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  • Welcome to Wedding Industry Law Online!

    Wedding Industry Law is your online resource for legal news and education on running a wedding business. We hope you find the articles, videos, and information helpful. If you have any comments, news tips, or areas that you would like to see covered, please let us know!

    Wedding Industry Law is edited by Wedding Lawyer and Trial Attorney Rob Schenk. Contributing blogger Ayisha Lawrence also kicks out some of the jams, too.

    UNFORTUNATELY, WE ARE UNABLE TO RESPOND TO REQUESTS FOR LEGAL ADVICE (sad face).

How do I keep my wedding business know-how safe?!

Manori-De-Silva-photo_WEB

Manori de Silva says: “Keep your wedding and event business stuff secret with non-disclosure agreements!”

Today’s blog post is brought to you by employment and business attorney Manori de Silva of Stanton Law in Atlanta, Georgia.  She is qualified as an attorney in England and the United States, speaks Dutch and French, and makes a mean casserole. So basically, she is like her own little United Nations. She has spent the last decade assisting local and international businesses  with a variety of employment and commercial matters. If you are in Georgia, California, or in England, and have questions about your business, give her a shout.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this blog post (and anywhere else on this site, for that matter) is intended for informational purposes and should not be viewed as a replacement for getting legal advice from a lawyer.

If I want to protect my customer lists, sales methods, and other know-how, from employees taking it and later using it, what should I do?

In this day and age, being technically savvy is all the more important because it is so much easier now for bad-intentioned employees to copy confidential information using USBs and cellphones than in the olden days, when copying required an actual photocopier or bulky camera.  Best practice is to have your employees sign non-disclosure, non-compete and non-solicitation agreements when they join the business if their roles require them to use or access confidential information (which includes trade secrets).  It is important to get legal advice on such agreements because courts can and do side with employees to say that the restrictions are unenforceable if they find them too broad.  State laws differ greatly in this area, so it is important to get state-specific legal advice.

Additionally, it is important to employ practical measures on the ground so that only those that absolutely need to have access to information that you want to protect are in fact given access.  For example, implement password access so that documents cannot be opened by everyone and keep sensitive information in physical or electronic locations that cannot be viewed or accessed by everyone.  Hard copy documents should likewise be secured in an appropriate fashion, such as in locked filing cabinets located in rooms to which only those that need to know have access.

If you believe that information has been stolen or is being misused, it is important to act quickly and get legal advice in case you need to seek assistance from the courts to obtain an injunction.  It is also critical to get professional advice so that staff members do not inadvertently access or alter hard drives etc. after the alleged theft and leave you unable to prove in court who committed the theft.

What is a Copyright and Why Does My Wedding Business Need It?

What in the heck is a copyright?!

Many have tried, but you cannot copyright the left turn sign.

Many have tried, but you cannot copyright the ‘no left turn’ sign.

Copyright is the legal protection provided to an original expression of an idea that has been set to a medium. Meaning, if it is something from your mind that is originally yours, and you transfer that expression to some sort of canvas, then you have created something that can be protected by copyright.

For example, a poem written onto a piece of paper. A rap song performed and put onto YouTube. A posed couple captured in a photograph. A periscope broadcast. A blog post on a website. These are expressions of an idea that can sit forever on a medium. These are the subjects of copyright protection. Not all ideas can be protected by copyright. For example, people’s names, everyday phrases, and common information that appear on calendars and clocks.

A copyright allows you to use your work in a whole bunch of ways. You get to reproduce it, make derivative works, display it publicly, hang it up on the refrigerator at your mom’s, all kinds of things.

How do you acquire the legal protections associated with copyright?

This is pretty easy. The moment, and I mean the very nano-second that that expression hits the medium, it is copyrighted. That is to say, if it’s on the page, if it’s on the website, if it’s on the CD, it’s protected by copyright.

However, the legal protections that you are provided by this level of copyright is poop. That is to say it is very minimal. If you want the legal protections that most people think of when you think copyright, you will need to REGISTER your copyright with the United States Copyright Office. Registering your copyright is very simple, and can basically be done without a lawyer on the copyright website. There is a filing fee, which is under $100, and a short application process.

What can you do with a registered copyright?

That’s also simple. You can do lots. Most importantly, you acquire lots of powers of ENFORCEMENT when you register your copyright. Like a trademark, if someone has stolen your work, you can file a lawsuit in federal court; and if successful, you can be awarded attorney fees and different types of damages.

Also, registration gives the presumption that your copyright is valid and acts as notice to the world that the work is yours. This can be very important because copyright infringement is essentially what you call a strict liability tort. This means that someone can be liable for copyright infringement whether or not they intended to infringe.

Where there is intentional infringement, the damages can be much greater. So, because the registered copyright basically tells the world that the work is yours, it makes it less likely that there will be innocent infringement. This means an infringer will probably have to pay more in damages to you.

When should you register your copyright with the copyright office?

Again, you will want to do a cost-benefit analysis.

The ease and lack of expense makes registering a copyright a no-brainer. But, in my opinion, there will be some times when it will be more beneficial than others.

The first consideration will be, what is your profession? Does your livelihood derive from the expression of that idea? If you are an event photographer, the answer is probably ‘yes.’ If someone bogarts your photographs of that spectacular event, it devalues your brand, and could potentially take money out of your wallet. I’m trying to eat, you know? Same with musicians who perform their own songs.

On the other hand, a planner who happens to own some photos that someone steals- maybe not that big a deal because it’s not directly interfering with that event planner’s principal mode of profit.

I’m not saying that in one situation there would not be infringement, I’m just saying, is keeping the material EXCLUSIVE to you CRITICAL to the revenue of your business? If the answer is YES, then look into registration.

Second is, how likely is there to be theft of the material? I feel like, in the event industry, it really is photography and site content that get stolen the most. So, naturally, these are going to be items that are on the top of the list for registration.