By: The Network Journal Staff
Many small business owners think investing in professional legal help isn’t worth it, but failing to obtain legal counsel for important matters can cost you big time in the long run. Others wait to take on professional help until they desperately need it due to a lawsuit or other matter, but the most cost-effective time to work with a lawyer is actually when your business is booming and you have no looming legal troubles.
Not seeking legal advice is a major mistake many small business owners make, but these errors are also common:
Misunderstanding Copyright Laws
You cannot assume that you are legally covered any time that you repost content from someone else on your website or share it in a newsletter, even if you credited the author with a byline or back link. Many small business owners do this, but they are risking hefty copyright violation fees and possible legal action. Any time you copy the work of someone else, you are likely committing copyright infringement. There are exceptions, of course, but they are usually limited to teaching, research, criticism and similar defenses.
Before using copyrighted materials, always ask for permission, and get it in writing if possible to protect yourself in the future against infringement claims.
Not Understanding Creative Assets
The services you offer, products you sell and logo you use for your business or even the name of your company do warrant protection under the law. Work that qualifies for copyrights, trademarks and patents is usually less expensive to protect legally shortly after you develop your business than later. It is also vitally important that you have a signed work-for-hire formal agreement whenever someone other than an employee performs a service or makes something for your business. The agreement should be completed before the start of work.
The reason for this is because material copyrights are attached to the creator of the product, not the business, unless a written agreement is signed. In the absence of a proper agreement, the materials you asked someone to create for your business can be sold, reused or even used in competition with you.
Handling Legal Issues Yourself
This is never a good idea, and attempting to save some money by tackling legal issues solo will often cost you more in the long run than hiring an attorney in the first place. Hire competent counsel when you launch your business to avoid unnecessary, protracted and expensive lawsuits that can ruin the future of your business.
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