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SMALL BUSINESS | SMALL TALK: Advice From the Small
Business Experts

Registration of Copyright Provides Several Legal Benefits

October 28, 1998

Question: I am a self-employed consultant who makes independent market studies for my clients. My reports are intended to be limited to my clients only. However, I find them being copied and distributed to third parties who use them for their own purposes. I have been advised that I could be liable to a third party who uses my report without my knowledge or permission. Would a copyright be of any assistance to me in limiting the exposure of my research and opinions?

--Thomas M. Pike, Coto de Caza

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Answer: The text of your reports, but not the facts they contain, is automatically protected under U.S. copyright laws from the moment the text is fixed in a tangible medium, such as in written form. No registration is required to receive copyright protection for works created after 1989.

Registration is required prior to suing a third party for copyright infringement, however. And registration affords several legal benefits that make it extremely desirable.

To register your copyright on your text, you must send a completed registration form, fee and copy of the work being registered to the U.S. Copyright Office. You can get the forms from its Web site at http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/copy1.html, or call (202) 707-3000.

Having a copyright on your work allows you to pursue legal action to stop the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of your work, but it does not limit your legal exposure for the content or effects of your reports. You may be able to use disclaimers in your reports, but I recommend that you contact an attorney to review your specific needs in that area.

--David A. Farah

Intellectual property lawyer

Sheldon & Mak Inc.

Pasadena

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Q: I am a recent college graduate and I'd like to set up my own business. With limited resources and capital, I thought maybe an Internet business would be right for me, but I am clueless as to the rules, regulations and necessary licenses. Would you direct me to where I might obtain information on this and tell me what types of businesses have shown success?

--Ji Yeong Kim, Los Angeles

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A: Internet businesses, or E-businesses, are subject to the same legal and licensing requirements that apply to offline "bricks and mortar" businesses. For a basic review, read the tutorial "Entrepreneurship 101--Chapter 2: How To Start a Business" at http://www.latimes.com.

To participate in electronic commerce, you need to register a domain name for your Web site. This serves as your Internet address and should be short and simple, so keep that in mind when naming your business. You can check for availability and reserve your domain name for $70 for two years at http://www.internic.net.

You can't run an Internet business or open your online store without a Web site, so you'll need to build one. A well-designed, good-looking Web site and secure Web server are just the beginning. Some businesses spend tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in development costs.

Fortunately for entrepreneurs with limited resources and capital, several software programs enable even an Internet neophyte with no programming skill to design, build and operate an online store for $100 or less per month. All you need is a computer with a Web browser and Internet access.

Two excellent programs are Yahoo Store, from Santa Clara-based Yahoo, at http://store.yahoo.com, and Merchant Manager, from Anaheim-based Accesspoint, at http://www.merchantmanager.com.

Both enable you to build a complete store that can display products, take orders, process credit cards (you'll need to set up a merchant account), track store activity, compute tax and shipping charges and export data to an accounting package such as Quickbooks.

Merchant Manager costs $75 a month for unlimited products. Yahoo Store starts at $100 a month for up to 50 products. Prices include hosting. Because your Web site resides on their servers, you can run your business from anywhere in the world. You will find free demonstrations on their Web sites.

As with any other business, you should plan to promote your E-business aggressively and creatively. Many books have been written on this subject. You also can get great tips at the Web sites of online advertising and marketing agencies such as Link Exchange, Doubleclick and Webpromote.

There are successful Internet businesses selling computer equipment and software, books, music, travel services, flowers, gifts, financial services and even groceries. The success of an Internet business is limited only by your hard work and creativity.

For additional information and resources on electronic commerce and operating your own Web business, you can begin by surfing to http://e-comm.internet.com and http://www.zdnet.com/products/ecommerceuser.html or by conducting your own Internet search.

--Louie Ucciferri

President, Westlake Financial

Architects

Westlake Village

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If you have a question about how to start or operate a small business, mail it to Karen E. Klein at the Los Angeles Times, 1333 S. Mayflower Ave., Suite 100, Monrovia 91016 or e-mail it to kklein6349@aol.com. Include your name, address and telephone number. The column is designed to answer questions of general interest. It should not be construed as legal advice.

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