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Legal Advice for Small Business Owners – Beware of Copyright Infringements

Updated on March 7, 2013

Innovative Ideas for Business or Copyright Infringements?

The world of business is a tough one with little room for any laxity. This is a space that is characterised by cut-throat competition and ruthless endeavours to lead the marketplace. And in the stampede to take the lead, it is often the gullible and vulnerable ones that are caught in the crossfire. Such is the case with copyrights, where ambitious businesses ideas from small business owners may get them on the wrong side of the equation, even as they may seem to be innovative ideas for business.

Warner Bros Vs Disney – Clash of the Titans:

Consider the case of Warner Bros, the renowned brand in the business of movies. Show business is big money and is no child’s play. To illustrate the scale of operations and the kind of money involved in the making of Hollywood movies, one would only have to take a look at the kind of promotions that the biggies in the business opt for in an event like the Oscars.

Oscar nights are not just about grandeur and extravagance, but also about no-holds-barred promotions that pull all stops at taking a shot at the top spot. It is evident that Disney and Warner Brothers have spent millions on promoting their productions in an effort at securing the top prize of best pictures. And we are talking of mere promotions geared toward the Oscar Night and not even hinting at the kind of money that goes into Hollywood movies and their Big Bang productions. Argo and Lincoln made by the two top Hollywood studios left no stone unturned in garnering all the attention they could to make it bigger than ever. An Oscar would, after all, get them millions pouring in and help them rope in the stars in their ventures ahead.

Copyrights and Law Suits – Implications for Small Business:

In the light of such grandeur, it is no wonder that the biggies take nothing for granted when it comes not just to promotion, but also about branding, production, and distribution. The Hollywood Reporter finds that a garage owner in California had to pay dearly on account of copyright infringement when he executed his innovative business idea of crafting his garage to please his customers inspired by Batman. Mr Towle’s business has always been about specialising in getting replicas of automobiles that have been featured in films and TV shows. So, when he created replicas of the haunting Batmobile that has been instrumental in taking Batman places, could he have aggrieved one of the top studios of Hollywood?

Well, the California judge believed so when he declared that the “derivative works”, which were replicas of the original, had copied not just a car, but an entire character that the Batmobile was. So, are you getting into unchartered territory with your innovative ideas to forge ahead with your own business? If you thought you had a brilliant business idea, think twice – copyright lawyers of big names in the original industry that your product is a replica of, could already be getting their papers in place to come on your trail.

Copyrights and Counterfeits in Business:

If entrepreneurs are penalised for stretching their small business ideas a bit too far, as the Warner Bros copyright lawsuit illustrated in the case of Batmobile, at the other end of the spectrum are those that are downright counterfeits. That has indeed been the case, again involving Warner Bros; just that this time around, it has been a crackdown on counterfeit DVD’s by EBay and Amazon resellers. A part of this issue of copyright infringement in the case of Warner Bros DVDs is attributed to the practice of commingling, where some established Amazon resellers have found their way to send across inventory without stickers, despite the practice being explicitly banned when it comes to media (books, CDs, VHS or DVDs), as mentioned in Amazon website.

Lessons for Small Business Owners

The point, however, has to do with the way people tend to get caught in the crossfire on account of their being ambitious in their business operations. As a small business owner, you would have to abide by the letter and the spirit of the rule books to ensure that you do not mess up with the market leaders in the industry. It is war in the marketplace and it may not be a nice feeling to face the heat from bigger players in the business, where small business owners may end up not even having sufficient finance for legal advice. To be informed is to be forewarned and forearmed.


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