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Howard County MD Business Law Blog

Harry Shearer files "Spinal Tap"-related lawsuit

Maryland fans of the movie "This is Spinal Tap" may have heard about a lawsuit Harry Shearer has filed against the companies Vivendi and StudioCanal alleging that they cheated him out of profits. Shearer says he has earned a mere $81 in merchandising from the 1984 movie. He is asking for $125 million in the lawsuit.

Shearer says that he was alerted to the possibility that he had been taken advantage of in 2013 although Vivendi claimed the movie had never been profitable. Vivendi also says that the album's soundtrack has only made a $98 profit. The popular film has been released in the theater twice, shown on TV and sold on video and DVD.

BET sued by "Being Mary Jane" star

Maryland residents who are fans of the BET show "Being Mary Jane" may be interested to learn that it is at the center of a breach of contract lawsuit. On Oct. 11, actress Gabrielle Union, who stars in the show, filed a breach of contract lawsuit against BET for allegedly making her work beyond the terms of her contract.

Union has accused BET of trying to make her star in 20 episodes of the show during this season's filming schedule instead of the usual 13 episodes that she agreed to star in each season. According to Union's attorney, BET is attempting to film seasons four and five all at once so that the network does not have to pay Union for season five.

How forming an LLC can benefit a small business owner

One of the most important planning decisions that Maryland entrepreneurs must make is choosing what type of legal entity to select for their new venture. Many who are just starting out run their businesses as sole proprietorships. As a small business grows, it could be advantageous to restructure it as a limited liability company.

There are a lot of advantages to forming an LLC for a small business owner. An LLC is an entity that, just as is the case with a corporation, is deemed separate from its owners, assuming all formalities are followed, and which thus provides a shield against personal liability for its losses.

Advice for new entrepreneurs who are young

In Maryland and throughout the country, the number of young entrepreneurs is growing. While owning a business may sound exciting, however, making it successful takes a lot of planning, hard work and patience.

A successful business is one in which employees are inspired and motivated to work hard, and young entrepreneurs can achieve this in various ways. Besides being able to effectively communicate with their employees, young business operators can be effective leaders by possessing honesty, dedication and a positive attitude, which in turn encourage employee confidence and productivity.

Planning is important for service businesses

Some Maryland entrepreneurs are talented enough to sell their services instead of selling products. When they decide to start a service business, it is still important to thoroughly plan instead of just diving in. Doing so can help them meet the business's goals and be successful.

Like other types of ventures, companies that will sell services should start with a good business plan. It should include the goals and objectives for the company. It should also include the amount of income the owner would like to make, the expenses that will be incurred and the type of business operation the venture will be.

New Jenni Rivera series gets caught up in litigation

Maryland fans of the late Mexican singer Jenni Rivera may have to wait to discover more about her life on television. Although a Univision series was in the works that would have detailed her life for the public, Rivera's estate launched a lawsuit against its creators in September 2016. In their complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, her heirs argue that the creation of the biopic series violates existing contracts.

The breach of contract lawsuit revolves around documents dating back to 2013. These non-disclosure agreements were signed by Rivera's former manager, and the plaintiffs say they forbade him from sharing certain facts about the singer's life. In addition to requesting that the court hand down an injunction to halt the series' production, the estate asked for monetary damages.

Getting the most out of strategic planning sessions

As summer draws to a close, many Maryland businesses start planning for the coming year. Strategic planning sessions may help companies to articulate their goals and develop plans for growth. Though someowners don't like long-term planning, it is important to at least write down a long-term vision so that it can be used to determine what tasks need to be prioritized in the short term.

While planning for the coming year, owners may want to develop a vision of where they would like their business to be in three years. With a three-year plan articulated, it will be easier to decide what projects to implement in the first year of that plan. To ensure that resources are used efficiently, owners should try to keep their list of priorities to a minimum.

Hachette sues author for breach of contract

Maryland residents who have read "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" might have heard that its author has been hit with a lawsuit by his publisher. Hachette alleges that the author, Seth Grahame-Smith, is in breach of contract.

According to the lawsuit, Grahame-Smith signed a contract with Hachette in 2010 to deliver a sequel to "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" and a second book by June 2013. When Grahame-Smith failed to deliver the second book on time, his deadline was pushed back twice. After he failed to meet the final deadline of April 1, 2016, he was contacted by letter on April 20 and informed that he had to either pay back the advance or turn in the book within 60 days.

Succession planning for business stability

Maryland business owners need to think about succession planning for a number of reasons. Often, the founder of a company is very talented, hard-working and difficult to replace. As the founder ages, potential recruits to the organization might turn down offers for fear of instability when the founder leaves.

Those within the organization might be concerned as well and might be more vulnerable to offers from headhunters. People may be anxious about who will take the founder's place, and there might also be long-term issues that need to be addressed like renewing leases. Even for employees who remain with the company, work may suffer and morale may drop as people become concerned about this.

The components of an effective business plan

Entrepreneurs and business owners in Maryland and across the country are constantly reminded of the importance of putting a comprehensive business plan into place, yet many of them still decide to take a wait-and-see approach to cope with the uncertainties and complexities of the modern market. While having a rigid plan that is difficult or impossible to adapt when the situation changes can be a hindrance, having no plan at all can turn even a fundamentally sound commercial venture into a gamble with very long odds.

Business experts are quick to point out that the vast majority of new commercial ventures fail relatively quickly, but studies have found that companies founded by entrepreneurs who take business planning seriously are usually still going strong after three years. An effective business plan begins with clear goals that can be used as benchmarks to measure success and highlight areas that require attention, and entrepreneurs should also ask themselves if they are truly prepared to put in the kind of effort that will be required to achieve these goals in a sometimes ruthless and unforgiving marketplace.