with concealing their identity just because they were in costume at the time. By the way, the organizers could also be facing solicitation and conspiracy if they did a stunt like this. If you’re curious about the legalities of flash mobs and pranks watch this video.

I’m curious to see if this law will be passed and what the implications will be if it does. If someone is planning on committing a crime while trying to conceal their identity, this law won’t stop them from putting on a mask or even just a hood and sunglasses to avoid being identified. It will simply give law enforcement another charge to throw at them when they get caught.

If you want to know more about flash mob law, I wrote an entire book about it. You can also connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or you can send me an email.

Publishing Contracts: Copyright Assignment vs Copyright License

The best analogy for copyright is a jar of markers where each marker represents one of your rights - 10 things: Sharpies by Crystl from Flickr

The best analogy for copyright is a jar of markers where each marker represents one of your rights – 10 things: Sharpies by Crystl from Flickr

I had the pleasure of speaking about the legalities of publishing at Changing Hands Indie Author Conference on February 9, 2013. My session covered the basics of copyright, the importance of registering your copyrights and publishing contracts. I wanted to do a recap of the two types of publishing contracts from a copyright perspective: copyright assignments and copyright licenses.

A copyright is the rights you get in your work. Your rights are created the instant you have an original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium. As the copyright holder, you have the exclusive right to copy, distribute, display, perform, and make derivative works based on your original work. If you want to let someone publish your work, you need a copyright assignment or a copyright license. This should be a signed contract between the parties and it should be explicit about the rights you’re giving up (if any) and what you will get in return.

Copyright Assignment
When you give someone a copyright assignment, you give them your copyright. When you have a copyright assignment, you do not own your copyright anymore; the other party does. If you publish your work after you assign it to someone, you will be committing copyright infringement, even though you were the original author of the work. Some publishers require you to assign your copyright to them or else they won’t publish your work.

If you give someone a copyright assignment and you later regret the decision, you have to buy your copyright back from them. I know at least one artist who sold the copyright in his work and later purchased it back because it was more lucrative for him to control it.

Copyright License
If you grant someone a copyright license, you retain ownership of your copyright and you give the other party permission to use some or all of your copyright rights. You may grant a publisher the rights to publish your work in print and/or as an ebook but retain the right to create an audio version of your work. J.K. Rowling retained her internet rights to the Harry Potter series when she negotiated her contract with her publishers, which is why she could create Pottermore.

If you license your work, the license should explicit state whether the license is exclusive or non-exclusive, time-limited or perpetual, and clearly state how you will be compensated for granting the other party the license.

Publishing contracts are complicated and it’s best to have a lawyer review the contract before you sign it to ensure you understand what rights you’re giving up and what rights you get to keep. As always, if there’s a portion of a contract that you don’t understand, don’t sign it.

I also created a video this week about the difference between copyright assignments and copyright licenses here.

You can connect with me via TwitterGoogle+FacebookYouTube, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

Choose Your Strategy to Protect Your Work Before Posting it on the Internet

My artwork for Dans office by Romers from Flickr

My artwork for Dans office by Romers from Flickr

A friend recently asked me about a common situation her clients face. They are artists who, before the internet, could only show their work to a large audience at art festivals. She said these artists hesitate to market their work online because they’re afraid that it could be stolen.

Could their work be illegally copied if they show it on the internet? Yes. I worked with an artist last year who had their entire catalog illegally copied.

Should they us the internet to market their work despite this risk? Probably. If you’re an artist you have to weigh the risk of having your work illegally copied against the benefit of reaching a larger audience.

My unsolicited advice to artists is to decide how you want to respond if your work is stolen before you put your work out there and plan accordingly.

  • If you want to sue the people who illegally copy your work, you have to register your copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office.
  • If you want to license your work, meaning people can pay you for the right to reproduce your work on their sites, you need to have licensing terms and fees. This way people can legally purchase the rights to use your work and you can send a bill to the people who illegally copy your work. This recently happened to a friend of mine.
  •  If all you want to do is force them to remove the image when you detect someone’s stolen your work, you need to understand the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or know an attorney who does who can send the proper takedown notice on your behalf.

When you put your work out there, you should be diligent about watching the internet for potential infringement. Often times people think they can use your work if they provide an attribution and a link to the original. What they’ve really done is made it easy for you to determine who is using your work without your permission.

My two cents on this issue is you shouldn’t let your fears about copyright infringement prevent you from using the internet to market your work if you’re an artist, but you should have a strategy in place in advance for dealing with it when it occurs.

For more information on this and related topics, please check out my book The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed, available on Amazon.

You can connect with me via TwitterGoogle+Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

Carter Law Firm’s Top 10 Posts From 2012

Fun with leftover sparklers #10 by yahtzeen from Flickr

Fun with leftover sparklers #10 by yahtzeen from Flickr

It’s been an amazing first year at Carter Law Firm! Thank you to everyone who made it so wonderful. According to my analytics, these were the most popular posts from this year. Enjoy!


Speaking at Phoenix Comicon 2012, Ruth Carter photo by Devon Christopher Adams

Speaking at Phoenix Comicon 2012, photo by Devon Christopher Adams

When Can Someone Post Photos Of You Online

What’s Up With The Disclaimers On Facebook

How To Respond If An Interviewer Asks For Your Facebook Password

How To Start A Business In Arizona

Woman Attacks Camera Man On Camelback

Copyright Infringement On Pinterest

Avoid Piercing The Corporate Veil

Creative Commons Images For Your Blog

The North Face vs The South Butt Trademark Saga

I’m An ABA Legal Rebel!

Have a great new year everyone! I’m excited for what’s to come and sharing it with you.

You can connect with me via TwitterGoogle+Facebook, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.