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Monkey See, Monkey Selfie? Who Owns Copyright?

Monkey takes photos on camera

Indonesian monkey above, sorry. The US Copyright Office says the selfies you took in 2011 after grabbing British nature photographer David Slater’s camera and snapping hundreds of pictures of yourself (he apparently liked the sound the camera made when taking a picture) does not give you, or Slater for that matter, any rights. Slater is fighting it in court and says he owns the copyright on anything taken with his camera on his trip and no one else can distribute the photos.

In newly released rules last week, the US Copyright Office says that no one owns a copyright on pictures taken, or other creative works by, non-humans. Examples they included were murals painted by elephants, a song written by the Divine Spirit, and pictures taken by monkeys. Tell that to Planet of the Apes’ civilization-founding chimp Ceasar, who would be none too pleased.

The monkey is pretty darn cute. Apparently the new rules are under review until December 15 and after that they are in full effect. So for now you can enjoy the monkey selfies for free. My view: copyrights are for art, and if you own a camera but didn’t create the art, you should not own the rights to the creative works you didn’t create. But that’s just me.

 

Canadian Bar Group: Let Non-Lawyers Own Law Firms

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According to Canada’s Globe and Mail, the Canadian Bar Association has recommended allowing non-lawyers to be owners of law firms. England has allowed it since 2007, and Australia also has firms owned by non-lawyers. In fact three Australian law firms are publicly held companies. This is not yet permitted in the US (but DC allows some non-lawyer ownership according to www.abovethelaw.com). What are the arguments pro and con?

Against non-lawyer ownership: Law is a profession not a business. Ethics must rule decision making, not profits. Being answerable to outside investors would impair judgment. For non-lawyer ownership: Firms now can only finance growth with bank loans. Many are effectively already controlled by these banks, and too many brought down by temporary cash flow problems leading to loans being called. Professional judgment already risks impairment because even lawyer owners want to make money. Allowing equity to be owned by long term investors caring about the health of the organization vs. repayment of a loan would enhance the longevity of firms. And lawyers always must exercise proper ethics and discretion regardless of profit, whether they own the firm or an outsider does.

You can tell where I’m going. It’s time to allow US law firms the option to have outside investors directly (strorefront legal chain Jacoby & Myers did it years ago indirectly through a separate service company but with the same effective results). If you think lawyers don’t already face the ethics vs. profit challenge every single day regardless of ownership, you may need to trade that dusty copy of Black’s Law Dictionary for the sleek online version.

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Robin Williams

goodbye-genie

Genie….you are free..

From the day he showed up as alien Mork from Ork on the TV show Happy Days, I have loved the comedic genius of Robin Williams. We reveled at his antics on the resulting spinoff, Mork and Mindy, which put beautiful Boulder, CO on the map. His meteoric rise to and amazing tenure in stardom thereafter reflect that extraordinary talent. It is of course overwhelmingly sad to learn that depression and battles with alcohol and drugs, along with the beginnings of a battle with Parkinson’s, may have caused him to take his life at a very young 63. As a tribute I thought we should ponder what lessons business owners can take from how Williams built his brand and managed his life.

1. Don’t Fear Risk. Williams was a super talented comic, selling out the clubs and leaving us all ROFL as Mork. Staying in that realm would likely have guaranteed continued success. But he made the move to dramatic acting in such wonderful films as Dead Poets Society, Awakenings and Good Will Hunting, for which he won an Academy Award. This effort could have flopped. Instead it brought his stardom to superstardom at a level rarely achieved.

2. Never Forget Your Base. Despite his success in dramatic roles, he continued to play in clubs and take on many comedic roles, knowing this was his base. Films like Aladdin, Good Morning Vietnam and Mrs. Doubtfire are indeed comedy classics in my book. We knew that any appearance on The Tonight Show was going to make us guffaw.

3. Face Up to Your Challenges. Despite the incredibly sad ending to his life, Williams was open about his difficulties with drugs, alcohol and depression. I think this openness, and hard work through rehab, helped him with his sobriety and confidence to get through what apparently were many tough periods. We all deal with difficulties in life and business. It’s not what life throws us, but how we deal with what life throw us that makes the difference.

4. Success is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.  Recently Williams was very busy, having just completed four films (it has been reported he had financial issues, see below). But his career has involved pacing himself for the most part, with time off for family and, apparently at times, bouts with the challenges in his life. Most entrepreneurs can never get fully away from work, so I tend to call the issue “work/less work balance.” But it’s important to give you energy, perspective and joy for life which translates well to your attitude and sticktoitiveness about business.

5. Manage Cash Flow Carefully. Williams apparently was facing financial constraints following two expensive divorces (he has joked that the term “alimony” evolved from “all the money”). Unfortunately, the streets are littered with rich people who lost everything. Successful entrepreneurs are great at making money, but not all are great at managing it, or the lifestyle they choose when success comes. As risk-oriented as you are with building a business, that’s how risk-averse it often requires you to be to keep the money you make.

To the Williams family, our sincerest condolences on this very very sad passing of a legend.

Women in Business: Lean In? Lean Out? Stand Up Straight! A Male Perspective – Part VI

michelle dockery

Lessons from “Downton Abbey’s” Lady Mary Crawley

I admit to being somewhat addicted to the wonderful PBS series Downton Abbey. In the early 1920s, the fictional Lady Mary (played by actress Michelle Dockery above) inherits a 50% stake in the sprawling English manor of her ancestry. Always bright but somewhat engrossed in the opulent but increasingly anachronistic aristocratic lifestyle, Mary, an unexpectedly widowed single mother, discovers a strong business sense and determination in helping her family run the estate. At a time when most of the English manors were crumbling under financial ruin as their farmlands became less productive and valuable, Mary works to make the Crawley estate remain viable and successful.

Why talk so much about Lady Mary? Well I’ve always had a fascination with the British monarchy and the whole lords and ladies thing. But that aside, at a time when women were still expected to be in the home raising children, Mary is seen cleaning up pig slop, having tough meetings with the men and getting her way. The show does highlight the beginnings of change as the suffrage movement began to take hold and focuses on changing times and the strong resistance thereto.

Sadly, nearly 100 years later, there remain too many chauvinist men (mostly of the older generation) who still question women’s place at work. I really get frustrated by these types. Especially since most have learned not to let on that they feel this way. As a result, women are victimized often without realizing it, or having any ability to prove it, or with no legal recourse when it happens. The sad truth: until these men are gone, if you want to deal with or work for them, you have no choice but to play their game. It’s easy to say I shouldn’t have to do that, we are all equal, I shouldn’t cowtow to them, etc. But if you want to get on the good side of these abhorrent types of men, you need to accept that they live in their illusion of superiority. Rather than bold confrontation, which likely will backfire, encourage them with respect and quiet advice. And when it’s time for your voice to be heard, be calmly and professionally assertive. Lady Mary figured that out. She was always deferential to her father while still actively persuading and cajoling him. She made him feel in charge even if they were equal partners. It’s no easy task, but sadly that’s what’s necessary with this lot. For now.

5 Tips to Better Macromanagement

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In my latest book, The Entrepreneur’s Growth Startup Handbook (John Wiley & Sons/Bloomberg Press), I note nine key personality traits I believe make it more likely you will succeed as an entrepreneur. One key attribute to help you build something substantial: being a macromanager. What is that? Obviously the opposite of being a micromanager. The best entrepreneurs learn to delegate day-to-day tasks. Why is micromanagement bad? It leads to resentment and lack of trust, and takes you away from the important things you need to attend to. Here are five suggestions for improving your macromanagement skills to help you focus on dreaming, planning, assisting in key hires and helping solve the major problems that arise.

1. Embrace the “D” word: you delegate and let your people make mistakes, but work to ensure they learn from them. If they don’t, maybe they are not the right employees for you.

2. Accept your employees’ different business styles. So long as it doesn’t undermine you or hurt the business. You send short emails, they send long ones. So what?

3. As President Reagan liked to say about the then-USSR, trust but verify. Give people the freedom they need, but maintain a healthy skepticism about their abilities and motivations. Spot checking is good.

4. Close your eyes and pray. If you assume no one can do things as well as you, find people who at least can do things well enough. You can check and check but in the end you have to just say go.

5. Maintain your relationships. You let your salespeople do their thing, but take some time to make sure the customers realize the value you personally add to their relationship as well. This makes it tougher for the salesperson to abscond with the relationship and allows you to continue to allow the team member to do the heavy lifting with the customer.

 

LegalZoom: Affordable Legal Access or Unauthorized Law Practice?

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In 2001, a group led by OJ Simpson trial attorney Robert Shapiro tried something new. An online site for average folks to inexpensively access legal documents, form a business or make a will. Today LegalZoom is apparently over a $100 million a year business, according to the ABA Journal. Millions of users. But a number of US states have sued them, claiming their site constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. The states’ argument: they don’t just provide forms. They have software that helps people fill them out, and they have people who review the forms for things like spelling or to make sure they completed the whole form. LegalZoom says none of that is legal advice. Frankly I think they are right. And they have tons of disclaimers on the site reminding you to use an attorney if you’re not sure. They even now have prepaid legal services plans so you can access a lawyer affordably. In general they have fought back the attempts by the states to shut them down. A few months ago South Carolina gave the company the go-ahead. Other cases have been dismissed and a few are still pending.

The state groups that bring these cases are run by lawyers. They tend to want to protect lawyers from folks taking money away from them. But some of their concern is valid. I worry, for example, that while it is easy to form a corporation or LLC, the key advice we often assist with as lawyers is whether a business should be an LLC, corporation, sole proprietorship or the like. Then yes, a paralegal can do the rest. But if middle-class Americans or cost-conscious new entrepreneurs are worried about the cost, and want to go ahead and exercise their right to form an entity without this advice, why not make it easy for them? States should monitor the LegalZooms but allow them to work and flourish.

We are moving more towards the medical model, where routine legal matters are handled almost exclusively by non-lawyers. A lawyer friend does real estate closings for people buying houses and apartments. Ninety percent of the work is done by experienced paralegals. The lawyer reviews the title information and leaves the rest to others. We lawyers should help de-mystify these things, eliminate Latin from law stuff and allow greater access to self-help when it comes to legal matters.

 

 

 

4 Must-Dos When Interviewing with an Entrepreneur

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Searching for talent in a relatively new or fast-growing company is not exactly the same as finding employees in, say a small retail store, or at the opposite extreme, a large company. The difference in a growing entrepreneurial company is that typically the business is either just getting started and frenzied, on a wonderful tear and frenzied, or struggling and frenzied. Entrepreneurs are hard workers making things happen and they want employees who will actually enjoy the crazy ride that is an entrepreneurial company.

Therefore, interviewing with an entrepreneur poses its own unique challenges. I spend an entire chapter in my latest book, The Entrepreneur’s Growth Startup Handbook, advising entrepreneurs on how to find and keep the right people. Here are a few ways that you can become a stand out candidate with business owners and, hopefully, land the job:

1. Share your long term plan.

Be honest here. Is this job just a stepping stone or are you excited about the opportunity to learn and grow in an exciting and unpredictable business? If you are not genuinely excited about the company and your future there, you’re less likely to bring in the positive energy that drives the entire company’s work atmosphere and less likely to be hired.

2. Review your own resume and find your “thing”

Entrepreneurs are passionate about their company and tend to hire people with that same fire. What are you passionate about? Did you make your dream a reality? Is it a work in progress? Rather than trying to impress a potential employer with a long list of activities, focus on your leadership roles and biggest accomplishments. Having a “thing” will make you more memorable and will convey the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that the company is looking for.

3. Think about previous issues in the workplace and how you addressed them

These kinds of questions come up in every interview. But, remember, this company is likely “frenzied” in some way, shape or form. Working for an entrepreneur comes with its own challenges and he/she will want to know that you can roll with the punches.

4. Let them get to know you

Entrepreneurs are looking inward and building a family. They want to find employees who will like each other, enjoy working together, put the team ahead of their individual agendas, avoid watching the clock, and plan for a long stay. Are you outgoing? Could you be a team player? How would you contribute to the company’s vibe? Multiple interviews may be necessary to answer these questions. But your personality will be one of the largest factors in the decision to hire you. So be excited about who you are and what you bring to the table.

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