Blurred Lines. Marvin Gaye. Robin Thicke. Copyright Infringement.


Marvin Gaye.

Copyright Infringement. Copyright Music.

Copyright Infringement. Copyright Music.

Marvin Gaye wrote and performed many Motown hits during his legendary career.  Sadly, he died early and tragically in 1984 at the age of 44. However, Marvin Gaye received several posthumous honors and awards, including his 1987 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1977, Marvin Gaye released a hit single called “Got to Give It Up.” The song topped billboard charts and became an international favorite.

Blurred Lines. Robin Thicke. Copyright Infringement.

Fast forward 36 years to 2013 and the release of Robin Thicke’s hit song “Blurred Lines,” a song that the estate of Marvin Gaye believed was way too similar to “Got to Give It Up.” In August of 2013, the Gaye Estate filed a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement.

Robin Thicke’s attorneys argued that the similarities in the songs we more a matter of “feeling” and “evocation of an era” than the copying of a musical theme, and that no copyright laws were broken. The Estate of Marvin Gaye successfully claimed copyright infringement.

After a year and a half, the case was finally resolved this past Tuesday when a Los Angeles federal jury agreed with the estate of Marvin Gaye, deciding that Thicke and co-defendant Pharrell Williams, who co-wrote “Blurred Lines,” did infringe on the copyright and awarded the family of Marvin Gaye over $7.3 million. The damages are believed to be one of the highest awarded in a music copyright case.

After the verdict, Richard S. Busch, an attorney for the Gaye family, spoke of the main argument of the defense saying: “Throughout this case they made comments about how this was about a groove, and how this was about an era, it wasn’t. It was about the copyright of ‘Got to Give It Up.’ It was about copyright infringement.”  Attorneys for Thicke and Williams would only say that they are “considering their legal options.” However, Thicke and Williams did release a joint statement saying they were “extremely disappointed in the ruling made today, which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward.”

As an attorney who believes in protecting the rights of creators, I am pleased with the outcome.  What do you think? Do you think “Blurred Lines” sounds similar to Marvin Gaye’s hit single “Got to Give It Up”?

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groups, Google+ Circles.



Benefit corporation. B-Corp. Articles of Incorporation.


Benefit corporation. B-Corp. Articles of Incorporation.

Benefit corporation. Social enterprise

Benefit corporation. Social enterprise

Benefit Corporations. Times are changing. Today, more than ever before, enterprising entrepreneurs are setting a new stage and creating a work environment that suits their needs. The desire to combine corporate responsibility with social enterprise is at the forefront of many new business owners. Hence we have the benefit corporation. Twenty-three states, including California, New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania have enacted laws which permit this new corporate form. The Benefit Corporation are for profit companies, which incorporate the features of non-profits. While taking into account a shareholders need for a return on their investment, benefit corporations also allow management to consider the corporation’s impact on the environment, the community, and its employees. Benefit corporations are generally formed in the same way as traditional corporations.  However, there are a few differences. Benefit corporations are created for a specific public benefit purpose, for that reason there is more scrutiny attached to their formation and maintenance. The benefit corporation must be accountable and transparent, with regard to its benefit purpose. In some states, like California, an express notation must be included in the Articles of Incorporation, that state: “This corporation is a benefit corporation.”

Public Benefit Purpose.

If you choose to identify a specific public benefit purpose, while not required, you might consider including this specific purpose in your Articles of Incorporation, as well. Examples of a “specific public benefit” are: (a) preserving the environment, (b) providing low-income or underserved individuals or communities with beneficial products and/or services, (c) promoting economic opportunity for individuals or communities beyond the creation of jobs in the ordinary course of business, (d) improving human health, promoting the arts, sciences, or advancement of knowledge, (e) increasing the flow of capital to entities with a public benefit purpose, or (f) the accomplishment of any other particular benefit for society or the environment.


Oftentimes people confuse benefit corporations with Certified B-corporations. They are not the same. Benefit corporation, like other corporate entities, are created by state governments.  The Certified B corporation status is a certification handed down by the nonprofit company called B-Lab. They charge an annual fee for certification.  While a benefit corporation is not required to get certified, there may be benefits to certification. If one has acquired Certified B corporation status, they have overcome many hurdles and reached a high level of accountability, transparency, and performance.

What do you think about benefit corporations? Join the conversation on my website at Francine Ward, attorney; on my Law Facebook Fan Page; on my Law Twitter page, in one of my Google+ Circles, or LinkedIn Groups.


Tsu. Free Music Downloads. Copyright Infringement.


Free Music Downloads.

Free Music Downloads. Tsu

Free Music Downloads. Tsu

Being an “artist” in the internet age is not all it’s cut out to be. Thanks to the many ways consumers can access free music downloads, many artists struggle to make money on their intellectual and creative property. Free music downloads have become an everyday part of life.

This all started back in the late nineties when Napster, a platform to download and share music, hit the scene. The site reached 70 million users and by the time the smoke cleared from the numerous copyright lawsuits, the music industry was permanently changed. Right or wrong, consumers no longer felt that they should have to pay for music.

The Birth of Tsu.

What if you got paid for  everything you posted on social media? In November of last year, songwriter Aloe Blacc wrote an op-ed for laying out his concerns over how songwriters, and artists in general, get paid for their creations. In the article, he revealed that he earned less than $4,000 from the hit song “Wake Me Up,” which he co-wrote and performed with Avicii. Streamed on Pandora over 168 million times in the United States, it received a mere $12,369 in Pandora domestic royalties. He feels that the work of songwriters is “being devalued in today’s marketplace.”

However, there may be a glimmer of hope for artists in the digital music age.

Last November saw the launch of a Social Media start-up called Tsu. To date, the platform has over 2 million users. The goal of founder, Sebastian Sobczak, was to create a social network where users could make money from sharing their content. The user content relies on ad revenue of which Tsu keeps 10%. While Pandora and Spotify are the leaders in digital music streaming, it is extremely difficult for artists to make any substantial money through their services. Spotify pays royalties ranging from $0.006 to $0.0084 for each time a song is played. An artist streaming on Pandora will make roughly $90 for every million plays.

As a form of protest, Taylor Swift recently removed her entire catalog from Spotify saying that free music diminishes the hard work that goes into creating songs. Sebastian Sobczak agrees, saying, “If you’ve written the most popular song in the world, you’re still only getting a few dollars in your royalty check. If you’re a new up and coming artist, you’re screwed.” While the company is still very young, it may provide some hope that fair compensation for artists in the digital age can become a reality.

Just because we live in the internet age and most music is streamed or downloaded does not mean that people should not receive fair payment for their creative works. Protecting intellectual property and insuring fair compensation is an issue that needs to be addressed.

I’m Attorney Francine Ward, and I believe in protecting the rights of the content creator, including songwriters. What do you think? Join the conversation on my Facebook Law Fan Page, my Twitter Law Page, my Google+ Page, or in one of my LinkedIn Groups, YouTube.


San Francisco Area Code. Change.


San Francisco Area Code. Change.

San Francisco Area Code. Change.

San Francisco Area Code. Change.

There are real problems in life, and then there are problems manufactured in the minds of individuals. Case in point, future area codes for San Francisco and Marin County will no longer be the familiar 415. Starting in 13 months, all new numbers will contain the area code 628 – and many people in the Bay Area are not happy about it.

The reason for the new area code is quite simple. They have simply used up the 415 code, largely due to the tremendous increase of cell phones over the past decade or so. But many people feel that the 415 area code is symbolic of the San Francisco area – sort of a status symbol, if you will. Yet I wonder, how many folks in the Bay area have land lines and cell phones, both with the 415 exchange? I, for one, am among that group, but then, I’m not complaining about the switch to 628.

Manhattan Area Code Change.

The same thing happened in New York City back in 1984 when Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island were switched from the iconic 212 area code to 718. The Bronx later made the switch to 718 in 1992. Currently only Manhattan holds the 212 code. There was public outcry back then too. People from the outer boroughs felt like they were second-class citizens.

All over a three-digit code. Whatever!

Dealing with Change.

Getting back to the Bay Area, 16 to 17 months ago the people of the Bay Area were given the opportunity to comment on the proposed area code change. THAT, was the time to complain! Why is it that so many people like to complain—after the fact? The truth is, they had the chance to speak up last year, but they chose not to. Now, they get what they get.

Far too many people, it seems, are uncomfortable with any sort of change, regardless of how trivial it is. Many sweat the small stuff while ignoring the bigger picture. Change is constant, so isn’t it more productive to focus on changing what we can, what really matters, while accepting the things we cannot change?

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward. Find me on my Facebook Law Fan Page, Twitter Law Page, Google+, and LinkedIn.


Trial Offers. Risk Free. Terms of Use.


Terms of Use. Trial Offers. Risk Free.

Terms of Use. Red Reviews.

Terms of Use. Read Reviews.

There are hundreds of commercials on TV and hundreds more all over the internet offering “trial offers” for products that range from skin care to vitamins and supplements. The health and beauty industry is known for these types of trial offers because they want you to feel comfortable trying out their products, so they offer arguably, “risk-free” trials so you can determine if the product is right for you.

But wait…there is always a catch. And, it’s up to you, the consumer, to be aware of the Terms of Use attached to these deals.

Let me start by stating that adults should know that nothing in life is free. If you understand this simple truth, you will be less likely to be duped by slick marketing campaigns and less likely to lose your hard-earned money.

Keranique. Read the Reviews.

One such product that offers such a “risk-free trial” is Keranique, a woman’s hair growth product. And evidently, many consumers seem to be a bit confused about their risk-free offer. The following online review from a Keranique customer really caught my attention. Check it out:

“My biggest issue with Keranique is not the product..its the people who complain about it.  Do you not know how to read? The terms and conditions for the *** trial are all over the place but yet “no one is informed”. Also, for the idiots that think it’s free. What part of “risk free” and “trial” is hard to understand? Risk free does not = Free!!! I can’t believe people are so dumb that they actually think they are getting hundreds of dollars of products (prices of which are clearly listed on the *** web site) for free. I’m not sure where you are from but you don’t get to go to a store, put on a shirt, wear it for 30 days, and then bring it back for free.. so I think letting you try a product before paying for it is more than generous of them.  To end my rant I’d like to say, wake up, pull your heads out of your ***, read what your putting your credit card information into, and don’t expect things in life to be free. Cause you’re going to be very disappointed.” (Yelp, Review #563949)

Again, you must read these agreements very carefully before placing your order. The fine print usually explains that you must cancel your order if you are not satisfied with the risk-free trial or you will continue to receive the product and your credit card will continue to be charged. These are sometimes called, “Continuity Agreements,” because they last forever until you cancel.

FTC Rulings. Federal Trade Commission.

The Federal Trade Commission lists some helpful common sense tips on their website dealing with Free Trial Offers.

These include:

  • Research the company online.
  • Find the terms and conditions for the offer.
  • Look for who’s behind the offer.
  • Watch out for pre-checked boxes.
  • Mark your calendar.
  • Look for info on how you can cancel future shipments or services.
  • Read your credit and debit card statements.

Remember, in the end it is your responsibility to make sure you completely understand these offers before signing up.  As an adult, you are accountable for your choices. An informed and educated consumer is much more likely to be a happy customer.

How do you feel about “risk-free” trials? Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward. Find me on my Facebook Law Fan Page, Twitter Law Page, Google+, and LinkedIn.