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.