Monday, November 19, 2007

The US Copyright Office On Line!!!

Newsflash! Newsflash! Newsflash!

The US Copyright Office is considering going on line. Our firm is a beta-test firm!

We of course are excited and apprehensive at the same time. The filing of trademarks was revolutionalized when the US Patent & Trademark Office allowed trademarks to be filed on line. The on line filing features also lead to enhanced features such as reviewing files on line and the like.

The US Copyright Office is testing the option at the moment. It is only for single use filing. This means at this time collections must still be filed via regular mail. There also appears to be a cost reduction for filing on line.

Rumors have been swirling around for quite some time that the US Copyright Office hopes to eventually have a visual database. This would be a monumental task that would be made much easier if filings were completed on line.

I am INCREDIBLY optimistic AND cautious at the same time! This may make the filing of copyrights much easier and encourage more filings. However, it may also encourage false filings or ineligible filings. It may also make archiving procedures incredibly difficut for law firms and others should the US Copyright Office one day be unable to locate a specimen. As well, it will also be difficult to tell what the real specimen is for a multipage one to scan all 500 pages in of a book???

We hold strong hope! We have already started the process and we will report more later. Our poll for the month deals with the topic. Please vote - your vote is anonymous!

Finally, we are pleased to announce a new addition to our office staff. Princess Marguerite Brunnehilde Browning-Smith will be the new office pet - inspecting packages, greeting clients, and the like. She has not had to work for 14 years while her brother came to the office. However, we sadly report that this past week her Shar Pei brother Bufford passed away unexpectedly. Our office is lonely without him. Marguerite has agreed to try and take up the task. Here's how her first day went:

It's never a dull moment around here! We appreciate your comments. We were inundated with many private comments after our last blog and we appreciate them all. Most were incredibly supportive. What was funny was some people tried to attack us - when we actually were advocating for everyone to be fair and that some people may have a legitimate gripe. Geezzz...we wish people would read or ask questions!

Surprisingly, we had many anonymous comments as well. Please note - if you post anonymously we read your comments, but we delete them. Anonymous posts do not give us an opportunity or others the opportunity to respond. Furthermore, they are usually inaccurate or misleading. We are happy to post comments - good or bad. However, we ask you to use your name.

Don't forget to vote in our on line should be fun!
Have fun this holiday season!
Don't forget to create with your head and your heart!

Nastiness and Blogging - Our Take on CK Hall of Fame Disaster

Greetings and Happy Thanksgiving!

As a general rule, we try to stay away from controversy and keep these blogs informative and hopefully entertaining. However, we have been getting requests for our comments on the subject. Until now, we haven't really known how to respond to make it educational and informative to all. hit I can now weigh in.

The Situation

Here is our understanding. Every year Creating Keepsakes holds a contest for a Hall of Fame. The winners get their layouts published and recognition (and perhaps some prizes). The rules clearly state that one must take all the photos as well as do his/her own work.

It appears that this year one (or more ) of the applicants used pictures of others. First CK and other "officials" came out to state that there was a mistake and then ended up disqualifying a participant. It is our understanding that another winner withdrew as well. Then...the blogs and media went wild! There has been so many rumors and the like over this whole situation.

Our Take
I look at this as follows when it comes to issues:
1) Are Rules Really the Rules?
2) What Happens When There is a Problem?
3) What can one do to prevent the nasty blogs/press?

Are Rules Really the Rules?
Let's get real, we have all heard that rules are meant to be broken. However, when dealing with livelihoods and reputation - the rules are the rules. Once a mistake was uncovered, the applicant should have been disqualified. HOWEVER, if they had bent the rules before - it set a bad precedent... The moral of the story - if you are going to submit something - KNOW THE RULES! If you take the time to make the rules - ENFORCE THEM.

What Happens When There is a Problem?
Basically, how can a company really handle what could be a public relations crisis or nightmare. I have dealt with this more times than people realize. My father was a Union President. He constantly handled crisis situations and I was always amazed at how he was able to resolve them. I have tried to take my cue from him. Here goes:

1) Breathe! In a swift, but calm pace gather the facts. Allow yourself a few moments to collect what you want to say and find out what really happened. I am not saying take a long time, but take enough time to find out what is wrong. In the long run, it is easier to explain why you took so long versus issuing retractions.
2) Be Honest! Knowing the facts and being upfront are important. HOWEVER, please consult legal counsel if you think what you are going to announce could have an adverse impact on you or your company in any way. Now is the time to use the professional team of support you have in your corner.
3) Appoint one spokesperson and be done with it! There needs to be one single and unifying voice in the company.
4) Be prepared to take your lumps and move on. Take the time to see what happened, correct the problem, and then move on. We'll discuss the "back lash" further down.
5) Remember, it could and may come back to remind you later on. However, don't let it get to you. If you've admitted your mistake, taken steps to correct it, and handled the public with respect and dignity - you've done all you can do.

What Can One Do to Prevent Nasty Blogs/Press?
I get this question so often about so many things. The short answer - you can't. Sorry, didn't want to give you any false hope. HOWEVER, there is a line for free speech - especially commercial free speech. If it is crossed, then it is actionable. Here are some items to remember:

1) Libel is written words and Slander is Spoken Words (S- Spoken...that's how I remember).

2) The use of trademarks and copyrighted work in order to make comments about is not always FAIR USE. Many times, it is far from it.

3) You are responsible for what you have written...and taking it down later does not remove your liability. Venting or blowing off steam is fine, but it can cost you!

4) If you sponsor a blog, you have the right to monitor it and remove comments. Just make sure you have it clearly stated or listed. It may not be necessary, but it is important. Many of you have seen the signs "We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone." That could be the case for a blog. However, if you are inviting public comment and going to remove it, make sure it is for the right reasons. You don't have to be a hostage on your own site, but you do have to make sure the civil liberties of others are respected.

I did not mention the names of the designers who were in question. Their names are all over the Internet and I understand that she (they) are suffering from it. Rumors fly that people have even called her restaurant and booked all her reservations and then not showed. Obviously, this crosses the line. No matter what the action, if you interfere with someone's cross the line! Sometimes people let the best of their emotions take them away.

Now, if people didn't win, I understand that $$$ can be derived from a win. I would be a little upset too if I found out that those who didn't follow the rules won. I'm human and we're all human. However, when our "being human" affects a person's livelihood or a business's bottom line, then it crosses the line.

I'd love to hear your comments on this. If you have comments on the CK Hall of Fame disaster, I encourage you to make your comments known on those boards. If you have comments on this blog and our take on it, then I encourage you to leave them below!

Get Ready to Feast this Week!
Remember to Create with Your Heart and Your Head!

PS - Thank you to Rebecca for encouraging me to post this!

Monday, November 12, 2007

We Remember...

Happy November and all...

Sorry - we've been under the weather around here and trying to finish some major projects. HOWEVER today would be lost if we did not take a moment to recognize those who fight so bravely to protect all that we hold dear! There are many in my life who to whom I admire for this along with the hundreds of thousands to whom I will never be able to shake their hands:

Grandpa Browning- A WWII veteran who fought in the Pacific
Grandpa Henson - A Highly Decorated WWII Veteran who taught me my entire life that a life built on character and respect is a life worth living
Bob Browning (My Dad) - A Navy veteran who served even when he didn't have to
Shirley Sweet - A WWII Army Captain - a nurse who fought in the front lines and a heroine to us all
Cousins Radebaugh - They still proudly serve the Army today. Joey and Jamie have both served 2 tours in Iraq.
Wesley - A dear friend (and the closest thing I have to a brother!). Every since we were young he has always wanted to serve and he is set to go back to Iraq for his 3rd tour.

We also remember the families that support them. From Aunt Martha, Uncle Joe, and even Toni - they show such a great amount of courage and bravery that is unimaginable to most of us. The closest thing I will say in regards to a political statement is this - support for those who serve is a bi-partisan effort!

I know this isn't legal, but in a way it is - we have a legal system because of men and women who say: "I serve, so that you may live free!"

It seems weird to say : "Happy Veteran's Day" - its like saying - "Happy Risk Your Lives for our Freedom Day!" Instead I say - THANK YOU! and May The Creator Bless You and Keep You!


The Fine Print!

Since there may be legal discussions going on...there must be a disclaimer!

This blog is for educational and information purposes only. It does not constitute the practice of law. The attorney who writes this blog is only licensed in the State of Ohio and Michigan. There is NO attorney-client relationship of any type. You must sign appropriate documenation and have appropriate new client counseling to be a client of Browning-Smith, P.C. Each and every situation is different and all readers must seek his or her own legal counsel. The information on this blog is not guaranteed for any purposes nor is it to be relied on.