Okay or Not? The Legal Ramifications of Blog ‘Round Up’ Posts

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With the holidays around the corner, you may be planning on blogging at least one "round up," or "best of," or "my favorite finds," or "this season’s inspirations," or… you get the point.

What I’m talking about here are the posts that you curate as a creative business owner/blogger full of product, wedding or inspiration photos. Maybe you’ve even gone so far as to label the photos and give credit where credit is due—to the company, the photographer, the stylists, the subjects, and so on. But is it legal?

Is it OK to share product images on your blog?

Practically speaking, copyright law has not (and cannot) adapt fast enough to meet the Pinterest-loving, Uber-riding, homesharing generation that makes up the majority of the world we live in now.

In fact, the last time any major changes were made in the realm of copyright law, pagers were a thing, Titanic was out, your AOL internet relied on a dial-up modem and Britney Spears still wasn’t legally allowed to buy cigarettes. Yeah. That long. The digital millennial copyright act (DMCA) came out in 1998 and since then it’s been pretty quiet.

Courts and creatives rely on this decades-old case law to set the precedent for modern day developments, like Pinterest.. which makes legal minds of the age of 40 explode.

For a generation that fought so hard to make intellectual property rights worth something, those in their late 30s-40s can’t understand why we millennials would be so quick to give away our photos, artwork and products for free.

But we millennials get it. We get that by sharing, we in turn create more worth in this world, in our lives, and in our clients’ lives. We know that ‘free’ is kind of a misnomer—yes, we give out free webinars, do free photo shoots and even take on free internship positions in the hopes of one day being the one who is so successful that we can then dole out those opportunities to the next up-and-comers.

We engage in all kinds of free promotion on behalf of other entrepreneurs, business owners and creatives, in the hopes that being nice and featuring them will come back to help us later.

Legally speaking, however, you could be putting yourself in danger of violating someone else’s copyright if you’re not careful.

If you do infringe someone’s copyright by posting a round-up post featuring others’ photos, text or other copyrighted work, it’s likely you’d receive a cease and desist letter asking you to take down their images or give them credit, depending on who sends it.

They could also ask you for money and they would be 100% in the right, legally, for doing so since copyright law in the US is so robust. It would be a rare bird who just outright sues to enforce their copyright, since most people just want to be able to control their work and get paid for it—the cease & desist letter is often more than sufficient for accomplishing this.

So, the moral of the story is that if you create a blog round up post, you’d do yourself a favor to either read the company’s terms and conditions (they will usually mention what you are and aren’t allowed to do with their ‘intellectual property,’ aka their product photos.) or reach out to the artist/writer/photographer directly and get a simple ‘yes’ via email.

Too long, didn’t read?

To protect yourself from accidentally infringing someone’s copyright in your blog round-up post: 

1. Look for their Terms & Conditions policy. Read the site’s terms and conditions (hint: scroll to the bottom of the page) and look for what you can do with their intellectual property (aka “IP”).

2. Ask permission. If you’re unclear, reach out to them and ask. Even big companies have someone there to grant or deny permission quickly.

If you found this article helpful, be sure to pin this for others to find.

Creating a "Top 10" blog post? Here are the legal things you need to know. #legal #creative #business

What Happens if I Actually Need to Enforce My Client Contract?

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It’s a matter of when, not if. You are going to have at least one client who tries to weasel out of a deal with you, contract or not.

6 Things You Should Do When You Have a Breach of Contract

When bad things happen to good creatives

When I called off my wedding in 2012, I already had deposits on a videographer, venue, dress and invitations. There was some kind of contract in place for each one of those things, except my invitations, which I purchased off of Etsy. They were to be hand-illustrated to look like us standing in front of the venue where we were getting married (I still think the idea is cute!).

The illustrator was in high demand, and even though we didn’t have a contract per se, she did state in her seller description how the payment worked, and I clearly owed her money in consideration of the other clients she denied to have time to work on my invitations.

As much as it hurt to send her $700 for literally nothing, I did it anyway. I guess I could have been a real you-know-what and walked away, but that’s not my style, even though the thought crossed my mind.

So what do you do if you have a client who decides not to send you the money? Or show up for her photo session? Or cancels after you’ve turned down five other brides for her date? What do you do if the flowers are already purchased, designed and in place and the bride calls off the wedding the morning of? Or if someone spills beer all over your laptop at the reception? Or what if YOU’RE the client and your creative counterpart doesn’t deliver?

What do you do when your client doesn't pay or show up?

Everyone talks about “oh, you need a contract,” but no one seems to be discussing what you need to do once your contract terms are breached. Whether there is a breach of your contract and what you can recuperate is going to be very fact-specific to your situation, but hopefully this general guide can start to point you in the right direction.

Step 1: Do your research

Determine if you think there actually has been a breach of your contract with your client. In some cases, this is easy, such as the bride with cold feet who doesn’t show up to her wedding. However, real life is rarely so simple and generous. Often it’s necessary to do some research to see if she actually has breached your contract. The first place to look is in your own backyard—go back and re-read your contract. Grab your highlighter and highlight anything you think is relevant that is good for you in one color, and anything you think might be detrimental in another.

Step 2: Cool off!

This is crucial for Step 3 to succeed. If you are seething mad, you’re not going to do anything to help you or your client in this situation. Unless you’re in jail, there aren’t many legal emergencies. In fact you probably have at least six months in your state to take action, legally speaking (oral contracts usually require faster action.)

Now is the time to write that scathing email... but leave the space next to “To:” blank and save the email as a draft. Research shows that when we're angry (“how dare she!”) or frightened (“I’m not going to be able to pay my rent!”) our minds get really, really clear. We are able to focus and solve problems at a faster and clearer rate.

How much do you feel like you want to DO something, anything, to solve the problem that made you angry or scared? Yeah, it’s biological. So just chill out for a day or two. A day or two probably isn’t long enough to scare off potential clients if you don’t answer their emails or miss out on booking someone else.

Step 3: Talk

This may be the most important thing you can do, BUT only if you can do it nicely.

After you’ve cooled off for at least a day or two (and maybe vented to some biz buds),  you might reach out to the client or creative who owes you something under the contract (money, photos, design work, etc.). Remember, kindness kills.

The energy you bring to any situation is the energy you’re going to get back, so choose wisely.

Rather than rattle off that angry email, try picking up the phone and calling them. Write out a ‘nice-lady’ script if you need to in order to kick off the conversation in a good way. A great way to reach a mutual understanding is to ask the other person, “what’s going on? do you need someone to talk to?” As Elle Woods said, “Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Not that I want to be like Elle, but she is a fake lawyer with a real point. Brides don’t just run away from their wedding because they’re so in love. Designers don’t just stop responding to texts and emails because they enjoy what they do too much.

Chances are, the bride or creative is going through something, and the last thing they need is another angry/disappointed/mean person in their life. Talking can resolve so many problems, including money issues. Just showing you care about them is enough to make most people pay what they owe, because they would feel awful if they didn’t. Money isn’t everything—I’m not advocating you manipulate this person, but I am asking you to put yourself in their shoes. What would you want someone to say to you?

Helpful Hint: Fair warning, this might ick some of you out. Check out the recording laws in your state. You may be allowed to record your phone conversation without telling the other person. If you eventually need to take legal action, you have your conversations in addition to any written correspondence like email to provide proof of the breach. Even if it’s icky, it’s important to remember you need to take care of yourself to keep providing your creative gifts to the world.

Step 4: Be persistent

We are all busy and sometimes need reminders. You might need to call and email this person a few times to make everything right. It only takes a few minutes of your time (I know, and lots of your sanity) but if you rinse and repeat steps 3-4, it will resolve most issues.

Step 5: Get an attorney involved

Y’all, we’re already five steps in, and I’m just now bringing up anything legal. This is important because I believe you have the ability to make powerful decisions for your creative business on your own. You don’t always need an attorney.

If the potentially breaching party has stopped responding to your texts, calls and emails, it might be time to contact a lawyer to see if they can do anything for you, like send a demand letter (demanding payment.) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—most lawyers offer free consultations and your state bar is always able to point you in the right (sometimes free) direction.

Step 6: Don't let it happen in the first place

I saved the best for last. Don’t let this happen to you from the start! Make sure you get all the funds you need to cover any initial out of pocket costs in your client retainer, and clients should expect to pay professionals prior to delivery of services. For example, most wedding photographers get the full amount due at least 15 days prior to shooting the wedding. And I don’t know any successful calligrapher who sends out final invitations prior to getting 100% paid. 

I would recommend you try to get any outstanding balance 30+ days prior to the event or wedding date. Show your clients why you’re worth it through amazing branding, outstanding (but accurate) testimonials, and satisfaction guarantees in case they have concerns.

Questions? Comments? Hit me up below (for real! I read them!)

Is Your Website Missing THIS? You Could be Breaking the Law

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This post was first published on The Collaborative, a blog by Elle & Company.

Adding a page to your blog that contains a privacy policy and any other pertinent legal disclaimers is not only smart, it can keep you out of legal trouble with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This is especially relevant if your blog contains advertising, allows readers to make comments, or you collect emails for a newsletter.

Privacy policies are required on any web page that collects information from consumers. This can include cookies your website places on your readers’ browsers.

Moral of the story: If you have a website, you could be breaking the law if it doesn’t have a privacy policy. It’s also a good idea to convey to your readers what you are doing (or not doing) with their information. When you are transparent with your readers like this, it builds their trust in your website, opinions, products and services…

Keep reading the full post on The Collaborative >>