Getting Clarity on Legal Issues with Maria Spears Ollis

SOWBO’s membership gathered this month for a training session with Maria Spears Ollis, “Content, Branding, and Relationships: Legal clarity for women business owners.” The purpose? To help SOWBO’s entrepreneurs and small business owners get legally fit and have peace of mind on legal issues related to their businesses.

Maria is a Nashville-based business attorney. Her goal is to “Help women maximize their impact by making the path to protecting and growing an on-line business accessible, easy to understand, and low stress.” She says to think of her as your friend with a law degree who can break down important legal frameworks into clear, manageable steps.

Maria is the founder of The Legal Apothecary and host of the Don’t Rush Me podcast. You can also find her at @heysomaria.

Copyright and Your Works

Even without registering with the U.S. Copyright Office, anything you create is copyright protected from the moment it is created for the life of the author + 120 years! (Ideas in your head are not protected by copyright.) 

Copyright symbols are not necessary, but Maria encouraged us to use them by adding the symbol/word, year, and owner’s name. This notice prevents “innocent infringement.”

Registering with the U.S. Copyright Office, on the other hand, saves time and makes it easier to defend yourself.

Maria detailed two methods related to registering a copyright: the “content” method and the “prized possession” method. The first is to look at your content every month or every quarter and determine your most popular blogs, social media captions, or Pinterest posts. Then, register and protect the ones that are getting the most views. In addition, register your one-time “prized possessions” like a book, website, or digital course.

What if you Get Copied?

First, assess the situation. You have the choice to do nothing or take further steps. Here are your options:

  • You can contact the people yourself by sending a strong, but friendly, communication. They may not realize what they are doing is wrong.
  • Next, consider DMCA takedown, in which you report the copied content to the platform. 
  • Another step to handling these legal issues is to send a cease and desist letter via a lawyer. This letter describes to the receiver how they are breaking the law and the potential consequences.
  • The most serious step is to file a lawsuit. You must have a registered copyright to file a lawsuit.

What is the Difference between Copyright and Trademark?

Unlike a copyright, a trademark protects brand names, including a word, group of words, logo, symbol or audio branding. Again, you can use the ™ symbol without registering. If you do register, it lasts as long as you use the trademark.

Protect Your Professional Relationships from Legal Issues

By understanding legal terms and providing proper proposals and contracts, you can protect your relationships with contractors, employees, clients, and former employees by setting boundaries and putting everyone on the same page.

Here are some key points from Maria:

  • Write contracts for clients, employees, and contractors with no ambiguities to ensure everyone is clear on time frames, responsibilities, ownership, expectations, breach of contract, termination of services, payment, etc.
  • Whoever creates the content is the owner unless the contract specifies otherwise. 
  • Make sure you are reasonable with your non-compete and non-solicitation clauses. 

How About Legal Issues Related to the Internet? 

Finally, Maria gave us some great insight on legal issues and the internet.

#1 She encouraged us to always review IP Policies, Terms of Use (rules), and Privacy Policy (data and personal information) for our website or any platforms we use.

#2 It is essential to have a clear disclaimer on each post with sponsorship or affiliate links. Similarly, put a disclaimer for professional advice at the top of any post containing this type of content.

#3 Emails must have an accurate sender address and “from” line. Each email must include a physical address and an unsubscribe link (that you honor!)

#4 And, always read the fine print when using stock photos and fonts.

An interesting note: the government has said there is NOT copyright protection for anything created with AI. Good to know, right?

Want More? Join SOWBO!

We appreciate Maria Spears Ollis bringing her expertise and experience to SOWBO.

If you want more of this kind of insight and information, become a SOWBO member. You will have access to all our upcoming member-exclusive training sessions.

Find out more about SOWBO membership and join today!

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