Photo Attorney

Apr 26, 2006

Regulations for Commercial Email

Photographers often use email for marketing purposes. But emails that primarily are intended to advertise or promote a commercial product or service are subject to federal legislation referred to as "CAN-SPAM." The Act establishes specific requirements for those commercial emails, so it's important to be aware of the provisions.

The Federal Trade Commission has a summary of the CAN-SPAM regulations HERE.

There are four basic requirements of the Act:

* You may not have false or misleading header information - your "to," "from" and routing information must be accurate.
* You may not have a deceptive subject line - your "subject line" cannot mislead the recipient.
* You must give the recipient a way to opt out of further mailings - such as an email address to send a request for removal.
* Your email must be designated as an advertisement and it must include your physical mailing address.

A "transactional" or "relationship" message - an email regarding an agreed-upon transaction or one that updates your relationship with an existing customer - is not subject to the CAN-SPAM provisions except that it may not contain false or misleading routing information. Other types of emails are exempt from the CAN-SPAM Act.

Violating these provisions may result in fines of up to $11,000. Nevertheless, the requirements of the Act are good business practices to follow, regardless of your email's purpose.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Apr 17, 2006

Free PhotoAttorney Podcast

Photofocus Radio recently interviewed me on ways for photographers to protect their work. Check out the new and free podcast (Photofocus8).

Take my advice; get professional help.

Apr 14, 2006

Legal Resources for Photographers

My book, "Photographer's Legal Guide," is in the final edit stage and will be available soon. Like this blog, it will provide important information to help photographers protect themselves and their work. Stay tuned for information on its availability.

Another couple of great legal resources that photographers should have in their libraries are: (1) "Legal Handbook for Photographers - The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images" by Bert Krages and (2) "Business and Legal Forms for Photographers" by Tad Crawford. While some of the same issues are discussed in each of our books, they concentrate on different areas.

Krages' book explains the legal principles that affect photographer's rights to make images. It provides guidance on how to handle confrontations, obtain remedies if wronged, and develop an ethic that reflects your individual approach to photography.

Crawford's book provides form contracts for photographers and includes a CD of the forms so that you can easily revise them to fit your individual needs. It also explains the purpose of each proposed contract clause.

It is important that photographers do what they can to protect their rights. Fortunately, information is available to help achieve that goal.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Apr 5, 2006

Maintaining the Protection of Your Photography Business

Many photographers form a corporation, limited liability company, or similar entity for their photography businesses. The company creates a "corporate veil" between your personal and business assets to provide personal liability protection against lawsuits, creditors, and other disputes. But if you don't honor the formalities of the business, you can lose those advantages.

Unlike a proprietorship or a partnership, a corporation or company is a legal entity separate and distinct from you as as individual. When you establish the corporation or company, you must do more than register it with the state. You also must follow a host of ongoing legal requirements. That proves that you have a bona fide business entity instead of a sham created to dodge personal liability. Otherwise, your opponents will be able to "pierce the corporate veil" to set aside the corporation and then use your personal assets to satisfy the business' obligations.

Here are ten ways to maintain the protection of a business entity:

* Follow all state and federal requirements such as annual registrations and annual meetings with minutes (additional information is available from your Secretary of State and the IRS);
* Keep personal and company assets separated, such as in different bank accounts;
* Set up the corporation so that it is not dependent on assets that it does not own or control;
* Don't conduct business that may constitute a conflict of interest;
* Use your company name rather than your name on all marketing and business materials;
* Treat yourself as an employee of the company and the company as a different "person" or entity;
* Sign your business materials as the employee, not as you, such as "Carolyn E. Wright, President, Law Office of Carolyn E. Wright, LLC";
* Avoid corporate debt when the business is insolvent;
* Don't use the business assets to benefit you personally;
* Conduct your business within the scope of the incorporation or company documents (i.e.; don't run plumbing services as part of the photography business).

Forming a corporation or company for your photography business is only the first step to protect your personal assets. Treat and operate your business as a business so that your customers and creditors will, too.

Take my advice; get professional help.