Episode 73 // Legal Advice for Creatives with Autumn Witt Boyd

May 24, 2016

We’re so excited to finally have a lawyer on the show! Autumn Witt Boyd is an attorney who offers legal solutions for creative entrepreneurs—including contracts, copyrights, trademarks, and entity formation.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
This Episode Brought to You By:
"If you have a ton of free content on your blog, that's valuable, and you should protect it."
- Autumn Witt Boyd

Discussed in this Episode

  • Working with a lawyer does not have to be scary (8:09)
  • First legal steps creatives can take to set themselves up as a legitimate business (9:25)
  • The difference between trademarking and copyrighting (11:59)
  • The difference between a sole proprietorship, an LLC, and an S-corp (16:00)
  • Having multiple businesses and using a DBA (21:10)
  • Website terms & conditions and privacy policy (24:57)
  • Copycats and when to sue people or take legal action (29:10)
  • Taking legal action against haters (33:58)
  • Filing a DMCA takedown notice (36:32)
  • Intellectual property vs. copyrighting (40:21)
  • When to hire a lawyer in your business (41:34)
  • Self-publishing books and protecting your work (44:13)
  • Contracts, Affiliate agreements, and giving others your content (46:16)

Resources

More from Autumn Witt Boyd

More from Kathleen

Braid Creative

More from Emily

Almanac Supply Co.

Transcript

Emily Thompson 0:00
Hello and welcome to being boss episode number 73. This episode is brought to you by fresh books cloud accounting.

Being boss and work and life is being in it.

Kathleen Shannon 0:16
It's being who we are doing the work,

Emily Thompson 0:19
breaking some rules. And even though we each have to do it on our own, being boss is knowing we're in it together.

Kathleen Shannon 0:28
I want to pause for a moment and acknowledge that in today's episode, we're talking about a lot of stuff that as creatives can often get scared of, from legal stuff to accounting, which is why we love fresh books, cloud accounting software, it's made specifically for small business owners, and freelancers who want to spend less time dealing with the money side of their business, but still get paid like bosses by being able to easily invoice their clients and track their expenses and get everything organized in a way that makes them legit. You guys can try fresh books for free for 30 days by going to freshbooks comm slash being boss and enter being boss in the How did you hear about us section? Okay, you guys, today we are talking to creative attorney autumn wit Boyd. And we are so excited to finally have a lawyer on the show. And welcome. Thanks for joining us. Yeah,

Autumn Witt Boyd 1:24
I'm so excited to chat with you guys.

Kathleen Shannon 1:26
Let's launch off this episode by talking a little bit about your background, I want to hear how you decided to become an attorney. And how you decided to work with creatives.

Autumn Witt Boyd 1:36
Yeah, so it was a bit of a winding road. But I'll keep it short. Um, I went to college thinking I was gonna be an opera singer. And that that will come up. I know. Yeah. So we will come back to that. But um, ended up I was not good enough. Which I found out very quickly, but switched to majoring in journalism and then figured out journalism was not really a career path that I was excited about. But I really liked writing and research and interviewing people and all of those kind of skills that I got through my journalism training. So law school, then became kind of a logical next step. And so I went to law school, I went to Vanderbilt in Nashville, I'm from Tennessee. So ended up at Vanderbilt wanting to be an entertainment lawyer, because I love music. And I thought that would just be a really good fit. So I started down that path. And when I found out what entertainment lawyers do, it seemed really boring, which is they do a lot of contract review. They do a lot of negotiations. It's a lot of, you know, looking at like a 50 page document full of long, boring words. So I kind of switched paths a little bit then and became a litigator. So just a trial lawyer out of law school, I worked for a judge for two years here in Chattanooga. That's what brought me to Chattanooga. And then just went to work for a big firm in town. And I did all kinds of different trial work. But I'd always was still interested because I think of my musical background and just being interested in the entertainment industry. I was always interested in copyright and trademark work. But since Chattanooga is not exactly an entertainment hub, we did not have a lot of that work here. So I did a little bit at the firm that I worked for. And then I actually got hired away to work for a really small copyright boutique. So for about seven years I telecommuted so I worked from home for this firm that was based in Colorado, and I did just copyright litigation. So I represented mostly photographers and small stock photography agencies, so they would sometimes specialize in like pictures of animals or scientific photos. So I did that for almost seven years and traveled all over the country. We litigated all over the country, in federal court. And these were, you know, million dollar plus cases. So it was high stress. It was really fun in the beginning. And then I had two kids, I have twin boys who are four now. And so the travel became less fun and the stress became less fun. So about a year and a half ago, I decided I wanted to make a change. But I had had the benefit of super flexible arrangement with the telecommuting. So I just could not see you know, putting a suit back on since I've been wearing yoga pants for seven years. And sitting behind a desk all day from you know, eight to six. So I kind of looked around to try and see what else I could do and where my skill set might come in handy. And I decided to go out on my own and start a solo practice here in Chattanooga. We didn't want to move my husband has family nearby we have I have family nearby and he has his own business as well. So we have a really exciting startup scene here in Chattanooga. And so that is what where I really thought that I would first start working in and that was one of the things like I kind of said started going to meetups and meeting people and figured out that was not as good a fit for my skill set and my background and about that time being boss came into my life which i found through making for a practical wedding i think she gave you guys a shout out in one of her newsletters and so i started listening and i really i had no idea about this whole ecosystem of like the online entrepreneur creative entrepreneur community but through listening to you guys and i don't even think we've talked about this but i really learned about that and i got involved in the facebook group and my practice just kind of took off in that direction i started meeting people and it turned out that i really liked working with a lot of them it's a lot of young women i love working with women entrepreneurs and so yeah so in about the last year i'd say my practice is 98% women clients mostly in the online space and since what i do is mostly copyright and trademark work i can do it all across the country so it doesn't really matter where people are located yeah and it's just been it's been an incredible journey it's been really fun it has been way more fun than i expected when i first started you guys are way more fun to work with and startup dudes no offense to startup dudes

Kathleen Shannon 6:16
i love that so much i had no idea that our tribe through being boss helped you find your client yeah like that warms our hearts so also i want to mention that we are one of your clients that you recently helped emily and i with our operating agreement which we did an entire episode on and we just finalized that i think this week in which we had we literally made you put in there like a don't be an asshole clause

Autumn Witt Boyd 6:48
and i think there's a there's an oprah clause too right

Kathleen Shannon 6:52
oprah clause like what happens if one of us gets invited on oprah so that's what i loved about working with you is that i was able to i mean i think that most people think i'm joking whenever i say stuff like that but you it's really in there you put it in there and i really appreciated that so thank you

Autumn Witt Boyd 7:10
you're welcome you guys are super fun to work with you're definitely ideal clients

Emily Thompson 7:14
oh i like it when people say that

Kathleen Shannon 7:16
alright so i'm going to talk a little bit more about attorneys and creative entrepreneurs and why we need one i have found i've always avoided lawyers and attorneys i shared the story a long time ago on the podcast about one of my very first clients being a lawyer and he picked apart my contract to the point where in our first meeting i cried and after that i was like i will never work for another lawyer again and it was really hard to get to the point to want to hire someone and i don't mean to i mean i think that lawyers and dentists and even police officers like are starting to get bad raps but you've been such a delight to work with and one of the things that i loved about working with you adam and i should just clarify here that like autumn is not like repay autumn this is not like a plug for her because there is no trade or anything like that correct one of the things i loved about working with you is that i never felt afraid like at no point were you like you could get sued you can lose the shirt off your back which i feel like a lot of attorneys do can you speak to that a little bit

Autumn Witt Boyd 8:25
yeah absolutely um i think a lot of attorneys work from a place of fear because they see how badly things can go and i certainly have that background as well being a litigator so you know i was involved in lawsuits where people did things sometimes without even realizing they were doing say doing something bad and you know being sued for big dollars so i think that just in the industry that's become kind of standard but i don't think it has to be and it certainly is not how i like to work with clients and i've actually done a little bit of sales training and that some advice that i had gotten that i really need to pound into people's heads all the bad things that could happen to make them you know sign up for more services and that's just i don't know i don't like to operate from a place of fear i really like collaboration and planning and strategy and yeah things do go wrong and i work with people on that too but that's certainly not how i want to approach everything from day one so not all lawyers are bad

Kathleen Shannon 9:25
okay so let's say you're a brand new creative entrepreneur and you're wanting to get things set up in a right way like what is the first course of action legally that a creative can take to set them up set themselves up to be protected and legit and on the up and up

Autumn Witt Boyd 9:41
yeah absolutely and there's a lot of things that people can do on their own and so you don't need a lawyer for a lot of what we're going to talk about today the first thing i recommend is as you're choosing your business name is to run a trademark search and make sure nobody else is already using it so even if their domain name is available that does doesn't necessarily mean that someone else doesn't already have a similar business with either a name spelled slightly differently, or, you know, they chose a different kind of domain, but their actual business name is what you want. And so I just always run a Google search, and then a search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office database, which is really, it's easier than it sounds. You just go to uspto.gov. And then the database is called tests, it's t ss, and it's free, it's totally free. And that will at least let you know if you're at risk of somebody coming after you for having a similar name. Because a lot of times people aren't ready to register a trademark in the beginning, which is fine. And I don't even think you should. But I hate to see clients who are four or five years into their business, then have to do a name change, because they find out at that point that somebody else was already using the name.

Kathleen Shannon 10:57
Do you guys remember the blog? Young house? Love? Yes. Emily, did

Emily Thompson 11:01
you know that? No, I don't think so. Yeah, you did? Oh, did Yes.

Kathleen Shannon 11:08
Anyway, I think their names are john and Sherry. And they did like a house remodel blog. And whenever I started blogging, I was really into like all the house remodeling blogs. And I remember they had to change their name a good maybe three years in and they had established a really solid brand under the name. I want to say it was this young house. I think

Autumn Witt Boyd 11:29
you're right. Yeah. And this old house came after them. Right? Yeah.

Kathleen Shannon 11:32
And they didn't explicitly say it was this old house guy like, I bet you came after us. Yeah. And it's something that we didn't do for being boss, we did not look into trademark and who else might have the name? Did we, Emily? We did I mean,

Emily Thompson 11:51
no, no more than like domain searches.

Kathleen Shannon 11:57
So we're really grateful. So we're going through the trademarking process now. So can you talk a little bit about the difference between trademarking and copywriting difference there?

Autumn Witt Boyd 12:07
Yeah. So a copyright is going to protect, think about content in your business. So like, if you create an E course, or an E book, or a movie, or a song, a sculpture or a painting, things like that, are there like creative works are what's protected by copyright. And in the United States, and I meant to say this in the beginning, but disclaimer, I'm not giving any legal advice. I am, I am a lawyer, I'm not your lawyer to any listeners out there, except I am Emily and Kathleen's lawyer. But anyway, under US law, copyright protection is automatic. So the minute that you create something, and you put it in some sort of format, that you can access it again, so a computer file, or you write it down, or you make a sculpture or whatever, it's automatically protected. And if someone tries to copy it, you can go after them. There are additional benefits if you register with the copyright office. And you have to do that before you sue someone. But a lot of people never register their copyrights and they never need to. trademarks are think about things that identify a product or a business or a brand. So it will protect things like a logo or a business name, or a catchphrase. And then there's some weird things like it will protect product labels, if it's something that like identifies your product on a shelf. or certain colors, even like Tiffany blue Tiffany and company, the jewelry company, their blue is a trademark because it's so identified with their brand. And under trademark law in the US, you also have what's called common law rights. So just by using your business name or your logo with your brand, you do get certain rights, but they're not as good as if you register with the trademark office. So they're the they're the kind of protect to different pieces of your business. But there is some overlap. So if you think about like Mickey Mouse is a creative character. He's part of a cartoon. So he's protected by copyright, but it also identifies the Disney brand. So he is also protected by trademark law. But most things fall pretty squarely into one or

Kathleen Shannon 14:17
the other camp. So at what point do we get a little tm by our name? Yes.

Autumn Witt Boyd 14:23
So you can put so for copyright, you can put the see in a circle, immediately, just as soon as you create it, you don't have to register it, anybody can use that. And I recommend the seeing the circle and then the year that it's published and your name, so if you're like on your website, or if you have a painting on the back or whatever. Okay, so quick,

Kathleen Shannon 14:43
kind of dumb question every year. Should you update the copyright at the bottom of your website? Like if you have that in your footer? Should you update it to the current year every year or should it be like 2008? Two?

Autumn Witt Boyd 14:57
Yeah, I would do a span See? Yeah, the 2000 2016 okay because you're gonna have stuff that was first published you know a while ago

Unknown Speaker 15:05
right

Autumn Witt Boyd 15:05
okay cool yeah so for trademark you can use the tm anytime anybody can use that as long as it's you know something that is identifying their brand or their business you can only use the r in a circle after you have gotten a registration from the us patent and trademark office

Kathleen Shannon 15:26
so the r circle is like the real

Autumn Witt Boyd 15:28
yeah that means registered

Kathleen Shannon 15:30
i will sue you

Autumn Witt Boyd 15:31
yes and all of that is optional you don't have to use any of those

Kathleen Shannon 15:37
i want to get like a tiny little tm like tattooed right like oh you know like on the edge

Emily Thompson 15:51
yeah is your brand dorable is my i

Unknown Speaker 15:57
emily do you have any questions

Emily Thompson 16:00
i think i think one of the ones that i get attacked with the most often in terms of like getting businesses set up is really like the the legal difference between a sole proprietor and an llc and when it's time to go big dog with like

Kathleen Shannon 16:20
oh my god yeah i need to know this right away

Unknown Speaker 16:23
right

Unknown Speaker 16:24
yeah i

Kathleen Shannon 16:24
get this question a lot our method of getting free legal advice on the show

Unknown Speaker 16:32
yeah no

Autumn Witt Boyd 16:32
this and this question comes up in the facebook group and the slack group all the time the the being boss clubhouse so the llc is going to protect you from someone suing you from taking your personal assets so like your house or your personal bank account or your car anything that you have a value that is not necessarily related to your business so if you have a business that let's take a skydiving business for example where someone is likely to get hurt and might sue the business if you are a sole proprietor they can come after everything you have if they win in court if you are an llc they can only come after things that the business owns so like if the business owns a building or some property or the business bank accounts does that make sense

Unknown Speaker 17:24
totally

Autumn Witt Boyd 17:25
yeah and a corporation provides the same kind of liability protection but most of the time when we're talking with creative entrepreneurs they're looking at an llc there can also be some tax benefits to being an llc or a corporation but that is going to be different in every state so i always recommend that people talk about that

Unknown Speaker 17:42
yeah

Autumn Witt Boyd 17:43
i always recommend that people so i'm a lawyer so i deal with the legal side i don't deal with taxes

Kathleen Shannon 17:50
okay so i do have a question because i'm our accountant so emily and i now also share an accountant and

Emily Thompson 17:57
we're gonna have a baby soon

Kathleen Shannon 18:02
we might as well be married i was doing a podcast interview yesterday on someone else's podcast and she was asking me about partnerships and we've done an entire episode on partnerships where we talk a lot about our operating agreement that autumn you draft it up for us but um and the decisions that went into that but i was telling them i mean it's legit like getting married the contract is tight i'm okay but we now share an accountant and she was telling us that we need to think about becoming an s corp versus an llc and that it's time to kind of look at those things so is so at some point do you think autumn it would make sense for your lawyer and your attorney to be communicating with each other lawyer

Unknown Speaker 18:45
in the account please

Kathleen Shannon 18:46
separate

Autumn Witt Boyd 18:47
yeah no i think as a business grows it makes a lot of sense because there are decisions that have kind of legal and tax implications and and it doesn't have to be a long expensive meeting but yeah just to touch base and make sure everybody's on the same page with what the goals are i don't think it makes a lot of question

Kathleen Shannon 19:07
if you're a brand new entrepreneur or you know you're just starting to work for yourself or you're a freelancer and you're setting up an llc what do you think is the first person you should hire between a lawyer or an accountant

Autumn Witt Boyd 19:20
probably probably an accountant

Kathleen Shannon 19:24
honestly accountants can do a lot of it yeah i think a lawyer would do like to helping you set up your llc that's something that i wish i had done whenever i first started working for myself is have my accountant tell me what to do like what they recommend yeah on how much income i would be making or how i want to be taxed and because i did the llc first thinking i needed that first to then get the bank account then get the witch you don't need it right not at all you can kind of back your way into it okay i have another question real quick

Autumn Witt Boyd 19:54
a lot of accountants will set up the llc for you because in most states it's a really simple process there's a couple states where it's complicated, but most places, it's really easy.

Kathleen Shannon 20:03
And that's something I want to point out is that I feel like a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs get really hung up on this LLC business, opening a bank account, but it's not a big deal. It really truly isn't.

Emily Thompson 20:15
Yeah, will be some of the easiest steps you can take to actually starting and running a business, like just filling out a little LLC paper and mailing it in is really kinda Yeah,

Autumn Witt Boyd 20:26
well, and more and more important than that really is, and your accountant can help you with this as knowing like what city and county and state licenses you need. And like, all of that stuff, which I don't really deal with very often. But I think they deal with day in day out.

Kathleen Shannon 20:41
And even organizing the paperwork so that you're not getting like, yeah, your bookkeeping, these penalty letters that are like, you're about to be penalised. And it's not true. And I don't know why that these letters and it's all because I set it up wrong.

Unknown Speaker 21:00
David,

Unknown Speaker 21:02
we all need a David.

Kathleen Shannon 21:05
Okay, so I have another question too. Because a lot of Well, I don't know if this is related or not, but a lot of creatives have multiple businesses have multiple LLCs. But there's also something called a DBA, which is doing business as Yes. Can you help explain some of that? What is that?

Autumn Witt Boyd 21:23
Yeah, absolutely. So um, I think a lot of people for multiple LLC is when they don't really need to when one would probably do the trick. So if you have a couple of different lines, or shops or different services that you offer, you can have kind of a parent LLC that covers everything. And then you just file paperwork with the state with in Tennessee, I think it's like $20, it's very inexpensive. And you just kind of let the state know that you're also doing business under this other name. And that's all you have to do. And you're covered by the liability protection of the LLC, for all of it. Now, the only reason you might want to form different LLC is is if you have like a really valuable asset that you want to put in one company. And if somebody Sue's one of your other companies, you don't want them to be able to get at it because that would just keep it separate. But for most creative entrepreneurs, that's you know, you're not going to have a million dollar piece of equipment or some big asset that you need to protect.

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Kathleen Shannon 23:27
Perfect. Okay, I have a listener listener question. Okay, it's from Julian in the Facebook group. Okay, here is the question. I recently launched my company, it is starting as a website that will have a few for purchase downloads to start with a ton of free content on a blog and social media. But eventually, I want to sell physical products and have a storefront and change the world. Of course, as most of us do. I bought the domain name for the company, but I have yet to do anything else. And I'm completely clueless on the best path of action. To make my company legit behind the scenes, how do I get started? Do I copyright or trademark the name? Do I develop an LLC? What do I need to do at this point? So kind of talking about all the things that we talked about using Jillian as a case study? What would you recommend from the beginning? Like what are the steps of action that she should take?

Autumn Witt Boyd 24:24
Yeah, so talking to an accountant, about whether it makes sense kind of what her revenues are going to look like whether it makes sense to file an LLC. At this point, she probably doesn't really need to talk to an attorney but and I always try and tell people to think about what could they get sued for. So in a business like this, she is not selling anything physical in the beginning. So she's not going to have like a product liability claim from somebody getting hurt from something she's selling. It's pretty much download, so she's a pretty low risk of being sued. The other thing that I would mention that we haven't touched on yet website terms and conditions and privacy policies. And this is something that is actually really important in the, from the very beginning. When man, yes, a privacy policy is required by law, if you are taking people's personal information, which anybody who has an email opt in on your website, you are taking people's personal information. So you need to have some sort of policy and it doesn't even matter what it is, you can say, I'm going to sell your information to the guy down the street, you just have to tell people, that's what you're going to do. Or you can say, you know, I'm going to protect it, and I'm not going to use it for ads. You know, whatever you decide to do is fine. But you have to give people some sort of notice that if they give you their personal information, this is what they can expect from you. And if you're selling products, you're also taking credit card information, address phone number, probably. So um, the privacy policy is really key. And I think for us, we started a privacy policy whenever we launched the clubhouse because it is a forum and making sure that we're protected. So you helped us with that. Yeah, as your business grows, your privacy policy will have to grow and evolve with you as well. Exactly.

Emily Thompson 26:12
Like you can also for like the early ones, like if you're just getting information for an email list, like you can go really plain language and yes, they're also like little privacy policy generators online that you can do.

Autumn Witt Boyd 26:25
It can be a paragraph, it does not have to be complicated.

Emily Thompson 26:29
Oh, yeah, definitely. Well, in like these little like, plug and play ones work really great, too. Yeah. But then whenever we did decide to do clubhouse and like really do something legit, where we really wanted to be very specific about how it was we were protecting the privacy or not protecting privacy. We're protecting it Don't worry of our clubhouse, people, like at that point is time to lawyer up and get get a legit privacy policy. So privacy policy as a website person, super important. It doesn't have to be difficult, but absolutely get one. And then whenever you start getting legit with the kinds of ways you interact with your community online, get a legit one.

Kathleen Shannon 27:10
Okay, so back to Jillian, though. So she's wanting to start this website.

Autumn Witt Boyd 27:15
So she needs a privacy policy?

Kathleen Shannon 27:17
And would you have recommended that she had trademarks like Google? Oh, Mark before buying?

Autumn Witt Boyd 27:21
Oh, yeah, I would recommend that you do a trademark search for sure. Before she buys the domain.

Kathleen Shannon 27:27
But she bought the domain. So maybe it's not too late to do the search. And if she needs to buy another domain, she can

Autumn Witt Boyd 27:32
Yeah, before she invest a lot in the brand. I definitely would. Okay, and then what what's next, and then what? So the second piece, the kind of flip side of the privacy policy is your website terms and conditions. And since she is selling, you know, she's got free content. And then she's also doing some sort of downloads, the terms and conditions on your website will kind of tell people what they're allowed to do and what they're not allowed to do with the content that's on your website. So her terms and conditions could say, you know, if you purchase a download, it's only for personal use. Or it could say if you see an image you like on my blog, you're welcome to repost it or put it on Instagram or whatever, but only if you give me credit or link back to my site. And that's it's optional, but it's nice. It's a nice way to tell people kind of these are the rules of my playground, this website is my playground, this is what you can do. This is what you can't do. And that gives you some copyright and trademark protection as well.

Kathleen Shannon 28:28
Yeah, because I think we're talking a lot about how to protect yourself from being sued. But then it's also on the flip side thinking about if you needed to sue someone else, right? What would that look like? What would you want to sue someone over? Or at least in the middle, like a firmly worded letter?

Autumn Witt Boyd 28:46
Yeah. And people who have a ton of free content on their blogs. I mean, that's value that's valuable, and you should protect it.

Kathleen Shannon 28:54
Just because it's free websites to even aggregate and take your content and republish it on their sites and they're selling advertising, you know, for content that you may not even be being compensated for. They're being compensated for it. So these are things to really truly think about.

Unknown Speaker 29:10
Yeah, okay. So

Kathleen Shannon 29:10
I want to actually ask you about suing other people. A lot of our bosses in the Facebook group are get really concerned about copycats, and I found this, especially with makers on Etsy. So I'm curious, like, what you think about that, like, what, what should you do whenever someone's copycatting you?

Autumn Witt Boyd 29:30
Yeah. Unfortunately, the way our legal system is set up, it's really, really expensive to sue someone. So for most listeners, it's it's not going to make sense and they're probably suing someone who doesn't have the money to really make it worthwhile to sue them anyway. So I always say you kind of take a couple of steps before you escalate. So start by maybe just sending them a note and saying, Hey, I saw that you did this. This is really similar to my work. I'm sure this was unintentional but I would appreciate it if you would, you know, either change it or take it down or whatever. And sometimes it really is somebody who doesn't know that you can't just copy someone. And that will take care of it. If it doesn't, let's

Emily Thompson 30:12
let that be like a public service announcement to everyone listening don't copy anyone. Yeah, that's bad news, bear.

Kathleen Shannon 30:21
Okay, I have a question though. This is legit. So in the Facebook group, there are two artists in there. And both I really like and respect. And they both happen to have similar bodies of work at the same time that they were posting at the same time in the Facebook group. So artists a emails me and says, Hey, did you see this? And artists be emails? Like, this artists a is accusing me of copying her and I didn't? And then it's like, hard to know who to believe. And I'm not a litigator. Right? I don't get like the Facebook group is free, I don't get paid enough to referee that. So like, I guess my question is, um, I kind of told them to work it out themselves, like, yeah, both adults, they need to figure it out. But like, what, what about that in

Autumn Witt Boyd 31:09
a situation where maybe you legitimately didn't copy someone, but right being accused of it, or vice versa? you accuse someone of copying you? And maybe they really legit or not that you guys came up with the same idea at the same time? What do you think about situations like that? Yeah, it's tricky. So I'll tell you the legal answer, which is under our copyright law, as long as you create something independently, if someone else two people can create the exact same thing, and it is, they both would own it, and they both have the rights to keep other people from using it. Now, in the real world, two people are very unlikely to create the exact same thing. So weathers maybe they were inspired by the same thing. Or maybe they one saw the other's work and didn't even realize that they were, you know, locking it away in their brain. It's really tricky. Unless you have incredibly excellent records of like, the date that you started this painting and the date that you saw someone else's website, which who keeps those kinds of records. It's crazy. So I mean, it really is, like you said, it's kind of just working it out. If you sue someone it's gonna be incredibly hard to win that lawsuit. Unless it's honestly a copyright lawsuit is really hard to win unless it's a verbatim copy. So just because two things kind of look alike that's probably not going to be enough unless you can prove like they came to visit my gallery and then the next day I saw this thing on their website that was exactly the same

Emily Thompson 32:37
well and I think this this is also where like our mining Kathleen's Don't be an asshole clause comes in, for the for the greater bit of humanity is like, Don't be an asshole and don't steal other people's things. Because you're not going to win, no one's going to win. And I even get, like, I can think of multiple times when I don't know like West Elm or something. Right? Like, take a creatives idea and mass produce it. And like, West Elm didn't benefit because everyone rip them apart. So I mean, I don't know, they're just multiple times when I can think of this thing. These things happening, where we're still being an asshole if you accidentally copy someone. Just don't be an asshole.

Autumn Witt Boyd 33:22
Yeah. And if somebody comes after you, and you did copy, like, take it down, right? These two artists, like if their work is really that similar, one of them knows that they copied the other. I mean, let's be serious.

Emily Thompson 33:35
Or there's a third party.

Unknown Speaker 33:39
Exactly.

Kathleen Shannon 33:41
I think it's also like, Don't be an asshole whenever you're accusing someone else of copying. Yeah, really having the best assumptions of that person in mind not to be pollyannish about it. But I think that that's going to serve you better. Okay, I have another question. Go for it. Because we get asked about this a lot. I'm curious about haters, and taking legal action against haters who are talking shit on you online. So like, let's say, for example, you Google my name. And the first thing that comes up is a form of heaters. So like that could hurt your career, or I've recently heard about haters going on and destroying people's book reviews on Amazon. Oh, Mike. So like, what is your legal? What are your legal opportunities there? Yeah. So

Autumn Witt Boyd 34:28
if it's false, then you can theoretically sue them for libel or slander, you know, depending on the circumstances. Again, it's going to be expensive and difficult to win. So you're kind of you're a little bit limited, unless they're happy. I'm trying to think of a different way to attack it. I mean, if they're copying your work, and, you know, slamming you, like if somebody put up a hater website that looks like your work or that copies your work then you might have more of a remedy there but it's just it's one of those things that i think ignoring is the best bet unless it really does start to damage your reputation and then it makes sense to spend i mean we're talking probably 10s of 1000s of dollars to sue someone for libel or slander so it has to be a big impact to make it worth spending that kind of money

Kathleen Shannon 35:21
and i suppose if it's anonymous like you don't even know

Unknown Speaker 35:25
yeah

Emily Thompson 35:27
so basically don't be an asshole just ignore the hater can we title this episode don't be an asshole glaus

Kathleen Shannon 35:35
i like it i can't wait to see our social media images for

Unknown Speaker 35:41
asel

Emily Thompson 35:42
right because i mean that that's it to like you know we're all in this online space like i can we're all in this online space and we're all trying to like put out content and do our best and as long as we are doing it from an authentic place meaning it's yours you're not wrapping it from anyone else's then you know and like and being kind people not being an asshole then like there's room here for everyone but it's when like it is when trolls just come in and sort of beat down the door or steal your ideas or your art or your words that don't know they things just start going to shit and begin very pollyanna ish of me but can we all just be friends

Kathleen Shannon 36:27
okay i have some more like legal questions

Autumn Witt Boyd 36:29
okay go for it well do you want to go back and let me just say really quickly so if you send a nice email and they say i don't know what you're talking about i didn't copy you but it's really obvious that they did your next step is if it's a copyright so if it's like an image or a blog post or something you can file what's called a dmca takedown notice and that actually gets filed with their web host and so you can actually force their domain to take down whatever it is that oh is copied from you

Kathleen Shannon 37:00
yes i know about that

Autumn Witt Boyd 37:02
yeah and it's another thing i mean you can google it i can help you with it but you can google it and there's lots of information online now it has to be like a good faith you have to really think that they are copying your stuff you can't just do it to anybody and then if they respond then you have to sue them so a lot of people never respond and it just gets taken down and that's great but if they'd respond then you have to sue them and most people won't so it is kind of a limited fix but it is an option and it's something you can do yourself you don't have to have an attorney

Kathleen Shannon 37:35
i'm emily have you ever had to ask someone to take something down of yours

Emily Thompson 37:41
hmm yes actually yes i have tamamen i forgot about that um a couple of years ago i had redesigned my website i think it was right whenever i launched my web design services and i was looking at my google analytics and i had a referral site that i'd never heard of before i don't remember what it was i have no idea and so i went and checked out the website and they had stolen my website like yeah they had copied and pasted all of my code and they'd re skinned it a little bit so like it was a different color but like even some of my content was still in it and i wrote them an email and was like guys like you stole this my content still here it was mine first take it down and i never heard from them they took it down that was the end of it

Kathleen Shannon 38:31
so i recently had it happen that someone was oh what is up skillshare someone honest skillshare yeah like they had taken some of my personal branding images and they were selling a course on personal branding which is my expertise my why using

Emily Thompson 38:49
your images using

Kathleen Shannon 38:50
my images like literally remember that even my face was in one of the photos like there was no bones about my image and so then i emailed the guy asking him to take it down and okay here's where it gets tricky is that the guy that i emailed it was like his graphic designer that had put it together so it was really the graphic designer ripping me off not this guy but and i think that's tricky too whenever you don't know that who you're hiring isn't ripping off someone else i've had that happen for a client where another industry or another creative entrepreneur basically ripped off her logo and the woman who had the ripped off logo as part of her business had no idea that her graphic designer had basically ripped us off so that's another thing is just kind of be responsible

Emily Thompson 39:42
well and i've also had scenarios like as a designer where i have a client's request that i read and so that's been in like i have to be like no that's illegal like i'm not doing that that's happened a couple of times and then we'll and we've had someone rip off the being boss site before And that was a fun little we know about that just so

Kathleen Shannon 40:05
I signed, I opted into their newsletter, right?

Emily Thompson 40:07
We didn't send them anything instead, Kathleen, very passive aggressively signed up for their newsletter. And it went away.

Kathleen Shannon 40:17
Yeah. And Okay, so what was I Oh, I wanted to ask a little bit about intellectual property versus copywriting. So like, let's say, you come up with a method, or a way of working is that, can that be protected through a copyright? Which is free and simple and automatic? Or is that something that you need to hire an IP lawyer for?

Autumn Witt Boyd 40:39
Yeah, that is usually going to fall under patent law, which is much more expensive and complicated, and I don't do it, you have to have a science background to do it. Um, so what copyright could protect is if you have a method like let's say the braid method, Kathleen,

Unknown Speaker 40:55
exactly. Talking Yeah,

Autumn Witt Boyd 40:56
you can, you can register the copyright for that method. But it's only going to protect, like, the exact way that you have written out the method. It's not going to keep somebody else from coming in and basically duplicating the method but writing it differently. Does that make sense? Yeah, yeah. So if you want to protect a process, then that is going to be a patent. And that's big, big, big dollars.

Unknown Speaker 41:20
All right, y'all can have it.

Autumn Witt Boyd 41:24
A million dollar idea. It's probably it's worth protecting that way. But for most of what we're talking about, it is not.

Kathleen Shannon 41:32
Okay, one of my last questions is at what point like, at what point in your business growth? Do you feel like it's really important to hire a lawyer. So for being boss, it just kind of felt intuitive, like, the place in which Emily and I were unwilling to go through the copywriting process or trademarking process ourselves, even if we could. I'm like, that's just not where we want to spend our time and we have enough money to hire you. But like, what point do you think most creatives should hire a lawyer? Like, what are some of the milestones that maybe they've hit in there, because that

Autumn Witt Boyd 42:05
was what I was about to say, there's a couple of milestones. So I think it's helpful as you're getting started, if you can afford it, and a lot of attorneys will meet, like, I'll do a one hour console, which is not super expensive. And we'll talk about a lot of these big picture type things and some strategy, and just answering questions about getting set up. And, you know, here's some things you might want to do this year, or next year or five years down the road, just so you kind of have a roadmap for where you want to go. And then I think, maybe your end of year one, sometime in year two, depending on how your business is going. If you're growing really quickly, and you're feeling like you're nervous about either being sued, or that your contract isn't really protecting you. That's something we haven't talked about a lot. But I do a lot of client contracts, which I think is one of the most important protections you can put on your business, it's way more important than forming an LLC. I think that can be a good time to make an investment in a custom contract that really covers the way you do business, the way you like to work with clients so that you've got a really strong, you know, cancellation policy and all the other things that might not be in, you know, if you find a contract on the internet, or you borrow one from a friend. And then I think if you're collaborating like Kathleen and Emily on a new project, I think that's a good time to talk to a lawyer just to make sure everybody's on the same page. And that you're really thinking about all the different ways things could either go right or go wrong, and that everybody is happy, all the

Kathleen Shannon 43:36
different ways we could die and who the money goes to.

Emily Thompson 43:42
And what happens when Oprah calls Yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd 43:45
Best case scenario and the worst case scenario,

Unknown Speaker 43:47
basically.

Autumn Witt Boyd 43:49
Yeah, um, yeah. And then I think, you know, if you just in your business, I think you'll kind of feel it like you guys have felt it like you're at a really, I deal mostly with growing companies. So if you're at this point where you feel like your business is exploding, and you can't get your arms around, and you don't even know what to do, then consulting with a lawyer to make sure you're doing what you need to be doing can be really helpful.

Kathleen Shannon 44:12
Oh, I have one more question. Yeah. We were approached about more free legal. No, but really, I think a lot of people right now are self publishing books. Yeah. And that's like a big thing that's happening right now. And I think that's a really good important thing to have a lawyer. So for example, autumn, I'm about to forward you email from an agent, yeah, that you can, you know, pay us to look at but a book agent, versus like self publishing and knowing how we're protected and I know that a lot of self publishing processes have kind of the legal stuff built into that process. So you're kind of covered, but is there anything that we should know about? You know, hiring a lawyer whenever talking to a book agent or negotiating deals for Apple Or signing any contracts whenever you hire someone or like that might be another good reason to have a lawyer is if you're having a contractor or an employee, just making sure that everything's covered there. But I also, I'm curious about the book thing, too.

Autumn Witt Boyd 45:13
Yeah, I would say hiring your first employee or your first independent contractor isn't another good milestone to kind of just touch base with a lawyer, because there are a lot of employment laws that are very tricky, and they're different in every state. And just to make sure there can be huge fines if you do that the wrong way. So it can be, you know, it's one of those things where you can pay a little bit on the front end and save yourself a lot of money on the back end. But with the self publishing, yeah, I think anytime you're negotiating a big agreement, it can be well worth your money to talk to a lawyer, because a lot of things are negotiable, that you may not even know are negotiable. Or there may be terms in that 20 page contract, even the self publishing ones, that could be really harmful to you that maybe you could ask them to take out and they won't even care. You know, there's just there's all these legal words that you probably that probably mean nothing to you, but are really significant in the way that your relationship is going to work. So I definitely think the self publishing is a good time to talk to a lawyer.

Emily Thompson 46:16
Well, and I think I think any contract in general, I'm thinking specifically, we have someone in toolkits right now who I know is talking to you autumn because someone got in touch with her, I think to do some some courses for like another website. And Kathleen and I also have been, have been contacted to do something similar where you are being asked to, you know, give content to their brand. And you know what that looks like, I know, in the online world, there's lots of trading of services and content and like having you come speak to my crowd or having you give your products to my you know, less whatever that may be and whenever there's a contract involved, get someone who knows what contracts are to read it through. Because it like whenever I first read a recent contract up Oh, this is fine. And in Kathleen, right reasons. This is fucked.

Kathleen Shannon 47:05
Yeah, like, basically, they were saying we own your content, like you are Oh, my gosh, and I'm like, no. Intellectual property without the million dollar patent. Right. Right. I'm not selling to you.

Emily Thompson 47:18
or giving to you basically. Yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd 47:20
Or like, affiliate agreements can be really Yes.

Emily Thompson 47:24
Yes, affiliate agreements, like contracted to give content or, or like even like a small client things, or, and I said a second ago, whenever contracts, contracts are involved, but also when they're not involved. Like, it's just as sketchy. And just as necessary to get a lawyer. I think whenever, you know, people don't say, let's get a contract, just sort of having someone on call to say, like, Hey, I think about doing this thing with this person. What do you think, and a lawyer who knows what they're doing is going to know when to tell you You better get a contract? And what it should say,

Autumn Witt Boyd 47:59
yeah, and the answer may be like, you're fine. And you don't need to do anything. Or the answer may be Yeah, we need to look at it right. Like I just want to say I agree. And

Kathleen Shannon 48:07
I disagree, because for example, Emily, you and I went into being boss with zero contracts.

Emily Thompson 48:14
Right? Well, we knew each other too, which was really helpful. All

Kathleen Shannon 48:17
of our employees and contractors, zero contracts is kind of an umbrella under our contracts through India, typography and braid creative. And like, for example, if we did a project with Paul Jarvis and Jason Sook. Like we haven't really talked about a contract, but it's kind of a handshake agreement. But I think because we trust those people. Yeah. And that's the thing, too, is just kind of go

Emily Thompson 48:39
with your gut.

Kathleen Shannon 48:40
I just want to say this might be awful advice, like going with your gut. But if your guts telling you something shady, then yeah, have someone look over it?

Unknown Speaker 48:49
or run away?

Kathleen Shannon 48:51
Yeah, or run away?

Emily Thompson 48:53
Yeah. And we're not giving you legal advice, either.

Kathleen Shannon 48:58
And I'm curious with you, do you ever use your gut in law? Oh, for sure.

Autumn Witt Boyd 49:03
Yeah. Well, and I was just to follow on what you were saying, you don't need a lawyer for every contract, I would be happy if you guys took a yellow pad with it just made, you know, a really simple outline of what your terms are going to be for any future collaborations with somebody else and then everybody signs it. It doesn't always have to be that complicated. But it is nice if something goes wrong later to have at least the yellow pad the everybody sign that you can look back at that has the basic terms. But yeah, no, I use my gut all the time. And I A lot of what we were talking about, like going after people who are copying your content or you know, that kind of stuff is often just a gut check. Like does this look right? Does this smell right? Is how close is it do I think there's anything that we're going to actually be able to get out of it like is this a small mom and pop company that has no money and you know, suing them is not going to accomplish anything. There's there's a lot where it's a very gray area.

Kathleen Shannon 50:00
You know, one piece of advice autumn that you gave us recently is we noticed someone using our hashtag on ensco. Right, right, kind of for their own benefit. And they're people that we like, but we're like, what is the deal? And you were like, Listen, what are they taking away from you by using this hashtag? And I think that's such an important question is what is someone else taking away from you? And I think it's a really important question to ask whenever you're feeling jealous or competitive or accusing someone of copying you or vice versa, what is being taken away? And unless you can answer that question, clearly, I think you just need to check yourself. Yeah, like autumn is basically like, check yourself, because you're getting in a tizzy about nothing.

Emily Thompson 50:47
And also just throwing out here like in terms of copywriting, you no one ever owns a hashtag, like poor? I feel like borderline really sad for her because she's potentially built this empire on something that she could never own. Or maybe that was totally her intention.

Unknown Speaker 51:03
I even use girl boss. Me too.

Autumn Witt Boyd 51:06
Oh, I do too. But you know, she's registered the trademark for it. So she's got some protection.

Emily Thompson 51:11
Hi, she, I didn't know you could do that.

Autumn Witt Boyd 51:14
Well, it's not the hashtag, but the word girl boss.

Emily Thompson 51:17
Oh, gotcha.

Autumn Witt Boyd 51:19
And we're in this whole weird, crazy time with Instagram and Twitter. And, you know, people are borrowing stuff left and right. And copyright and trademark laws trying to catch up. You know, they were these laws were written way before any of this was even imagined. So it's a brand. It's a brand new world. And there are lots and lots of gray areas. Yeah, I

Kathleen Shannon 51:39
think it's just again, picking your battles, and really choosing You know, sometimes you're poisoning yourself more by getting upset about these things. than any justice being served.

Autumn Witt Boyd 51:50
None of us have unlimited resources. So I mean, if you had a legal budget of a million dollars, like, could I go after all these people? Sure. But nobody has that budget. And so even if you did,

Emily Thompson 52:02
yeah, well, and I think this like goes right back to that don't be an asshole boss, where, you know, have a good lawyer in your pocket, because and I think that's really important. Whenever so funny. Whenever David and I moved to Chad, new GM. I mean, we were in a point in our business where we knew we needed to get some, some lawyer things going like some new contracts, we tried out one person it did not work out. Well. Whenever we were moving to Chattanooga. We said we need to find a lawyer friend and a police officer for like, people in our you know, just in case you never really know. And then no sooner than we move here, we get an email from autumn. No, you signed up for New Orleans that Yeah, yes. And I was like, lawyer boss in Chattanooga, like you were sent to me by the baby angels. And I was really excited about it. Um, but I cannot recommend enough to creatives out there and entrepreneurs or online business owners or whatever you want to call yourself, whatever it is that you're doing, to have a lawyer just sort of in your inbox, like make a quick acquaintance or in your clubhouse or in your clubhouse with with a lawyer who gets what you do. And this is the same like lawyers and accountants, how does so funny. So when I guess what you do, someone that gets what you do is really important, as there are millions of lawyers out there, like you can have your pig. But it's pretty rare when you find one who get what we do. And that's that's one of the things that like made me the most happy about knowing you Autumn is that not only are you the lawyer that I was looking for and where I live, but you also get what I do, and that makes working with you so easy. So whatever it is that you're doing out there, find a lawyer and an accountant who understand your business, because you're wasting your money if they don't.

Kathleen Shannon 53:54
But also, don't be afraid of doing like kind of DIY in some of this stuff yourself, because you're also not as intimidating as you think it might be.

Unknown Speaker 54:03
So a little bit of both. True that

Kathleen Shannon 54:06
and but awesome. Thank you so much for being such an active participant in our Facebook group and in our clubhouse, which you all can find at being boss club slash clubhouse. And it is so helpful to us creatives that can't quite or aren't quite ready to hire a lawyer. But it's so helpful. Just know that just to have no I'm not, I'm not giving away your advice. For free, but you really are in an awesome, active participant. You're really generous with your knowledge. And thank you so much. And thank you for joining us on the show today and for helping us with all of our work. We just adore you.

Autumn Witt Boyd 54:45
Thanks. It's been super fun and I love being in the clubhouse and in the Facebook group. It helps me know what issues are facing online entrepreneurs and creative entrepreneurs these days so I can you know figure out how to best help them.

Kathleen Shannon 54:58
where can our listeners find have you

Autumn Witt Boyd 55:01
yeah so i'm on the internet my website is a web firm calm and then i've also got a facebook page that you can just search autumn wit boyd and there's tons of free resources on my website so if you are just getting started that's a great place i've got some videos and some free articles and things that will help you get started

Unknown Speaker 55:23
thank you yeah

Unknown Speaker 55:24
thank you man

Kathleen Shannon 55:25
thank you for listening to being boss please be sure to visit our website at being boss club where you can find show notes for this episode listen to past episodes and discover more of our content that will help you be boss in work and life did you like this episode please share it with a friend and show some love by leaving a rating and

Emily Thompson 55:44
review on itunes and if you're looking for a community of bosses to help take your creative business to the next level be sure to check out our exclusive community at being boss clubs slash clubhouse where you get access to our closed and very vibrant slack group monthly q&a calls with kathleen and myself a book club and more cultivate your tribe and find your wolf pack at being boss club slash clubhouse do the work be boss and we'll see you next week

i have one tiny request autumn and if you can take your microphone away from your mouth just a little too close sighted and talk yeah then do it

Kathleen Shannon 56:40
sorry and i'm like it's like the pregnant

Autumn Witt Boyd 56:42
i was about to say i'm also pregnant and like

Kathleen Shannon 56:47
i wrote like i'm almost breathing for you because i remember that feeling of not being able to breathe

Autumn Witt Boyd 56:51
yeah and i'll try and not talk so long either that's it's easier

Emily Thompson 56:54
no no you please talk and breathe as needed we will get a lot of that out but god i know so you are gonna have a baby really soon

Autumn Witt Boyd 57:05
yeah i'm 38 weeks pregnant so it's kind of any day now although i'm hoping for one more week

Emily Thompson 57:11
wait we have to go eat lunch first

Unknown Speaker 57:14
okay

Unknown Speaker 57:17
borrow

Kathleen Shannon 57:19
what will you do if it's four more weeks

Autumn Witt Boyd 57:21
oh gosh well my i talked to my doctor this week and he doesn't want me to go past 41 weeks so i have kind of a like end date hope you have a

Emily Thompson 57:34
good