How to get the legal information you need to help keep you out of trouble online


Of course you don’t have a lawyer — who does?

One of the things I say in so many of my articles and posts is that there are scores of legal issues you need to think about in your work, your business and even in your personal online activities.

For example, not long ago, I wrote a series of posts about using only legal music in your videos.  I mentioned that whether you make videos for fun or profit, you can get in serious trouble if you use someone else’s copyrighted material in your productions.  And in my posts, I kept inserting disclaimers that said I’m not an attorney, so you should consult your own attorney about the issues I raised.

Now, I realize that most folks — including small business owners and entrepreneurs — don’t have attorneys and don’t seek them out unless they get threatened, ticketed, arrested or sued.  After all, attorneys are expensive.   And even people who have hired attorneys have probably once or twice used a specialist for a specific job such as writing a will or getting a divorce.

Stuff happens

But just stop and think for a moment about what could happen if you innocently “pinned” a photo on Pinterest.com and found out that the image, while it was posted lawfully by the originating website through a paid subscription, was from a big provider who objects to having its images shared for free.  Suppose you found out about it by getting a letter from the provider’s attorneys.  Oops.

Suppose you thought that whistleblower laws would keep you from being fired if you went over your boss’ head to complain how he was bullying a co-worker? And you found yourself on the street without a paycheck.

Suppose you thought you had a right to see your personnel file, to protest bad reviews, to put your own information in your file.  Good luck with that.

How the blue blazes do you keep up with what you can and can’t do?  Who or what can and can’t hurt you?  How can the average person even get an inkling of what he needs to know and do to be compliant with the law and avoid law suits and fines?

Getting informed

Fortunately, there are a number of websites that can help you with that. Through their various books, articles, blogs, forums, online forms to fill out, and referrals to attorneys if you need them, they can guide you through both general and specialized information you must have to stay as safe as possible.  Much of the information they offer is free.

If you can’t find what you need to know or if you need help from a real person, you can always use these sites’ referral services. And perhaps, with this added information, you’ll get an idea of how complicated some of the issues are and when you actually do need to speak with a professional.

Here are the three best known sites for finding information and lawyer referrals (I have no relationship with them, other than having been a customer of one of them):

Nolo.com.  Nolo has been around since 1971 as a publisher of law-related do-it-yourself books and forms.  It has a sterling reputation for providing DIY materials that are easy to read and understand.  As a website, it has expanded to include a large network of both legal and other professional sites that provide specialized information and referrals.  I’ve personally purchased a number of Nolo publications over the years, starting well before the Internet became public.  I’ve also continuously recommended its publications to friends and clients who wanted to try DIY before consulting attorneys.  They have an extensive collection of free articles, more than twenty different general and specialized blogs, podcasts, a YouTube channel, books and software, and referrals to attorneys.

Legalzoom.com is more about helping you fill out the forms and go through the steps of routine legal necessities like incorporating, getting a trademark, making your will and so on.  They have a nice collection of free articles and videos to add to your education about legal matters, both business and personal.

Rocketlawyer.com provides step-by-step online handholding in preparing the most usual documents you need to run your business or life.  If you need more help, they’ll help you connect with a lawyer who specializes in your particular issues.  And, they have a good collection of articles to help you understand the basics of the legals issues you’re most likely to need to know.

Also, if you want some ideas for getting low-cost or free legal services, see the video below from Entrepreneur.com (If the video doesn’t show up below, find it at http://www.entrepreneur.com/video/223541):