The legal world and the business world go hand in hand with one another. As you start your business, you’ll realise there are countless legal hoops you have to jump through. This refers to the legalities surrounding your business and how it is formed. Moreover, it’s very easy to fall into some legal problems when you own a small company. Yes, there are a few big and obvious things you might do to break the law – like selling counterfeit items or not paying your taxes.
Nevertheless, you’ll also come across some other things that seem small but have fairly big consequences. With that in mind, here are the top three easiest ways your business can land in legal trouble – and how to avoid them.
Using the wrong music in marketing videos
You’re putting together a marketing video and it seems fairly good. Everything came out as you hoped and it looks like you’re getting the messages across really effectively. The video production is on point, yet there’s one small thing missing: music.
You need a backing track that fits the video and ties the whole thing together. So, you open Spotify or go on YouTube and search for some good music. You think you’ve found the perfect track, so you add it to the video and get ready to publish it.
Unfortunately, you have made one big mistake. You’ve used licensed music in your video. This means that someone owns the rights to it and it can’t be used commercially. As a result, there’s a big risk that the record label owning the music can get in touch and create all sorts of legal issues. At best, you’ll get a slap on the wrist. At worst, you might be forced to pay compensation because you made money off their song.
To avoid this, ensure you either a) pay for the right to play licensed music or b) use royalty-free music.
Filling your website with licensed images
Similarly, another easy way to end up in legal trouble is by putting certain images on your website. Much like music, images are licensed and owned by individuals or companies. What a lot of business owners don’t realise is that the internet is full of photos and images with limited rights. You can run a Google Images search for something simple – like a woman at a desk. Cool, you find thousands of images that fit the description and would be perfect on your website. A simple copy and paste and you’re done.
Again, you’re technically violating copyright laws here! The owner of the images can take legal action against your business. To avoid this, all you need to do is source your photos from a reliable stock photos website. Here, you will be presented with many images, as well as price tags for them. As long as you pay for licensed images, you can use them on your website as often as you like.
Plus, there are some free images out there for you to use. A lot of stock photo sites will have free options, so keep an eye out for these license-free photos to save money while making your website look brilliant.
Copying an existing business
When you get your business up and running, you’ll look for inspiration from other companies. You see what certain businesses are doing and why they’re so successful. As a result, part of you wants to imitate what they do. Copying marketing ideas and concepts is fine, but there’s a line you can’t cross.
Problems arise when you blatantly copy different elements of an existing business. For example, your logo looks suspiciously like another logo out there. You liked what you saw and wanted to adapt it, but the likeness is too close. The same can be said of colour schemes in your business – are you clearly copying the same colours of another brand to try and piggyback on their brand recognition?
Sometimes, the line between inspiration and blatantly copying is very blurred. Therefore, it’s best to avoid copying current businesses. Take some inspiration for how they run their companies, but avoid taking ideas like logo designs, colours, web design, etc. You have no idea what big companies have trademarked and made their own. So, you could end up getting involved in all sorts of legal turmoil.
Even if your legal disputes are settled outside of court and don’t involve money, your business can take a hit. While you’re dealing with these problems, you might be unable to maintain productivity, leading to a loss of output. Similarly, you could damage your reputation if word gets out that you’re in legal trouble. So, do your best to avoid these three issues!