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How do we effectively combat international online piracy?
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Article Published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal - Vol. 125, No. 021

Online piracy problem calls for global attack,

not US business-based approach

The power of the Internet continues to show its strength, whether it stems from intellectual property pirates or from mass online opposition to laws proposed to stop international online piracy. The online communities’ recent efforts in mobilizing millions to express opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act are arguably unprecedented. Companies such as Google, Wikipedia and others rallied support to table Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-Texas) online piracy bill. The bill’s goal is to curb international online piracy from foreign rogue sites. It’s alleged that these sites cheat U.S. companies out of millions of dollars in revenue and purportedly cost substantial U.S job loss, according to backers such as the Motion Picture Association of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The two powerful groups involved in the controversy are the entertainment industry in Hollywood and technology companies. While Hollywood argues the legislation comports with the bill’s goals, the technology companies stress that, as written, the law places an undue burden on online businesses by forcing them to police the Internet, threatens Internet innovation and free speech, and blocks access to entire domain names if infringing material is placed on a blog or single webpage. Technology companies also contend that the bill’s ambiguous language creates the risk of unfettered online policing of companies without any real checks and balances. While this battle seems to have reduced to a simmer, another option has been introduced; one that is more palatable to the technology industry, but still not embraced by Hollywood and its supporters: the OPEN ACT (Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act). This legislation aims to stop money transfers to foreign websites that “primarily” and “willfully” infringe upon the rights of U.S. intellectual property holders. Whereas the Stop Online Piracy Act (and also its cousin, PROTECT IP) sought to have an entire site taken down even if the infringement is contained in just one page or one blog.   ...<Continue Reading>

Going Mobile: 5 Tips on Mobile App Creation

Do you have the next great mobile app idea? Here are 5 tips on the legal side of Mobile App Creation:

Due Diligence. Basically, do your homework. Google your idea and find out if a similar app already exists. Its better to do the leg work at this stage of the game then down the road when you have put money into development.

Preliminary Protection. A lot of the time, people want to talk about their idea to gain feedback or simply want to talk about it out of pure excitement. Please don't ... unless, of course, you have a signed Non-Disclosure Agreement. Not all NDA's are the same. This is such an important point in the early stages of development that I am going to state it again: Not all NDA's are the same. You need one specifically for Intellectual Property Rights. Also, be careful of other parties, such as Mobile App Developers, asking you to sign their NDA. Most likely it is written to protect their company's interest and not yours. Have a lawyer read it over to make sure that you are keeping full control of your intellectual property.

Ownership. Who owns the intellectual property? Once the app is built, who owns the rights? Did you use a work-for-hire agreement*? Are there multiple authors meaning joint ownership? Or, is it just you? Ownership must be established before you can take the next step and acquire advanced protection.

Advanced Protection. Can't I just copyright the idea? Unfortunately, you cannot. However, you can copyright the code used to write the app, artwork, text, etc. In order to keep the copyright in your name, you would need to write the code yourself or hire a programmer on work-for-hire terms. Once the code is written and artwork designed, then it can be filed for protection with the copyright office. At this stage, you can also search to see if your app is something that can be patented. To be on the safe side, register all your materials with the copyright and patent office before the app is launched.

License / Assignment. For most people, this is the most important part because this is how your app makes its revenue. One of the more common ways is by having companies or individuals purchase a license to your app. There are two types of licenses: exclusive and non-exclusive. An exclusive license means you license your app to a company or individual with exclusive terms of use such as a certain geography or client base. For example, Company A wants an exclusive license for North America. This means you cannot license your app to another company or individual in North America. You could, however, give an exclusive license to Company B in Europe. A non-exclusive license allows you to licenses to Company A in North America, but also to anyone else who would want to purchase a license in North America.

Another option is an assignment. In an assignment, you have the option to sell all your rights or sell (or assign) select rights that you have in copyright. For example, in a copyright, you can assign the right to reproduce and the right to distribute, but you might retain the right to make derivatives. Remember, with any assignment, whether you are assigning all or part of the various rights, you are selling your ownership, just as if you were selling your house.

* Work-for-Hire describes works that are produced for somebody else. The person who hires the creator holds the copyright to the finished work.

Related posts:

Does your Business Need Cash?
See the four part series on Starting a Business:
Part I: Laying a good foundation
Part II: More than one owner
Part III: Safe-guard your product
Part IV: Choosing your Corporate Counsel

Google Images are not Royalty Free, Get Permission


Are you a blogger? A lot of people like to add a photograph to their blog post and will grab an image off of Google Images or other search engines. This is actually Copyright Infringement. The images found on a search engine are not owned by the search engine and therefore they cannot grant you permission to use the image. The copyright lies with the creator (or any person/company who has bought the image from the photographer). The moment a photograph is created the image automatically becomes the copyrighted property of the photographer. In order to use photographs that you do not own, you must gain the permission of the images creator. This is an absolute if you are using the image or content in products for resale, license or other distribution. Even if you are using an image for purposes such a blog, e-newsletter or website, you still must have permission from the author to use the content. What if I credit the source? Crediting the source is a step in the right direction, but you still should always ask for permission or purchase the content before use. Some photographers do not mind and even love the exposure, and others, well, they want their royalties.

**From Google's Permissions web page

Google Logo and Screenshot Permissions:
" You don’t need our permission when you want to use a standard, unaltered Google screenshot (an image of our homepage or search results page) in either print (book, magazine, journal, newspaper) or digital (web page, DVD, CD) formats for an instructive or illustrative purpose. Examples include screenshots of:

• a Google search results page
• search results indicating where sponsored links are
• an Advanced Search page
• search results for a query you show

This use must be unaltered: You can’t superimpose graphics, photos, or ad copy on the screenshot or change the look of the screen-captured image in any other way.

Please note that using a screenshot of a Google search results page in connection with advertising your products or services (for instance, showing a top ranking on Google) is not considered instructive or illustrative, and therefore is not permitted."

Click here for more information about Google permissions

RENT – Live at the Hollywood Bowl

Yes!!!!!!!!  RENT…….AT……….THE………HOLLYWOOD………BOWL.

September of 2008 brought the end of the Broadway run of RENT and in February of this year, the last Broadway company finished its tour.  Yet, we still have some great things to look forward to.

Neil Patrick Harris, who played Mark Cohen in the Los Angeles company of RENT in 1997 has signed on to direct the Bowl performances and the music will be directed by Tim Weil, musical director for RENT for its run of over 12 years on Broadway.  The rest of the cast has yet to be announced, but it’s safe to say that the Bowl productions will attract some excellent talent.

I don’t yet know if the productions are going to include any use of the L.A. Philharmonic, which is common at the Bowl, but it does perk my curiosity a bit.  I mean, RENT doesn’t really lend itself to complicated orchestration, but then again this is a very non-traditional venue and production for Broadway musicals and, well, who knows what they’re planning?

Honestly, I’m just writing this because I’m excited.  When I began working at Guzman Law Group, my only task was to make legal sense of the entire body of work of Jonathan Larson – move rights here and there, assign copyright to this and that – normal lawyer stuff.  It sounded like a simple task, and for the most part it was.

I had seen RENT twice.  It moved me.  That was about all I knew.  I didn’t know that its creator, Jonathan Larson, had passed away only hours before the off-Broadway opening of RENT.  I didn’t know that RENT had gone from off-Broadway to Broadway in three months.  I didn’t know that RENT was in the top 10 longest running musicals in Broadway history.  I didn’t know that, in 1996 (the year RENT opened), Jonathan was posthumously awarded 4 Tony awards (including Best Musical), the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 6 Drama Desk Awards (including Outstanding Musical) and a Grammy (among others).

There will be three shows at the Bowl – August 6-8 – and en total just over 51,000 people will have the opportunity to see the largest productions of RENT ever undertaken.

Hope to see you there.

Apple vs. Google – Celebrity Death Match?

Forgive the MTV reference to the once-favored cult classic program, but the notion of these two icons ceasing to work together seems so ridiculous and far-fetched, even more so than claymation celebrities killing each other.  Obviously, the latter is more entertaining and the former more newsworthy.  Obviously, Celebrity Death Match wasn’t worried about federal investigations.

The latest news is that Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigned from his position on the board of directors of Apple.  It may be news to many that he was actually on the board in the first place.  As Google is moving to expand its reach beyond the search engine and online advertisement monopoly (Google Voice, Google’s G1 phone on T-mobile, Android, Chrome, Chrome OS, etc…), it follows suit that there aren’t too many issues left on the Apple plate which wouldn’t necessitate Schmidt recusing himself from discussion.

Apple’s recent rejection of the Google Voice (which allows users to utilize the internet as a phone company, similar to Skype but WAY more advanced) applications from its application store was no shock to the system as they are married to AT&T for providing iPhone users a network on which to surf. The FCC is currently “inquiring” as to the basis of the rejection and are particularly concerned with any concerted action betwixt Apple and AT&T.  The FTC is continuing its investigation of the relationship between Google and Apple for anti-competitive practices and Schmidt’s resignation has not showed signs of slowing the hunt.  Arthur Levinson, formerly of biotech giant Genentech, still sits on both boards.  Don’t expect Mr. Levinson to enjoy both positions for much longer.

The blanket rejection of Google Voice apps, while expected, still sent a message about the future of telecom and the once symbiotic relationship between Apple and Google.  I would like to think that Steve Jobs is angry that we can’t all just get along.  I imagine Steve playing with the Google Voice app and routing his calls to his iPhone 5.0 beta model just to see how well it works.

You can only have one leader of the pack and it would seem that the pack is developing factions with competing pack interests.  Perhaps there are greater things to come from the packs and Schmidt’s resignation was necessary to avoid further “inquiry” and distracting governmental interest.  It doesn’t really matter.  Competition drives innovation, even if the competition is forced by Big Brother.  Perhaps we will all reap the technological rewards as the icons take a step back from each other and return to the playground for another round of tekky tether ball.

Stay tuned for more as the saga unfolds.