SCOTUS to Determine Whether Reselling Used Books is Copyright Violation

It may have been overshadowed by the drama and tragedy of hurricane Sandy this week, but the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on a case which may determine whether you will be able to sell a used book on eBay or other reseller web sites. In Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a student, through his family in Thailand, legally purchased books that were published there by a U.S. publishing house.  That publisher, like many others, publishes similar versions of their U.S. titles in foreign countries at cheaper prices.  After the student resold the books on eBay, the publishing company argued that his actions amounted to copyright infringement because the U.S. copyright laws give the owner of the copyright the exclusive right to import copies of a work from outside the United States.  The student argued that another provision of the copyright laws give a purchaser of a particular copy of a work "lawfully made under this title" of the copyright law the right to resell the book without getting the permission of the publisher.  The case could have a dramatic impact on e-commerce and online resale sites and is being closely watched by both sides.

The trial court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals both sided with the publisher. The U.S. Supreme Court decision is expected by the end of its term in June, 2013.

The Internet is getting bigger today. Big Time. Should you claim your share?

The day that we have talked about for more than two years is finally here.  ICANN - the non-profit corporation in charge of assigning domain names - is throwing open the doors and allowing a slew of new domain name naming conventions.  The Internet is about to get huge (er). Up until now, web sites were limited to such generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as ".com", ".net", and ".org".  The group added more in the past few years including ".xxx", ".biz", and others, but now they are allowing customized gTLDs.  It could be a brand (.mcdonalds), an organization (.youthhockey), or just about anything else.  Approved applicants will maintain that gTLD and use it to host all of their company information, control who has access to the name, and even be able to sell space in the gTLD.

But before you jump to register ".thing", the registration process alone will cost you at least $185,000 plus the investment in maintaining your little slice of the web.  However, if you are a business or a group with the resources, it could be an invaluable new way to maintain your presence on the Internet.

How much should companies pay for work from first-year associates?

The war against lawyers has begun.  Well, more specifically, its a fight against over-priced legal services.  According to the Wall Street Journal:

More than 20% of the 366 in-house legal departments that responded are refusing to pay for the work of first- or second-year attorneys, in at least some matters.

Many corporate counsels are arguing that they should not have to pay $300 per hour to have a newly-minted lawyer learn how an asset purchase agreement works.  This was less of a problem in the past when the rates for junior attorneys was low and competing resources sparse.  But with the "businessification" of the legal industry over the past couple of decades, hourly rates for associates have skyrocketed along with ballooning salaries (and increased per-partner profits), as the Internet and mobile technologies have empowered corporate counsel to find pragmatic alternatives.

At the same time, companies are spending more than ever on outside counsel for their legal services, even as the economy struggles to recover.  In this article from the ABA Journal, corporate counsel are seeing legal bills rise.  What's even worse:

The dramatic increase in attorney fees and other litigation costs came despite reports of a decline in litigation last year from the same group of respondents.

That is why many are taking a practical approach and looking for alternative fee arrangements and more sensible billing.  And some law firms are hearing the call (including my firm).  However, a system that has been entrenched in our society for generations is not going down easily.  As noted in the WSJ article, the chairman of K&L Gates LLP, a law firm with over 1900 attorneys around the world, says that corporate counsel are blowing this out of proportion and should resist the urge to change:

“It’s a bargain made throughout the generations that has served democracy and capitalism well.”

Yeah, good luck with that.

How the U.S. Can Avoid Another Recession (assuming there is leadership to do it)

Even as Washington gridlock becomes the norm, ideas continue to circulate about kickstarting the sputtering U.S. economy.  Everyone seems to agree that startups and other small businesses will lead a renewed hiring boom and increase demand, but not everyone is in agreement about how to get there. There are some ideas, however, that continue to move forward.  Jeff Bussgang of Boston's Flybridge Capital Partners has highlighted some of them recently in an article that is worth reading, and points out this remarkable stat:

The Kauffman Foundation's research on this matter is clear: From 1997 to 2005, job growth in the US was driven entirely by start-ups.

The Startup Visa and government investment in innovation were also topics of this blog in that past in addition some other ideas like the green card visa.  The U.S. needs to make it easier for businesses to start here, and then make sure that we attract as many of the world's leading scientists and entrepreneurs to make it happen.

As Congress dithers over process and campaign year politics, it is hard to understand why there is not more urgency on this vital area of economic development.

Just Do It: Entrepreneurs Show Why Now is a Great Time to Start a Business

I saw today another example of people using entrepreneurship to overcome the struggling economy.  In addition to the 9.6% of Americans that are officially unemployed, there are many, many more who are underemployed or stuck in a job they don't want just for the security of a paycheck.  But in reality, they don't feel very secure. This article highlights people who are taking control of their situations by starting their own businesses.  Whether it is buying an existing business, purchasing a franchise, or bootstrapping a new small business, I hear similar stories from my clients all the time, and I am constantly surprised by their resourcefulness.  There is a real buzz from the entrepreneurs out there that are creating business for themselves, many of them without quitting their day jobs. Perhaps it is your turn to give it a try.

To learn more about starting a business, franchising, or entrepreneurship in general, take a look through the categories on the right for some additional posts on these topics.

Have you already started a new business?  What has been your biggest challenge?