Authors. Libel. UV-a

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Authors beware when writing about people you know.

Old typewriterLast year, a federal jury sitting in Virginia awarded $3 million to Nicole Eramo, a former University of Virginia (UV-a) associate dean. The jury found Rolling Stone magazine had committed libel. The magazine published an article that tarnished Ms. Eramo’s reputation by alleging she was indifferent to allegations of gang rape on UV-a campus.

What’s the message here? Be careful what you write.

Yes, the First Amendment has certain guarantees regarding free speech and freedom of the press, but even the First Amendment has its limits. The Eramo jury found those limits.

So, as authors wanting to write about people that can potentially be recognized, here are a few things to take into consideration:

Understand the concept of libel. It’s a false statement published as a fact, which harms the reputation of a person, business or organization.

  1. Defamatory Statement. In breaking down the definition, know that the alleged libelous content must contain a defamatory statement that harms the reputation of someone.
  2. Easily Recognized. If the party you speak about can be identified, you risk being sued. This applies even if you change the name. It also applies to both fiction and nonfiction works of authorship.
  3. Published to a Third Party. The work must be seen by a third party, not just the author of the work and the person written about.
  4. Must be False. Finally, truth is a defense to libel. For a claim of libel to be successful, the statement must be false.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Feel free to join my conversation on my Facebook Fan Page, on my Twitter page, in one of my LinkedIn Groups.

Uber Drivers. Tipping

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Uber. Tipping. Taxi.

Uber. Tipping. Taxi. Cab.

I am new to Uber, in fact, I just took my first one last week while in Orlando at a conference.

Mostly it worked out well. Most drivers showed up when they said they would or at all, two did not.  And most were pleasant enough.  Being new, I assume a tip was included in the cost.  However, that being said, when a driver was exceptionally nice, helpful, flexible, or even just friendly, I just gave him an extra tip.  I personally have mixed views about Uber and the concept of hitchhiking with strangers.  I did that in Junior High and High School, but was on drugs so I did many things I would not do now.
 
The idea of tipping an Uber driver, if the tip is included then that’s one thing. If you want to give extra for doing extra, then we as customers are always free to do that.  Not sure why there is an issue here.

It goes back to what I believe, and that is, tips are for good service. Whether you drive a Yellow Cab or an Uber, if the service is poor then while there may be some folks who are afraid not to tip, others of us are not. I don’t tip for poor service, and if I do, it is the bare minimum.
 
Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Feel free to join my conversation on my Facebook Fan Page, on my Twitter page, in one of my LinkedIn Groups.

Disney. Inside Out. The Moodsters.

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Copyright Infringement.

copyrightHave you ever considered pitching a story idea to a big movie producer? If you have, you also have to think about ensuring that your concept doesn’t get stolen. Many times, an idea gets pitched, rejected and then later the producer uses a similar storyline.

Childhood development expert, Denise Daniels, co-founded the National Childhood Grief Institute which counsels children after tragedies such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11.

In addition to National Childhood Grief Institute, Daniels created a children’s program called The Moodsters to help kids better manage their emotions. She pitched this idea to Disney-owned Pixar many times between the years of 2005 and 2009. Daniels states that there was an understanding that she and her team would be compensated in the event that the idea was used.

Fast forward to 2015, Disney launched the “Inside Out” animated program to explore children’s emotions through various characters representing different moods by using colors.

Daniels filed a lawsuit against Disney stating that her idea was used and she was not given credit or compensation.

Story Ideas.

According to Daniels’ attorney, Michael Geibelson, who writes that in The Moodsters “Each character is an animated, anthropomorphized figure representing a single emotion with a corresponding color, and specifically happiness (yellow), anger (red), sadness (blue), fear (green) and love (pink).”

In a statement to the press, a Disney spokesman said: “Inside Out was an original Pixar creation, and we look forward to vigorously defending against this lawsuit in court.”

A similar case was brought to court in March by Esplanade Pictures who claims that their writer, Gary L. Goldman, pitched Zootopia to Disney in 2000 and 2009, and was not compensated.

So, my advice to you is that if you are ready to pitch your idea to a producer, its best to hire an expert entertainment attorney to assist you before you have that first all-important meeting.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Feel free to join my conversation on my Facebook Fan Page, on my Twitter page, in one of my LinkedIn Groups.

Starting a Non-Profit? Important Steps To Take.

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Are YOU:

  • Contemplating forming a nonprofit organization or a not for profit foundation?
  • Considering qualifying as a 501(c)3 charity? 501 (c)4? 501(c)5? 501(c)6? 501(c)7? Other 501(c)?
  • Not sure about the requirements?

Thinking woman in front of blackboard with question marksLet’s explore a few steps you need to take and a few resources that you may find useful. Depending on the exact nature of your non-profit and the state, in which it is formed, some things may or may not apply to you. This post primarily addresses California entities, however, you can research the corresponding agency in your state. For example, every state has a Secretary of State Business Portal. That might be your first stop.

A few documents you can obtain and even prepare on your own, and others, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer to help with. Regardless of whether you do it yourself or seek guidance, please know that legal documents should be prepared VERY carefully. They are not always as simple as they appear.

One thing you should know, if you are forming a not-for-profit in California, there are rules and regulations from four (4) governmental agencies, which you MUST comply with, as well as the operational business entity requirements. The government agencies are: California Franchise Tax BoardAttorney GeneralSecretary of State, and the Internal Revenue Service.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself, regarding your non profit:

  • What is the purpose of your non-profit?
  • What type of business entity will you have? Pure non-profit? Charity? Trade Association? Advocacy group? If in California, will it be a low-profit limited liability company (L3C)? or a hybrid social enterprise (e.g., Benefit Corporation, Flexible Purpose)
  • Regardless of the type of entity, you will need corporate documents. The following is a short list of things you will need:
    • Articles of incorporation or association
    • Bylaws or Operating Agreement if it is an LLC or L3C
    • If a corporation, Action of Sole Incorporator
    • Board of Directors
    • Minutes and Consents

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

Stop & Smell the Roses

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picture of smiling woman smelling flower

Smell the Roses. 

We’ve all heard the popular quote “stop and smell the roses.”  Well this also applies to things like your daily readings and meditations. It is one thing to do these things and just going through the motions, but how much do you really take in and absorb, and how much do you really get out of it?

For years, I faithfully read my daily meditations. They became a part of my daily routine. After my morning readings, I would sit quietly and digest the material, allowing it to sink into my consciousness. This was a great way to start my day and proceed with a clear mind on what I wanted out of life.

But…

Over the years, I somehow began to get careless. I rushed through my reading and mediations without really absorbing them, without fully taking in the meanings and lessons they offered. As a result, I missed the essence of what keeps me grounded.

Do you read, meditate or perhaps do yoga? If you do, are you just going through the motions and thinking about what you have to do next, or are you there in the moment learning and benefiting as much as you can? So many of us have such hectic lives that we don’t even know how to relax anymore. We don’t allow ourselves to chill out for even a short period of time and quiet ourselves – we don’t take time to see the roses, much less smell them!

There is great power in your readings and mediations, power that can change your day, power that can make sense of what is currently happening in your life, power to let go of anger and see things through a different light. However, if we simply go through the motions and never really process what we read, how can it really help us?

So please remember that you will get out of your inspirational readings and meditations exactly what you put into them. The more you practice absorbing the material and quieting your mind, the easier it will become, and the greater the benefits will be.

Feel free to join my conversation on FacebookFacebook Esteemableacts Fan Page, or my Facebook Law Page, you can also interact with me on my Twitter Esteemable Acts pageTwitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn.