Virtual Teahouse



Virtual Teahouse
by Sue Basko

I am a lawyer for independent media, including for independent music artists.   A Chinese music company has requested the music of one of my clients, a singer with a lovely voice.  I have been working on the deal for some time, changing the contract to meet our needs, etc.  The whole process has taken much longer than it needs to, and many of the contacts seem repetitive and superfluous.  Finally it dawned on me that we were engaged in the Asian practice of getting to know each other. 

I know enough about the Asian cultures to know that one should always agree and then add any disagreement as additional information.  Rather than a disagreeing response being "No, but..," it is "Yes, and.."  We ask how they would like to do things, we don't tell them.  We say please and thank you many times.   We keep going until everyone feels  comfortable with the deal.   

As a practice, I write contracts that are fair and beneficial for all parties.  The Chinese record company rep takes my contract back for approval.  "Yes, this is fine," I am told.  I am grateful they can read English, because I know only 5 words in Chinese. 

I have an idea of creating a Virtual Teahouse, where we could meet virtually. There, we can virtually honor each in a virtual tea ceremony.  We can virtually bow to each other.  We can let each other know we are honorable and that we respect each other.   We can share our insights and good ideas.  The atmosphere of the teahouse is at once calm, serene, dignified, and yet bustling with life. 

The tea ceremony is not so much about chitchat, as a business lunch in the U.S. might be.  It is more about being present and letting the ancient traditions of trust, respect, and honor seep into the relationship.  The tea, beautiful green leaves, steeps in hot water in a clay pot, then is poured into little cups.  As each person sips, the group is united in sharing this same liquid, as it becomes part of their bodies.  

I look at the other artists who have signed with the Chinese music company.  Adele.  Vampire Weekend.  Other hit singers of today.   Perhaps their record labels have sent representatives to China.  Perhaps they have gone to a real teahouse.  My client cannot afford to send me to China, though I would love to go.  A virtual teahouse seems like a good alternative.  

I love to build websites. Perhaps I will build a Virtual Teahouse as an online place to meet and honor each other.  



Trademarking Your Band Name/ Creative Business Name:
Do it Now While You Still Can



Trademarking Your Band Name/ Creative Business Name:
Do It Now While You Still Can
by Sue Basko

Why The Beatles is a great band name. Why Death Cab for Cutie is not.

It is much easier and much less expensive to register trademark on your band or singer name or the name of your creative business in a timely way than it is to wait and fight off someone else's use or registration of the same or a similar name. Registering trademark is a complex process that, when it goes smoothly, takes about a year to two years to complete.

Starting the trademark process in a timely way is so important. If you stall and someone else claims the name, the amount of work and the cost involved can be so great that, unless you are wealthy, you are often best off picking a new name. Battles over contested trademarks can go on for ten years.

I STRONGLY recommend that you have an experienced lawyer do your trademark registration for you. I strongly recommend you do not try this yourself. It is complicated.

State Trademarks? Most states have some form of trademark registration. I think these are almost useless because they do not protect the name outside the state. In this age of the internet and multistate businesses, it is most useful to have a federal trademark, which is good in all 50 states. Some federally-registered trademarks are potentially valid in many nations, based on the U.S. participation in the Madrid Protocol, a set of treaties that create worldwide intellectual property through an organization called WIPO, World Intellectual Property Organization. To make a long story really short - I consider state trademark registrations to be a waste of time and money. If you have a trademark worth protecting, have an experienced lawyer register it for you as a U.S. trademark. I do these registrations and I can tell you it is not ground to tread upon unassisted.

Picking a Name: Not all names can be trademarked. A lawyer can help you determine if the name you have chosen is likely to pass muster. One of the basics is that you should choose a name that is unique. Google and see - if you find other bands or other businesses using the same name, choose a different name. Pick a name that is yours only.

Also, pick a name that is not the name of something else. Pick a name that is not the name of a store, a book, a movie, a character, a product, a game, -- and on and on.

The ideal trademark word is not a real word. It is a made-up word that is created specially for your product or service. Examples: Kleenex, Napster, Macbook, Ipod.

Example of a Great Band Name: The Beatles. It does not get any better than this, trademark-wise. "Beatle" is not a word, and yet it conveys the musical notion of "beat" and turns it into a noun. It also is short, easy to remember, and easy to pronounce. It does not sound foolish. Paul McCartney was a Beatle. Ben Gibbard is a Death Cab for Cutie? The Beatles name was a great branding decision from the get-go, and nearly 50 years later, the trademark's power is equally as strong. Bands today could learn from that lesson of long ago. In fact, the words "death cab for cutie" come from a Beatles' movie and so that band will probably never be able to trademark even its own name. Aside from this, of course, no one is ever going to buy their child a Death Cab for Cutie lunchbox or backpack.

Apple Corps Limited of the United Kingdom owns dozens of trademarks on The Beatles, Beatles, etc. Many Beatles tribute shows, radio shows playing only Beatles music, products, etc., have attempted to register trademarks that use the word "Beatles." Through the application process, they have been stopped. Why? Because Beatles is a registered trademark owned by Apple Corps, and if any other business wants to use the trademark, even a business that is about the music of The Beatles, they cannot do so unless they get permission and license to do so from Apple Corps. And then, they will not be getting a trademark, but a license to use the words from the owner of the trademarks, which is Apple Corps.

Good Trademarks Build Empires: If you have a solid name that can be trademarked and is trademarked, you can build an empire upon this. It can grow into products of all sorts. The list of Beatles products is almost endless. Conversely, if you insist on choosing a band or business name that infringes on someone else's trademark, or that cannot be trademarked for any reason, then you limit your possibilities.

Mark Zuckerberg and his band of Merry Lawyers fought like mad dogs to trademark the words Facebook, Face, FB, and even the color of blue they somehow think is so distinctive. They know the value of trademark. Try calling your website Face-anything and you will get a love note from the Facebook lawyers telling you to cease and desist.

For more info on trademark, please read:




Filing a Complaint with the FCC



Filing a Complaint with the FCC
by Sue Basko

You can easily file an online informal complaint with the FCC at: http://www.fcc.gov/complaints

The complaint topics range from signal jammers, caller ID spoofers,  loud commercials, to indecent programming.  Below is a listing of the complaint categories available on the online form.  To make your complaint on the form page, just click on the category and click Next at the bottom of the page and follow along till completed.

Tower Light Outages or Signal Interference
  • Tower Light outages
  • Hindrance to a public safety service or device by a communications service or device
  • Problems completing 911 calls
  • Cell Phone, GPS, and Wi-Fi jammers
  • Other jammers
  • Narrowbanding


Wireless Telephone
  • Telemarketing (including Do-Not-Call)
  • Prerecorded messages
  • Billing
  • Service
  • Privacy
  • Identity theft
  • Disability access
  • Number portability
  • Unlawful advertising
  • 911 calls
  • Tower Light outages
  • Signal interference to other devices
  • Cell phone jammers
  • Rural Call Completion
 
Broadband Service and VOIP
  • Unsolicited emails on cellular phone
  • Billing
  • Service
  • Availability
  • Number portability
  • Unlawful advertising
  • Disability access
  • 911 calls


Broadcast (TV and Radio), Cable, and Satellite Issues
  • Obscene or indecent programs
  • Unlawful or illegal advertising
  • Disability access
  • Emergency alerts
  • Unauthorized/unfair/biased/illegal broadcasts
  • Cable modem or signal issues
  • DTV issues
  • CableCARD issues
  • Loud Commercials


Wired Telephone
  • "Slamming," which occurs when your authorized wireline telephone company for local, local toll or long distance service is switched without your permission.
  • Telemarketing (including Do-Not-Call)
  • Prerecorded messages
  • Billing
  • Service
  • Privacy
  • Identity theft
  • Disability access
  • Number portability
  • Equipment
  • Unlawful advertising
  • Rural Call Completion


Disability Access to Communications Services and Equipment
  • Video Description
  • Closed Captioning on Television
  • IP Closed Captioning
  • Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS)
  • Section 255: Telecommunications Services and Equipment Accessibility
  • Hearing aid compatibility
  • Emergency broadcast information
  • Visual Description


Junk Fax
  • Unwanted/unsolicited fax to your residential or business fax machine


Telemarketing, Prerecorded Messages, Caller ID Spoofing, and Do-Not-Call
  • Do-Not-Call
  • Wireless spam
  • Calls or messages to residential lines, business lines, wireless devices, emergency lines, patient rooms, and toll-free numbers
  • Calls that provide a false or "spoofed" incoming phone number on the caller ID display


Dot Gov: Beware of Fake Government Websites



Dot Gov: Beware of Fake Government Websites 
.gov vs .com 
by Sue Basko

Many government websites use the .gov extension.  If you go to the same URL name, but with a .com ending, you will usually find a for-profit business that looks official and is selling services or products related to the topic of the government site. This can be misleading, because you can end out paying a lot of money for something that would have been free.  In some instances, the look-alike URLs may be selling worthwhile services.  The important thing is that you, as a user, should know if you are dealing with a government site or with a company trying to sell you their wares.   Always remember: .gov is where you will find the real, official government site.

Examples:

FAFSA.gov is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  It will also come up as FAFSA.ed.gov  This is where you can fill out the free, no charge application for college and university student financial grants, loans and employment.

FAFSA.com is a for-profit service that helps you fill out the FAFSA form.  It looks very slick and professional and official.  But it is not the official, free FAFSA application.  Schools have financial aid offices that will help fill out the form if it is difficult for you. 

IRS.gov is the government’s site where you can get tax forms and information and file taxes.

IRS.com is a site that looks more “official” than the real IRS site.  It is run by Banks.com and provides official-looking links to many paid services.  Beware.

USPTO.gov is the government’s site for registering patents and trademarks.  The site has an e-filing portal as well as  database search.

USPTO.com is a for-profit portal to many ads selling services and products related to patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

Copyright.gov is the official U.S. Copyright Office where you can register copyrights and search the database.

Copyright.com is a site for Copyright Clearance Center, an organization selling goods and services related to copyright. 

HUD.gov is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The site offers information on free and legal mortgage and foreclosure counseling, and many other services.

HUD.com is a site that charges the users to look at supposed HUD house listings.

WhiteHouse.gov is the official website of the White House and President Obama.  Users can send a message to the President, get on an email list to receive White House emails, and find the latest causes and concerns of the President.

WhiteHouse.com is a website that gives links to ads about tours in Washington, D.C.,  but mainly features links to ads on how to find a Russian bride, Latino women, and other such ridiculous matching ads.   If you accidentally got on this page and thought the President was concerned for finding you a hot Latina bride, sorry, not likely.

How to Run a Prison Blog




How to Run a Prison Blog
by Sue Basko

Back in 2009, I helped start a blog written by a man, Paul Modrowski, who is in Stateville, a maximum security prison south of Chicago,  Illinois.  There is a team of wonderful blog helpers.  The blog, Paul Modrowski: On the Inside, is now very well-established with a solid readership.  The blog is also apparently read by prison guards and management.   Over this time, Paul has become an excellent writer.   Paul has autism, so having a prison job would subject him to commotion that would unnerve him.  Writing the blog is his constructive activity. 

Paul Modrowski: On the Inside gives an important, detailed look at everyday life inside a hellish maximum security prison.  Stateville is a place of murderers and madmen, the cacophony of the towering roundhouse, the filth of cockroaches and bad plumbing.  There is the joy of birds nesting in the roundhouse, the delight of a meal of a small piece of fried chicken, a visit with loved ones in a crowded, noisy room.  There are hundreds of men kept for many years in tiny cages, a reality we try to push from our minds because it is too horrible.  This is the painstakingly detailed story of one of them.  I think it is a literary masterpiece of today.

Should you start a prison blog?  A prison blog requires a prisoner who wants to write on a regular basis and a team of helpers on the outside.  The team needs someone who can start, design, and manage a blog, someone who can type in entries, and someone who can manage comments and emails.  It is a fairly big commitment of time and work.   

 How does a prison blog work?  Most prisoners do not have access to the internet or to a computer or typewriter.   Therefore, the prisoner writes the blog entry on paper and mails it out to one of the blog team members.  One of the team types it up as a doc and then transfers it onto the blog.  Sometimes, pictures or videos are added to the blog post.  A Table of Contents entry is added.  When comments come in, they are printed up and mailed to the prisoner.  The prisoner writes back a response, which is posted on the blog.  Other jobs include promoting the blog by posting links.

What expenses are involved?  If you use a free blog site, that is best and will cut down on expenses.  The other expenses are paper and pen or pencils for the prisoner, and envelopes and stamps.  All this comes from the prison commissary.  The helpers also need internet access.  Assuming you have internet access, the cost is very low.

How to Get Started: Find a prisoner who wants to write a blog.  Gather a small team to assist.  Choose a blogging site.  I like Blogger.  Start a blog and pick a good name and URL.  The person’s name is a good choice.  Ask the prisoner what kind of design they would like.  Make a design that is easy to read, with a white or very light background and good-sized lettering in a traditional font.  Other than that, choose colors and a mood that suit the person.  Start an email account to go with the blog.

Who Should Be the Publisher: The prisoner should be the publisher.  You and the team cannot be responsible for what is written.  If the person typing up sees something that seems as if it should not be published, withhold it or discuss it.  Ultimately, responsibility must lie with the writer as publisher.  Everyone else is just a helper and the helpers come and go.   

Will What is Written Affect a Court Case?  It can.  Many lawyers will say not to write at all, or at least not to write about the court case, if the prisoner is pretrial.  It is probably best, in any situation, not to write about the court case.  However, prisoners love to write about their court cases.  If the prisoner has a lawyer, their directions should be followed.

Should the Prisoner’s Writing Be Edited?  At first, Paul’s writing had to be edited to fix sentence structure and misuse of words.  Then, we sent him a book on writing.  By using the book and writing many blog posts, he taught himself to be a very good writer.  I’d suggest you do the same.  Edit as much as is needed to make the blog readable, and try to use the experience to let the prisoner become a better writer.  If the person typing in the post thinks there is material that seems like it should not be published, they should withhold it and discuss with the prisoner.  Ultimately, the prisoner is the publisher of his or her own writing.      

How to Handle Comments:  A prison blog is bound to draw comments and emails.  If the comments or emails are abusive, there should be no response.  Be sure to set the Comments settings so that all comments are moderated.  If a comment is abusive or baiting or invasive, do not post it.  Comments are printed up and mailed to the prisoner, who mails back replies that are posted.  

Use your sense. Not every comment should be mailed to the prisoner,  because all mail in and out is read by prison staff. There are people who will write some pretty crazy, destructive, invasive, abusive, or bizarre comments and emails, and it is important to just keep those off the blog and out of the mail.  

Also, the people running the blog may have angry strangers and weirdos write mean or inappropriate things to them.  If you expect this, you won't be surprised when it happens.  

Emails and Feedback:  Be sure to provide an email address so anyone with feedback or concerns can write in. 

Suggested Topics for the Prisoner/ Blogger to Write About:    What the everyday schedule is at the prison, what food is served, what the prisoners do for enjoyment, reviews of books, TV shows, and movies, opinion pieces on current events in the news, descriptions of what is going on day to day, description of the medical service in the prison, telling about the interactions of the people in the prison, what is happening.    

Encouragement:  Sometimes, Paul has been discouraged about writing.  Then, when he hears how many readers he gets, he perks up.   When he found out the guards and staff read his blog, he was encouraged.  One guard told Paul, "You tell it like it really is."  

Privacy:  Paul has kept quiet with most other prisoners about writing the blog.  A few have found out from their relatives on the outside.  Paul has found that this level of privacy has enabled him to better continue his writing.