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Michael Dale Oliver

Michael Oliver’s Answers

22 total

  • Someone used my pictures and name and slandered me on the Internet. Can i take any legal action? Can i sue them for defamation?

    Someone used my pictures and government name to post false things about me. Can i take any legal actions?

    Michael’s Answer

    Probably, if you are not a "public figure" If you are a public figure, possibly, though it depends a lot on exactly what they did. For example, some courts have allowed anonymous "fake" profiles of politicians (like a fake twitter account, where the fake account pretended to engage in all kinds of bad conduct like taking cocaine, using prostitutes, drug dealing etc). DO NOT post more details on this public site and make it worse. Contact a lawyer directly and provide them with exactly who you are and what was done. There are many factors that will matter, including what service this was posted on, what services link to it, and what law will apply to it. The 1st amendment protects a lot of conduct a normal person might think is inappropriate.

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  • What's the protocol for charging for smart phone apps which aggregate content?

    I have a smart phone app that aggregates educational content from the web (youtube videos, podcasts, etc). I see people like tunein and others charging for apps that do essentially the same thing mine does, but I have concerns over intellectual pr...

    Michael’s Answer

    We need to know very specifically what you mean by "aggregates" - and really, you would best be served speaking directly with a lawyer. But here are some ideas or issues to consider.

    First, this is not a black and white issue and cases are all over the place and can depend on the smallest of facts. Take, for example, Fax News Network v TVeyes, see http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/fox-news-suffers-major-legal-731610. In that case, the district court found that a service that aggregates television news broadcasts - the entire new broadcast - and resells them for profit, did not infringe. BUT . . . (a) the facts in that case were highly specific as to how TVeyes did this; and (b) this was just a district court case and most likely will be appealed. Other cases have gone the other way - so it depends very much on how this is being done. For example, if you can fit into the DMCA defined term for search engine, you will have much more leeway (immunity) than if you are just a service - but most providers are not search engines under the DMCA.

    Merely indexing certain content can be an infringement (e.g. the "Seinfeld Aptitude Test" case where a book that was essentially a series of quizzes with answers being what show episode the content was located in was held to infringe the Seinfeld show).

    You also have to be careful how you aggregate. Cases in this area are also all over the place, however, as a general matter, courts view terms of service that restrict "scraping" of their sites have been held to be valid contracts under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and thus, if you violate those terms in taking content, you can be in violation that statute (which is a criminal statute).

    On top of all of the above, you being an entrepreneur, you have to decide what level of risk you want to take - not all content holders enforce their copyrights and contractual rights. However, if they do, it becomes very expensive. So, you will want to change your service to come as much as possible into fair use, then decide if you are ok with the remaining risk.

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  • Recruiting App regulations

    Hello, i was interested in making a recruiting app that covered athletes in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. What are the rules and regulations i would have to follow when doing this? I would be using their names and states. Th...

    Michael’s Answer

    Can you elaborate more? How are you obtaining the data? Are you selling the data/service? You have a few issues - if the data is publicly available, the first issue is whether using the data from whatever source you are obtaining it, would violate a contract with that site/location/source. For example, in the US, most site terms of service are enforceable under the CFAA, so if that site prohibits data harvesting, you may violate that site's terms, and hence, the CFAA.

    The nature of the data will dictate whether its use would violate some personal right of the athlete. In the US, a person has somewhat limited privacy rights to basic facts/statistics about that person. However, if those facts are not generally publicly available it could possibly violate a right of privacy. If I understand what you are compiling, that is, things like physical attributes, speed, weight, strength etc - then most likely those things are not protected by privacy rights. However as per above, how you obtain that information can be an issue. Note that this is a US answer - in the EU, a person has more substantial privacy and moral rights to these physical attributes.

    How you sell the data (if you do) can also impact some of this. For example, if you use athlete's image to market the service that can possibly cause problems, but it depends on how much your service resembles a news service that would be protected under the 1st amendment more than a commercial service.

    If you are interfacing between a school and an athlete more directly than just providing public information then you may need to be licensed depending on what state you are operating in. In Maryland, see: http://www.dllr.state.md.us/LICENSE/sports/, https://govt.westlaw.com/mdc/Browse/Home/Maryland/MarylandCodeCourtRules?guid=NF964ACB09B5D11DB9BCF9DAC28345A2A&originationContext=documenttoc&transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default) etc.

    You are best served speaking to a lawyer, so that the correct facts can be determined as to what you are doing.

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  • If I have a website and someone else copies the name what can I do?

    So I have a domain which was registered well before this other person decided to use the name. My website is BmoreLax.Net. I have used it for lacrosse (the sport) purposes since the day I registered it. A person who I know of then registered the d...

    Michael’s Answer

    You may have made a use sufficient to establish a common law trademark. I went to your site - it is very hard to tell exactly what service you are offering - you appear to be offering a service of lacrosse league competition, which is a valid service. So, step one, your site really needs to be fixed up to make more clear what you are doing. On your other issues, it would not be very smart to have an open public discussion about the merits of your claim here.

    You need to speak to a trademark lawyer. There are things you can do, they cost real money, and they are not foolproof depending on what the other person does. I can also tell you that, doing nothing in the face of known infringement will eventually waive your rights to enforce your trademark, though you do not seem to be at that point yet.

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  • Can I resell an item and change the name displays to my company name?

    I am a product reviewer and I recently came across a product that I am in love with. I want to start selling this product under my companies name. However would it be legal for me to put my name over their product? How could I go about doing this...

    Michael’s Answer

    We will need more facts, but as you have asked it, no, you cannot do that without serious risk of trademark infringement or Lanham Act (advertising) violation. Your example deals with a very specific issue - a generic (??) ingredient name in a trademark (branded) product.

    In general, you can purchase product X, not modify it, and sell it, without a violation, under various first sale doctrines. However, you have to be careful how you market it - if you inadvertently (or intentionally) suggest too much of an affiliation with a brand name, you will risk a trademark infringement.

    You need to speak with a lawyer.

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  • I am trying out a new product that I designed. Can I sell it in local stores without being a registered business?

    I just designed the product and I want to test the market before putting any more money, so can I sell it in local stores without having to go through the registration process of a business?

    Michael’s Answer

    In addition to Bennet's response (i.e. in addition to a state tax id for sales tax), you will probably also need a local (county) retail sales license in the county where you are selling (it sounded as if this were sales at a physical location). You can discover most of the licensing requirements at http://www.dat.state.md.us/sdatweb/checklist.html although there they just tell you to "check your local municipality". Alternatively, much like there are "tag and title" services for cars, there are a number of services for business licenses. Examples: http://www.businesslicenses.com/research-request-form.php and https://www.cscglobal.com/global/web/csc/business-license-verification.html (note: I do not endorse these, just mentioning them). You can discover everything you need by searching, but sometimes it is easier to hire a service. You should not need a lawyer for this. If you have an accountant, you could also ask them. best - mike

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  • Copyright of still images of a TV project.

    I was the still photographer of a TV project. Because the producer was my friend, I started working in his project without signing any contract, however both of us knew this would be a paid project. I also did not give them any release to use my p...

    Michael’s Answer

    The issue is whether the "work [was] prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment" - i.e. a work made for hire (WMFH) Were you an employee? You were an employee if you were in a master servant relationship - that is, that they directed and controlled your performance of the work. It is not exactly the same thing as "were you paid on 1099 or W-2" but that can be a factor. There can be many factors that go into being a WMFH.

    Assuming for the moment you were not an employee and the work was not a WMFH, then you retain copyright and yes, you can (and should in this case) register the copyrights,and you could sue them for infringement.

    The other issue is one of implied license - that is, a contract to license the right to use the images which you otherwise own. Without actual payment, an implied license is almost always revocable. I say "almost" because in some cases, the implied license can be irrevocable if there was other (non monetary) consideration - however here, I do not see any.

    A lawyer will need to assist. I do not know your financial wherewithal, but in MD, there is a great resource for artists that do not have the funds, the MD Lawyers for the Arts, http://mdvla.org/ which you may want to check. best - mike

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  • Can I sue the TV Channel which broadcast a TV series that I act in it but did not give them the permission to use my picture?

    I play a really short role in a TV series, however, I never sign any release model for them, because I realize that this role could provide some problems for me in future. I neither have any contract with producer, nor paid for this role. As I me...

    Michael’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    The only right you have in that context is one of publicity - and at the very least you impliedly waived that in voluntarily appearing in the TV show - but only insofar as the TV show itself, and not in other contexts. So, as long as the TV show does not otherwise exploit your image, sound, likeness or performance (by, for example, creating a poster with you in it, using your image in an online advertorial etc) then you do not have any basis to sue. If they use your image, likeness, voice etc in other contexts, you might have a case. best - mike

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  • Can I be sued for providing an incomplete set of wedding images to a couple who's wedding I photographed for free?

    we have no written contract, just a verbal agreement that I will provide them with images of the wedding. I have already given 50+ edited images. I asked the couple to sign model releases and get releases from the wedding party before I give them ...

    Michael’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    First - you have a contract - contracts can be oral (in this case - there is no requirement for a writing). A contract must be supported by consideration - but it need not be fair or equal. You did not have to agree to take pictures for free, so when you did, I think that is enough consideration.

    Based on what you have said, that contract obligated you to take pictures at a wedding and provide them to the couple. As others have mentioned, however, a contract to assign a copyright must be in writing (17 USC 204) thus, you retain copyright.

    The interesting question here is - what is the implied license the couple has to use the images? Can they be printed? modified? distributed? While a contract can be oral and supported by non monetary consideration, the weight of authority on implied licenses suggests that some actual compensation must change hands to make the implied license irrevocable. Thus, there is a decent shot that you can argue that the implied license they have to your copyrights is revocable, and if you want, you could respond, by handing over all of the photos (something you apparently contractually agreed to do), and then revoke any implied license to exercise any of the copyrights in them.

    Having said the above, the likely result here is that the couple will just infringe your copyrights anyway. If you are serious about it, you would need to register the copyright in the images with the copyright office to protect the right to statutory damages (and to sue), and then take enforcement action.

    In terms of your ability to use the photos - as stated above, you have all the copyrights. The other issues are privacy rights and publicity rights of the people in the photos. That is more complex, contact me offline if you want to follow up.

    I am sorry to hear this happened to you - it seems no good deed goes unpunished!

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