What Can You Learn From Necole Bitchie About Licensing!?! A Lot!


Necole Bitchie Interview with the Breakfast Club Power 105.1


Happy New Year! In 2013, I was a little lax about updating the J. Paye in Brief blog due to the deamnds of being a lawyer.  My goal for this year is to be more consistent in bringing you interesting entertainment and celebrity stories with a legal spin. Let’s get started with the first post of 2014.

It’s a new year and a time when many of us make resolutions.  Maybe, your resolution is to become a successful blogger and entreprenuer. Celebrity Blogger, Necole Bitchie went from being unemployed and sleeping on the couches of friends/family to creating a thriving blog and brand.  It took a lot of hardwork and sacrifice on her part to start realizing her business goals. As Necole says, “It takes time to get that breakthrough.” 

Necole Bitchie was recently interviewed on Power 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club.” She talked about some of the legal challenges she had to overcome. In the interview, she candidly talks about receiving cease and desist letters for using an unlicensed photo of Jay-Z and Beyonce on her blog.

In this digital age, there are several misconceptions about downloading and using pictures and video from the Internet.  One common misconception is if an image is on the Internent, it is in the public domain and no permission is required to use the image.  Or if an image can be downloaded from the Internet, it can be used without permission.

The reality is, once a photo or other image is created it is automatically copyrighted. Once an image is copyrighted permission is requried to use it. Copyright law prohibits both accidental and willful copyright infringement.  If you use a picture from the Internet on your blog without permission, you can be liable for damages even if you did not know the picture was copyrighted.

How can you use photos on your blog, website, or online magazine without infringing on someone’s copyright? One option is to hire a professional photographer. Although, you hire a photographer to take headshoots of you or produce imagery for your website, that does not necessarily mean you own the rights to the final images.  Ask the photographer to sign a work-for-hire agreement that stipulates copyright ownership of the final images belong to you.  Or if the photographer already has photos you like ask if they will license them to you on a exclusive or non-exclusive basis.  A entertainment or intellectual property lawyer can help you with these agreements.

There are sites like istockphoto, getty images, and others that offer stock photos that can be licensed or purchased for a fee. As Necole mentioned, in her interview licensing multiple photos can become expensive…especially if your business is in the startup phase and has limited capital.  A cost effective alternative, is to use your camera phone to capture your own photos and videos to use on your blog/website.

Not only does Necole’s life story provide solid advice about legal pitfalls aspiring bloggers should avoid, but on her blog she offers very thoughtful advice about living life vs. just existing.

Here’s to putting in the time and work necessary to get your breakthrough in 2014!

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this post does not constitute legal advice.  Please consult an attorney to discuss your legal needs.

To WordPress or Not to WordPress…

To WordPress or Not to WordPress…

Recently, the J. Paye website was converted into a WordPress site.  My graphic designer explained the benefits of converting to a WordPress site such as  the ease of customizing and updating the site.  As a copyright attorney, my first question was who would own the copyright to the site.  With previous versions of the site, I had a contractual understanding with my graphic designer and web developer that their contributions to the site would be treated as a work-made-for-hire and J. Paye would own all copyrights to the site.  Converting to a WordPress site did not affect the copyrights I retain in the site design and content.  But, moving the site to this platform did affect the copyright I held in the site code.

WordPress is an open platform that allows individuals to contribute codes, templates, and plugins that can be incorporated into a WordPress site.  However, all contributors to the WordPress platform retain the copyright to their code. Under the General Public License users of the platform are allowed to copy, distribute and/or modify software files posted on the site.

As a result of converting to a WordPress site, I no longer own the copyright to the code used to build the site.  This is not a critical issue for me, because the purpose of my site is to provide legal information.  WordPress is not the best option for an individual or company seeking to develop a website that offers some novel or unique web technology.

This is because the technology incorporated into the website and the code that powers it is valuable intellectual property.  By making this code publicly available on an open platform like WordPress, the individual loses the ability to effectively protect his intellectual property and license the technology or code.  Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook utilizing an open platform the code he wrote would be freely available to anyone using WordPress.  In turn, they would be able to use the code to create social media sites identical to Facebook.  If your website offers innovative technology like Facebook it would be better to hire a developer under a work-for-hire agreement to build the website.

Before building a website, it is best to seek the advice of a knowledgeable copyright and/or internet lawyer.

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