Look Before You Click: Why You Should Read Open Source Software Licenses

The proliferation of open source software has significantly changed the legal framework of the software development field.  Software developers who use open source software in their products should be aware of these issues and ensure that they comply with the requirements of open source licenses.  Inattention to open source licenses could cause developers to disclose their proprietary source code to the public or expose them to liability for copyright infringement.  Complying with open source licenses has become an important issue because courts will likely enforce the terms of the licenses.  In a landmark case for open source software licenses, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that an open source software license was enforceable.  Jacobsen v. Katzer, 535 F.3d 1373, 1381-2 (Fed. Cir. 2008).  The court further held that violation of an open source license could constitute copyright infringement.  During the early years of open source software licensing, it was unclear if the licenses would be legally enforceable.  The Jacobsen case resolves this doubt.  In response to Jacobsen, software developers should exercise great care in using and complying with open source licenses. Continue reading “Look Before You Click: Why You Should Read Open Source Software Licenses”

Antitrust Concerns in Publishing

The popularity of online retailers threatens the profitability of traditional retailers.  This is because traditional retailers generally have greater overhead than online retailers.  To compensate for this competitive disadvantage, traditional retailers may be pressured to implement measures that assure them of higher profit margins.  Publishing is a good example of an industry that has been profoundly affected by online retailing.  Online retailing has significantly increased the number of competitors in the publishing industry.  Traditional retail channels in the publishing industry consist of book stores and big-box retailers.  Online retailing has created several other channels for consumers to purchase books.  Most publishers sell directly to consumers through their websites.  Publishers also sell wholesale to other online retailers.  Online retailing even enables consumers to be competitors by selling their used books.   The increase in competition presented by online retailing has made it difficult for traditional retailers to remain competitive, as illustrated by the bankruptcy of Borders.  In religious publishing, “brick and mortar” Christian bookstores have almost disappeared. Continue reading “Antitrust Concerns in Publishing”

Protecting Trademark Rights in Foreign Countries

Businesses and non-profit organizations that provide their products or services in at least one foreign country should consider protecting their trademarks in the countries in which they operate.  A U.S. trademark registration will not likely deter others in foreign countries from infringing a trademark if the trademark is not protected in the foreign country.  International law provides several mechanisms to protect trademarks in foreign countries.  Under the Madrid Protocol, a trademark that is registered in a member country may be registered in other member countries by filing one application.  The primary advantage of the Madrid Protocol is that it eliminates the need to retain counsel in the foreign countries, which can save time and costs.  A disadvantage is the limited geographic scope of the Madrid Protocol.  For example, other than the United States, only one other country in North and South America is a member of the Madrid Protocol. Continue reading “Protecting Trademark Rights in Foreign Countries”

Sales Tax Liability and Voluntary Disclosures

It is a common misconception that online sales are not subject to state sales taxes.  However, states may impose sales taxes on any sale, online or traditional, if the seller has nexus with the state.  Nexus can be a difficult legal doctrine to apply, so sellers should obtain a legal opinion to determine if they are subject to a state’s sales taxes.  Nexus usually entails a physical presence in the state, which can be as insignificant as sending independent sales representatives to the state. Continue reading “Sales Tax Liability and Voluntary Disclosures”

Liability Protections for online service providers under the DMCA and CDA

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the Communications Decency Act (CDA) provide significant liability protections for those who host interactive online media.  The cumulative protections provided by these two acts can potentially eliminate liability for copyright infringement and defamation. Continue reading “Liability Protections for online service providers under the DMCA and CDA”

Retirement: Steps to Solve the Retirement Blue

Alliance for Children and Families, April 15, 2008

Steps to Solve the Retirement Blues
Don’t forget the important details and laws

Your staff is aging, you’re concerned about loss of productivity, and your benefit costs are already staggering. You may even be considering how to prepare for your own retirement. In short, you would like to find a magic button that will solve your retirement blues. Continue reading “Retirement: Steps to Solve the Retirement Blue”

Communication Tools and Employee Misuse

Law Offices of Kathryn M. Vanden Berk, LLC, October 15, 2004

If you are like most child welfare organizations, you have over the past few years created a large inventory of communications devices that you require your employees to use for work. These tools are so vital to efficient operations that we cannot get along without them. Unfortunately, improper personal use of these tools can lead to trouble (see box). An employer’s exposure for any of these uses is significant. They may jeopardize your reputation in the community, threaten your financial viability, and illegally disclose sensitive or confidential information. To try to prevent this from happening, you need to develop tough but fair approaches that will maintain your control over use of these devices while ensuring that they remain available to further your organization’s mission. Continue reading “Communication Tools and Employee Misuse”