Four Steps to Take If You Suspect Online Copyright Infringement

In the fast-paced digital realm, it can be difficult to keep track of the content that you create. With over 6.7 million people posting on blog-specific software, and another 12 million blogging through social networks, information is readily available in every industry. That influx of data is both a blessing and curse of the digital age depending on who reads your content and what they do with it.

Stolen online content is a real crime, though the rules surrounding it are not as cut and dry as physical theft. So what can you do if you find out that someone else has taken your material without your consent? Take a look at what steps to take if you suspect someone is using your work illegally:

  1. Document it immediately. Take a screen shot of the web page in question, print it out with the date on it, and take a picture of your computer screen. Internet content can disappear just as quickly as it shows up so you want to make sure you have your proof in hand.
  2. Ask for removal. Before you send off a nasty, confrontational email, consider contacting attorneys in San Diego, CA for advice. These lawyers can help you draft a polite request that avoids accusations or any other language that could end up getting you in trouble instead. You may be surprised at how quickly your content is removed when a simple request is made.
  3. Send a “cease and desist” request. If your congenial appeal goes unheeded, you may want to move forward with more formal language. Again, a business attorney can best help you develop this communication to ensure it is legal but firm. Professionalism that shines through in this document will do more to intimidate the offender than an anger-charged rant.
  4. File an injunction. If all of your attempts at voluntary removal are ignored, you may want to ask your lawyer about filing a formal complaint for infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Search engines like Google and Yahoo! will remove the copied content link from results pages and send that traffic back where it belongs.

You work hard to develop content for your online business persona and it costs you time and money to do it. Rules for digital theft are much murkier than if the same person walked into your office and stole your laptop, but there are still ways to protect your business from online content larceny. Make sure you hire a lawyer with the right experience to keep you protected during the process and help you reclaim the content that is rightfully yours.

3 Steps to Find out If Someone is Using Your Photography

The widespread availability of images online can lead to some sketchy activity. Over 300 million photos are posted daily on Facebook alone, leaving the owners vulnerable to content theft. When you post a family photo, a graphic you created, or a copyrighted image you snapped as a professional, you run the risk of someone else using it without permission.

Sometimes the unauthorized use of your photos or images will be brought to your attention, but most of the time you have no way of knowing where else it is being used in cyberspace.

A professional photographer could lose revenue when a popular picture is shared without permission. Parents could have photos of their children plastered on questionable sites. Businesses could potentially miss out on a sale when a photo they own does not contain the right attribution.

There are a few ways to protect yourself, however, and the images you rightfully own. Here are three steps to take to find out if someone is using your photography or graphics without your permission:

  1. Right click the image online that you want to check. Copy the URL specific to that image. Depending on your Internet browser, that process differs. Look for “properties” or the phrase “copy image location.”
  2. Paste the image URL into Google. When the list of results pops up, click on the phrase “search by image” that is just below the Google search box.
  3. Sift through the results. The first group of items you will see are images that resemble yours and may even include yours. Below that will be a list of websites that have your image URL.

Once you have found the places where your image exists online, you have to decide whether they help or hurt you. A shared image is not always a bad thing if the other websites give you credit and are potentially sending viewers your way. If you find people using your image, regardless of whether they give you credit or not, it is up to you what action to take. There are stories of extensive lawsuits, but you can also choose to contact the person and handle it outside of the law. If you run into a messy situation and an uncooperative thief, attorneys in San Diego that specialize in copyright infringement can help you proceed.

It depends on your outlook, but some artists see the use of their images (with proper attribution) as a beneficial form of free advertising, a compliment, and a route toward networking and connecting possibilities.

Whatever action you choose to take, keep in mind that it’s your property, and nobody can bully you into a choice. Stand your ground, but look into other ways to protect your work in the future. Good luck!

5 Reasons Every Business Needs an Attorney

By the time you need an attorney in an emergency, it might be too late to fix the issues at hand, but most business owners do not retain an attorney as a normal part of operations. There are so many advantages to having an attorney take part in your everyday business affairs, including:

  • Startup paperwork. Give your business the best start possible with assistance from an attorney on all of the beginning documentation. Have an attorney walk you through the steps of filing for a business license, obtaining business insurance, and even developing your own company bylaws. The upfront attention to detail will make for a smoother business journey.
  • Contract review. Look for attorneys in San Diego that specialize in business contracts to have a trained pair of eyes look over your most important documents. Ask your attorney to look over everything from vendor agreements to privacy notices so that you are always in the know.
  • Employee policy development. You may have the best intentions when creating employee policies on your own, but one misconstrued statement can mean a world of legal trouble. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employment discrimination charges are at a 45-year high. An attorney can take an objective look at your employee rules and policies and let you know if they are in legal compliance with state and federal laws to protect you from lawsuits.
  • Financial advice. You may already have an accountant, but you really should have a lawyer as well in order to discuss important financial points. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you are in a financial lawsuit or on the brink of bankruptcy to call an attorney. Have one to look out for your business’s well-being from the very start.
  • Legal disputes. Of course, the most obvious reason to have a small business attorney is to help settle any civil or criminal issues that arise. Instead of frantically calling for help, have a legal professional on speed dial who already knows all about you and your business. It could mean the difference between a positive and negative legal outcome.

If you want a strong business foundation, start by hiring the right attorney. A legal professional can predict potential pitfalls and guide your business to safety, financial security, and regulation compliance. Furthermore, if an emergency should arise, you will already have someone you trust to call.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Business Attorney

It is a well-known aspect of doing business that hiring the right employees makes all the difference in a company’s success. The same is true of any outside professionals you hire to strengthen your operations, like business attorneys.

Maybe you think a business attorney is an unnecessary hire, but did you know that one out of every three small business owners will be threatened with a lawsuit? Make sure you hire the right person to handle all of your legal affairs by asking the right questions, including these:

What is your specialty?

Hiring any business attorney with a nameplate is not the best plan. Consider your industry and look for an attorney that specializes in the issues you may face. For example, if you own a construction company, you will want to seek out attorneys in San Diego that understand the legal side of commercial or residential building. Get as specialized an attorney as possible to give you the best guidance.

Who are your clients?

Find out what other businesses are on your attorney’s client list. Are they similar to yours? What kind of work has he or she handled on behalf of those clients? The quality of a client list far outweighs the quantity, particularly if the attorney has a large amount of work tied to each client.

How much experience do you have?

You want to weigh the experience of your attorney carefully. In some cases, a younger, greener attorney may be a better fit for your company, especially if his expertise closely matches your needs. Hiring an attorney right out of law school is not usually recommended though, unless that lawyer is associated with a reputable firm that has more experienced litigators ready to step in when needed.

Who is your backup?

If your attorney needs to be in two places at once or has an unexpected circumstance arise, who will you call? It is just as important to find out information about the next person or people who are in line to provide legal assistance to your business if your regular attorney is unavailable. Make sure you are not just meeting the face of the company in theory. You may get neglected when real issues arise.

Hiring an attorney is a necessity for any business owner, so you might as well make sure you retain the right one. Meet with a few different firms before making your final decision and compare their answers to the above questions. A trustworthy, experienced lawyer will help you navigate all the seasons of your business–whether sunny or stormy.

C-Suite Transformations: A Sign of the Times

The stereotypical image of company executives looks something like this: people in expensive suits, sitting around a company conference table, discussing ways to maintain with the status quo. In reality, members of a company’s “C-suite” team of executives have seen some significant changes in recent years in order to keep up with changing public opinion. They are no longer stuck in conference rooms or nice offices; they are vibrant, recognizable members of their business brands.

Take a look at few of the biggest changes in C-suites over the past five years.

  • Telecommuting.  For many companies, the days of board members and executives crowded into a single conference room are distant memories. Communication technology has made it possible for C-suite members to work virtually from anywhere. The same is true of middle and entry level employees, too, as 10 percent of the U.S. workforce reports working from home at least one day per week–a statistic that has doubled in the past 30 years. This new frontier of the workforce experience has not been lost on executives who are able to take advantage of the flexibility in their own career endeavors.
  • Part-time executives. Rather than pay a full-time, executive-level employee, many companies are now filling some roles with part-timers instead. For example, there are companies that specialize in fractional CIO services that provide Chief Information Officers–basically, contractors. These professionals tend to have wide and varied industry experience, making them assets to the companies they serve and also more objective leaders. Companies save money over hiring a full-time C-suite member and get more expertise, too.
  • New positions. The traditional C-suite titles of Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officers are now being crowded in by an array of other jobs that are deemed necessary at the highest of company tiers. Expect to see more Chief Innovation, Chief Cloud, and Chief Privacy Officers in the coming years as the priorities of companies evolve with technology and consumer demands.  Executive-level tasks are in a state of flux right now, and the C-suites of today will continue to transform in the coming decade.
  • Social media presence. It is not enough for a company to have a Twitter feed or Facebook account. Consumers want to hear from the people at the top. C-suite members can no longer conduct business in obscurity. They must be the face and voice of their companies in order to build strong public opinions of their brands.

The changes to the ways executives conduct business are indicative of larger cultural shifts that affect every employee at every level. Those changes generally start at the top, however, which is what makes a closer look at the current state of C-suites an interesting process for all members of the workforce.

Survive and Thrive with Smart Small Business Spending

Small business owners are not always experts when it comes to the operational side of things. Considering 90 percent of all U.S. businesses are classified as small, it can be surmised that not every owner has been to business school or even taken a basic accounting class. The success of small businesses comes first from their innovation and second from their management of funds. A staggering 50 percent of all small businesses fail in the first year, and many owners cite insufficient funds as a huge contributing factor.

So what can you do to avoid having your small business become just another negative statistic? Take advantage of these spending tips.

  1. Use inbound marketing. In most cases, it does not pay to have printed materials made or promotional items sent through standard mail. Instead of sending outbound marketing messages and hoping they are noticed, bring customers to you through inbound tactics. This includes using the right keywords and geographic locators on your website and blog so that people using can find your small business through search engines. Permission-based email lists and e-newsletters are another great way to inform people who are already interested in you about what you have coming up.
  2. Outsource some tasks. If you own a cupcake bakery but are not particularly great with writing about how delicious your baked goods taste, hire a contractor to do it for you. In many cases, you can hire every role from a computer support specialist to a virtual assistant on a contract basis and save yourself time and the high cost of regular employees. As a business owner, you simply cannot do everything alone. Find areas to outsource to save small business cash while still getting the quality help you need.
  3. Revisit spending. Sit down with your budget and your actual spending at least once each month and determine where you might be overspending. It is also a good idea to look at utility bills from time to time and ask how to save money on Internet, phone, or television packages. If you are not vigilant with your small business finances, how can you expect anyone else to be? If you really are at a loss when it comes to accounting, take advantage of step two and hire a professional accountant or bookkeeper to help you out.

With the right outlook, your small business will go well beyond the one-year mark. Just keep your spending in check and never stop searching for innovative ways to save money.

How do you improve your cash flow as a small business owner?

5 Tasks to Delegate When Planning a Conference

Planning a company conference takes several months and is a detailed process. If you are in charge of getting everything ready for the upcoming event, there will be moments when you feel overwhelmed. Part of being in charge is knowing how to pass off some of the responsibilities to others. Take a look at these five conference details you should delegate.

  1. Audio/visual components. Before you spend too much time trying to figure out what technology you will need and how to acquire all of it, contact audio video companies for an estimate. These professionals can tell you exactly what you will need based on itinerary and conference size and can handle the setup and tear down too.
  2. Food. It is unlikely that you are planning to actually make the food for your conference, but resist the urge to over-plan in this category. Contact a catering company or get in touch with the food service provider at your conference location early on. Let them decide on the menu to make your decisions in the food area even easier.
  3. Marketing materials. Hire a promotional company to handle everything from email reminders to mailing the conference booklets. Social media also plays a huge role in conference success with 90 percent of marketing managers using at least one form of social media to promote upcoming business events. Of course, developing the actual content of the conference will fall heavily on your shoulders, but let professionals make it all look good for you.
  4. Manning the conference. You are an important presence at your conference, but make sure to have plenty of backup too. Your job during the conference is to oversee the overall operations, not answer questions about the location of the bathrooms. Come up with a uniform that helps conference workers stand out from attendees in order to have the event run smoothly. Free up your time for the big details.
  5. Follow up. At the end of the conference, you will want to know how the experience went for attendees, vendors, and speakers. Hire a professional survey company to take care of asking the right questions and compiling the answers in a straightforward, easy-to-analyze format for you. Take those results and use them to start planning for the next conference.

By handing off some of the conference detail management to other professionals, the event will be a success. You will also be able to keep your own sanity and reap the accolades that accompany planning an impactful conference.

4 Things the Internet Has Changed in Business

The Internet has roots that go back to the early 1960s, but it has since become a ubiquitous part of life, as necessary to some as air, food, and water. As Internet technology has improved—thanks in part to the massive brains of some of the web’s many pioneers—it has changed much of how we navigate our lives and conduct business and ourselves in our day-to-day. Let’s take a look at some of the things the Internet has changed in business.

1. Advertising

TV commercials were the primary means of advertising for a long period of time. Before that were radio commercials and newspaper ads. While commercials, ads, billboards, and other forms of traditional ads are still in wide use, nothing quite holds a light to Internet advertising.

Part of that comes from the cost. You can run a pay per click campaign yourself or design a display advertising banner to place on various high-traffic blogs across the net, all for pretty reasonable costs. Running a full-page ad in your local newspaper could cost as much as tens of thousands of dollars.

Then there’s the connectivity that comes with advertising on the Internet. These days, advertising is much more about connecting and conversing with your target audience.

2. Journalism

For the past several years, journalists have been stating that print is dead and gone. Newspaper circulation has seen a steady decline in the past few years. Does that mean the newspaper is actually gone? Are journalists out of a job?

Not exactly. You see, while newspaper sales might be down compared to a few decades ago, publishers have adapted by putting out news online. Online news outlets can work in conjunction with print papers to provide engaging stories for readers. The ease of access has also allowed the everyday Joe and Jane to contribute and provide up-to-the-minute, personal perspectives to news. Print isn’t going anywhere.

3. Letters

Consider the last time you got a handwritten note. It’s nice in that it feels nostalgic and precious thanks in part to the deluge of email, which had its start in 1993. Email provides a mix of emotions for pretty much every user. On the one hand, it’s convenient and environmentally friendly. Could you imagine all the paper you’d use if that flood of emails was in physical letter form? You would have memos out the wazoo.

On the other hand, email comes with a lot of problems, spam, viruses, and mailing lists aside. Email bankruptcy, or email fatigue, occurs when you ignore a huge pile of emails because, good lord, there’s only so much information one person can process. Then there’s the matter of response time. Sometimes, responses are instant. Other times, you question if the person is still alive. Unsurprisingly, email is actually slower than using a phone or texting, with the exception of internal workplace emails.

4. Mainstream media

TV shows, movies, radio, comics, literature, video games, and all other media still provide plenty of laughs, tears, and sales, but the Internet has made it incredibly easy for people to distribute their art, whether it’s short stories, web shows, or podcasts. Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have made it possible for people to gain the resources to fund various creative projects.

While the Internet certainly has its dark side—selfies, public shaming, comments on essentially anything—it’s still providing plenty of good. It’s a great time to be a creative or a small business owner, and it’ll be interesting to see where the web takes us in the future.

Cover All Your Bases When it Comes to Business Security Strategy

There are a lot of different types of security these days, and many of them are platforms you should adopt and implement for your business. In the general sense of the word, “security” refers to safety and protection, and when it comes to a business, it applies to both people and property, including ideas, information, and data. And for a business that wants to continue running, sustainability is an essential form of business security.

Protecting all these different facets of a business requires a plan or strategy, and an overall security strategy should be part of your business operations plan. Professional security consultants deal with a broad scope of strategic security measures for businesses and can help you understand, develop, and implement a plan that covers all your bases.

Here’s a closer look at each type of security a business should implement, each of which should be part of a overall security strategy that can be successfully managed and deployed with the help of a security consultant group.

People and property. Security first makes us think of protecting ourselves and our personal property. For a business it means creating a safe environment for employees, vendors, customers, and anyone entering the business premises. It also means protecting the place of business and everything inside it, but all of this is only one small part of an overall business security strategy, and that’s where security strategy consultants can be a big help.

Intellectual property. Intellectual property refers to everything from our ideas to a business’s products and patents, and it’s one of the most difficult things to protect. A strategic plan for securing intellectual property includes both data protection and a platform for tracking the enemy—those people or entities that are interested in stealing your ideas or passing your product off as their own.

Information and data. Today, business security most often refers to IT and data security, which can be destroyed or lost both internally and externally. Data loss can cause many modern businesses to cease operations, so a plan to secure and protect data on several levels is vital to most business operations and should be part of a larger business continuity strategy.

Risk assessment and management. There’s no way to completely eliminate security risks, so a practical goal is to limit them as much as possible. According to a recent report by Security Dark Reading, a risk-based security strategy (RBSS) helps businesses identify a practical approach to protection by prioritizing assets so that budgets aren’t used to protect assets that don’t really matter. Risk assessment helps businesses understand where to focus their security efforts first and tracks those efforts before focusing on lower priority assets.

Business resilience and continuity of operations. Solid overall business planning that examines and tracks every facet of the business, combined with effective risk management and implementation, is the best way to ensure business continuity and ongoing operations. Without operational sustainability, a business won’t have any assets to protect in the first place.

Work at Home Transition: What You’ll Miss

Telecommuting is no longer reserved for a small group of workers and occupations. Nurses, teachers, engineers, and even employees at data centers in San Diego are now able to do at least some of their tasks from a home office. Over 3.1 million people in the U.S. workforce now work primarily from home.

This trend makes sense, especially since communication technology is so advanced. If you are able to work from home and are considering the opportunity, take a look at these things you may actually miss about going the traditional route:

Your workspace. It is smart to set up an office-specific space at home, even if it is only a small desk or table. No matter where you sit down to work at home, though, there will be reminders of the fact that you are… well, at home. The dishes in the sink and the laundry waiting to be folded will be nearby. If you have children in the house, you will hear them. When the mailman rings the doorbell, your dog barks at squirrel outside, or your smoke detector starts beeping a low-battery warning, you will hear them all and know that at some point they will need your attention. A segmented, work-only space will no longer exist, replaced by overlapping business and domestic duties.

  • Make it work: Keep a notepad near your desk. Every time a domestic item pops in your mind, jot it down. Start at the top of the list when you take a break or are finished for the day, checking things off as you go.

Your daily routine. Getting ready for work in the morning when you are leaving for an office is a ritual of sorts. From the time the alarm goes off, you craft who you will be the rest of the day from getting dressed to pulling in to your parking spot. Humans have an inherent attraction to routine; it makes us feel more secure, and as some studies claim, a routine brings happiness. When you work at home, much of those “getting ready” items disappear. If you want to log in and start answering emails before breakfast or a shower, you can. There is no need for a commute, or even for taking off your pajamas in many cases. This may sound dreamy in theory, but it can lead to less motivation and productivity.

  • Make it work: Institute a morning routine that includes a regular wake-up time and healthy breakfast. Get dressed (even if it just in jeans and a T-shirt) and differentiate between “business you” and “free time you.”

Your commute. Even if you hate wasting precious time in rush-hour traffic or the hit your wallet takes at the gas pump, there are subtle parts about commuting that many miss after making a transition to a home office. In the chaos of daily life, a relatively quiet commute is a good way to get fired up and wound down every day. It is when you can listen to the radio without interruption, or drink a cup of coffee when it is warm and tastes perfect. Unless you carpool, the ride to work is quiet alone time–and a nice break from the rest of the day.

  • Make it work: Schedule moments of serenity in every workday. Spend five minutes outside, or take a quick walk at lunchtime. If possible, wake up early enough to enjoy some quiet moments before the rest of the day gains momentum.

Working from home is a great way to balance home and work responsibilities. Just remember that a home office is still a lot of work when it comes to limiting distractions and finding a healthy break from your job. Make a commitment to focus on work when it is time, and to do everything else in your off hours. This will help you transition more smoothly.