Lancaster Law Blog

Lancaster Law Blog

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Legal Links – July 31, 2015

Posted in Legal Links

On Fridays, we compile and post Legal Links, a list of legal news, reported cases, community events and topics of interest to Lancaster residents and readers of the Lancaster Law Blog.

1.  Bike Lancaster. Cycling is a sport (and popular alternative mode of transportation) near and dear to the hearts of Central Pennsylvanians. Lancaster and Harrisburg have each unveiled plans to make their streets more friendly to recreational cyclists and commuters.

This week on the Lancaster Law Blog, Matt Landis explored two of his three true loves (cycling and law) in his summary of Pennsylvania law as it relates to cycling: Share the Road: Cycling Laws in Pennsylvania.

In other cycling-related news:

Earlier this week, you may have passed an unusual sight on the roads of Lancaster County – “A white-whiskered Chinese man toiled up a hill on Route 462 between Columbia and Mountville on Wednesday afternoon, pulling a battered rickshaw behind him.” Read more about Chen Guan Ming’s Olympics-inspired journey here.

Lancaster City resident Lowell Brown won an essay contest about his commute to work by bicycle and Red Rose Transit. Congratulations, Lowell!

2.  Social, Enterprising Entrepreneurs. Lancaster entrepreneurs whose businesses have a goal of solving a social or environmental problem (known as “social enterprises”) are competing in the 2015 Great Social Enterprise Pitch. The competition has just entered its crowdfunding phase, in which the community can vote online by participating in crowdfunding campaigns to support their favorite projects.

A quick side note – one of the 2014 competition winners is none other than The Common Wheel, whose mission is to encourage bicycling in Lancaster County. We promise, we’ll take it easy on the bike links next week.

3.  Butt-Dialing Away Your Privacy. “Butt-dial” didn’t get added to Webster’s Dictionary this year (“photobomb” and “jegging” made the list), but that didn’t stop a Cincinnati federal appeals court from ruling that a butt-dialer had no expectation of privacy in a butt-dial situation.

Here’s a deeper look at the legal issues in this case from the National Constitution Center: Federal court’s butt-dialing decision no joking matter

Also, a sincere thank you to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for issuing this opinion and allowing us to write “butt-dial” six times on the Lancaster Law Blog.

4.  Law Review – Happy Birthday! Edition. The song everyone knows and loves, “Happy Birthday to You,” is the subject of a lawsuit focusing on the unauthorized use of the song in a documentary.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog did a great job discussing the copyright issues here: Unwrapping the ‘Happy Birthday’ Legal Dispute

Looking for things to do this weekend? Here are 10 unusual and offbeat things to do in Lancaster County courtesy of LNP’s Visit Lancaster. Please submit topics or community events for future Legal Links to cds@rkglaw.com.

Share the Road: Cycling Laws in Pennsylvania

Posted in Legal Tidbits
Matt Landis Bicycling

As an avid cyclist, Central Pennsylvania offers many great routes and opportunities to ride a bike, and summer is the prime time to get out and take advantage of the great weather. Although I enjoy hitting the trails in Mount Gretna every now and then (check out Gretna Fat Bikes if you’re in the area), I like getting out on the road and riding anywhere between 20 and 60 miles at a time. My primary goal when out on the bike is to have a fun, safe experience and “keep the rubber side down” as an old cycling coach used to say. I try to be respectful on the road to drivers, but unfortunately I’ve experienced some drivers that seem to act in blatant disregard for my safety.

Since I’m also an avid driver of motor vehicles, I understand that the relationship between drivers and cyclists can be fraught with problems. Sometimes a group of cyclists completely block the road, riding three or four across or a single cyclist rides in the middle of the road despite a safe opportunity to ride on the shoulder.

It’s fair to say that drivers and cyclists alike could use a better understanding of the laws and rules of the road that encourage a safe experience for everyone involved and truly “Share the Road.” Below is a summary of a few Pennsylvania laws and general safety tips relating to cyclists and drivers. Continue Reading

Legal Links – July 24, 2015

Posted in Legal Links

On Fridays, we compile and post Legal Links, a list of legal news, reported cases, community events and topics of interest to Lancaster residents and readers of the Lancaster Law Blog.

1.  Osprey is the New Eagle. In 2014, the bald eagle was taken off of Pennsylvania’s list of threatened species after years of recovery and conservation efforts. Now the Pennsylvania Game Commission has a new bird of prey project – the osprey, which is currently listed as “threatened” in Pennsylvania. The Game Commission’s Osprey Recovery and Management Plan can be found here.

Earlier this year Central Pennsylvania was captivated by the Eagle Cam, which is currently offline. You can also catch a glimpse of some peregrine falcons on the PA Falcon Cam updating every couple of minutes from Harrisburg. We hope there’s an Osprey Cam in Pennsylvania’s future!

2.  Another Day, Another Data Breach. Ashley Madison got hacked this week. But who is Ashley Madison? The correct question is “what,” not “who,” and the answer and details of the data breach can be found here.

3.  Working Overtime. The Obama administration recently proposed a change in overtime regulations that would raise the threshold at which salaried workers must be paid overtime, and small business owners are worried that it may force them to change how they staff their establishments – read more about the proposed changes and their potential impacts: Overtime proposal may force hard choices at small businesses.

Increased and expanding regulations in health care, minimum wage and paid sick leave are cutting into small business profits, so small businesses are looking at creative ways to increase revenue and cut expenses.

It’s not all about the costs, though – next week on the Lancaster Law Blog, Christina L. Hausner will discuss a proposed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulation and its impact on expanding gay rights by further defining what constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex.

4.  Law Review – Social Media and the Judicial System. The law and legal profession in general have struggled to keep up with the rapidly evolving world of technology and social media. This article from the Legal Intelligencer highlights some of the problems that can be presented by interactions with judges, district attorneys and their interactions on social media and via text message: Centre Co. Controversy Raises Texting, Social Media Issues.

Looking for things to do this weekend? Check out www.discoverlancaster.com for some ideas!  Please submit topics or community events for future Legal Links to cds@rkglaw.com.

Website Terms of Service: Make the Fine Print Work for You

Posted in Internet Law

This is the fourth post in a series about Internet Law. You can find previous posts in the series here.

There is no question that social media and the internet have revolutionized the way we live, work, and interact with one another. While there is no shortage of heartwarming stories about the power of the Internet to do good for individuals or causes, there are also many stories of people using social media and the Internet to bully, steal others’ content and represent it as their own, and spread rumors, lies and offensive comments.

If someone posts content on a website or service on the Internet that crosses a line, a good first step is to review the company’s terms of service. Terms of service, also known as terms of use,  terms and conditions, user agreement or other like name, are the document(s) and/or policies that defines a user’s rights and obligations while using a site or service. Here are some common examples of situations where terms of service may be violated:

  • An Instagram user copies your photograph and posts it as their own without attribution
  • A Twitter user squats on a username that you have a federal trademark registration for and attempts to sell you the name
  • Someone creates a LinkedIn account that impersonates you or your business
  • A Facebook user posts a threat of physical or financial harm to you or another person
  • A Tumblr user posts abusive content and fraudulent or deceptive links

There may be legal causes of action available to you such as defamation, trademark infringement, copyright infringement, or potentially criminal implications depending on the nature of the content. However, reading and understanding the applicable terms of service could save you time, money and effort if your goal is simply to have the content taken down or reported as a violation. Terms of service are typically easy to understand and identify procedures for achieving these goals and other dispute resolution methods.  Continue Reading

Cost-Effective Business Resources for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

Posted in Business Law

Starting a business is a challenging job. When helping entrepreneurs make the legal side of starting and running a business less intimidating, it’s important to recognize that there are hundreds of other factors that impact whether a business will ultimately be a success. Although I work hard to learn about all aspects of my clients’ businesses and provide guidance on day to day operations as needed, you may want to round out your business team with others who can assist with the details of marketing, product development, technology infrastructure and other core needs that are also important to your success.

If you are looking for in-depth help with your business in another area, here are some of my recommendations for free or low cost resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

SCORE & SCORE Lancaster www.score.org, lancaster.score.org – 717-397-3092

SCORE is a network of experienced volunteers that provide free, confidential mentoring, either in person or via email. SCORE also provides seminars and workshops to educate entrepreneurs and small business owners on topics such as marketing, obtaining funding and management.

If you’re located in the Lancaster-Lebanon area, you’re in luck – SCORE Lancaster Lebanon was recently recognized as the SCORE Chapter of the Year.

United States Small Business Administrationwww.sba.gov

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) features blogs, in-person and online training and workshops, and a robust email newsletter that will assist small business owners and entrepreneurs in management, obtaining loans and grants, navigating health care changes, and contracting, among other topics. Continue Reading

Legal Links – July 17, 2015

Posted in Legal Links

On Fridays, we compile and post Legal Links, a list of legal news, reported cases, community events and topics of interest to Lancaster residents and readers of the Lancaster Law Blog.

1.   Is the Iran Deal the Pitts? You probably can’t hide from varied opinions about the Iran nuclear agreement but do you know what our local legislators think?

2.   Vampires and Debt. Are vampires to blame for the City of Harrisburg’s financial crisis? Probably not, but AG Kathleen Kane thinks that former Mayor Stephen Reed’s acquisition of unusual items may have contributed to it. Did you ever wonder why Mayor Reed showed up at every fire and newsworthy police event even when it was at 2 a.m. – was he testing the vampire-hunting kit? Let us not forget that Mayor Reed is innocent until proven guilty but many news organizations will work hard to keep us up to date throughout the process. Here, CPBJ breaks down the charges.

3.   Golf’s Mutual Admiration Society. We don’t know who was more excited about the Women’s Open held at the Lancaster Country Club – the 134,000 fans who attended, the 2,350 volunteers who seemed to genuinely enjoy their assignments, the national and local reporters who covered every detail of the event, the golfers who reveled in the higher than expected attendance (even for practice rounds), or those of us who were simply fascinated by how thorough the planning and execution of the event proved to be. LNP says that “Lancaster County did itself Proud” and we agree.

If the LCC event piqued your interest in attending another golf event, you’re in luck. Tickets are on sale for 2016 US Open at the Oakmont Country Club in western PA.

Or, if you just need another excuse to golf this summer, consider participating in the 2015 Ephrata Cup sponsored by the Ephrata Area Chamber of Commerce this Wednesday, July 22. Russell, Krafft & Gruber is proud to be a sponsor of this fun community event.

4.   Law Review. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals is our region’s top federal appellate court below the United States Supreme Court. Here’s an interesting article from the Legal Intelligencer about Third Circuit cases reviewed by the Supremes this year: US Supreme Court Report Card: How Third Circuit Fared This Term.

Enjoy your weekend – we are halfway through summer vacation so get out and enjoy all that Central PA has to offer.  Safe travels if you are headed out of town.  Please submit topics or community events for future Legal Links to cds@rkglaw.com.

Speaking with Assets Lancaster on Entity Formation and Limited Liability

Posted in Business Law

Thank you to Assets Lancaster for giving me the opportunity to speak with a group of entrepreneurs about forming a business entity and the concept of limited liability. Assets Lancaster is a community-based organization whose mission is to create economic opportunity and cultivate entrepreneurial leadership to alleviate poverty and build vibrant, sustainable communities.

One of Assets Lancaster’s ongoing programs is the Lending Circle, which provides access to capital and business technical assistance services in a group workshop setting. The benefits of this program include access to a lump sum of money, a way to establish and improve your credit score, peer group support, monthly business workshops and individual technical assistance, and access to larger loans from Assets Lancaster or other financial institutions.

In order to learn more about Assets Lancaster, visit them on the web at www.assetslancaster.org, by phone at 717-393-6089 or at their office, which is located in Southern Market Center, 100 South Queen Street, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

My presentation focused on the decision as to when it makes sense to consider forming a business entity rather than operating as a sole proprietorship or partnership, and the nuts and bolts of forming a business entity in Pennsylvania. We also cleared up some common misconceptions about Pennsylvania law relating to fictitious names. Finally, we discussed what “limited liability” means in the context of a business entity, structuring your business entities to effectively protect certain groups of assets, and best practices to prevent “piercing the corporate veil.”

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs.

Christina Hausner Presents at American Business Women’s Association Women @ Work Meeting

Posted in Outside the Law

Thank you to the ladies of the American Business Women’s Association Women @ Work group for a great event yesterday at the Heritage Hotel.  Chris Hausner shared her presentation  on “Harrassment, Discrimination and Hostile Work Environment” with the group.  It was a fun and informative discussion on these workplace issues.  Please contact Chris at clh@rkglaw.com if you have further questions or comments on the topics discussed at yesterday’s meeting.

Update for Filing an Annual Tax Assessment Appeal

Posted in Real Estate, Taxation

In a recent blog post I shared that it was time to think about filing an annual tax assessment appeal.  The new common level ratio (CLR) for 7/1/15 – 6/30/16 is 1.29, up slightly from last year’s 1.26.

CLR is the factor you apply to your property’s assessed value to determine fair market value.  For example, a property that is assessed at $100,000.00 should have a fair market value of $129,000.00.  If the fair market value is actually below that, you should consider filing a tax assessment appeal.  That deadline is fast approaching on August 1, 2015.

The significance of the property assessment is that it serves as the basis to calculate school, county and municipal taxes.  By multiplying your assessed value times the millage rate, you will know the annual taxes on your property.  You can find the applicable millage rate for those taxes as updated to include to 2014 and 2015/2016 school taxes on Lancaster County’s website.

Christina Hausner is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, PA.  She received her law degree from Duquesne University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas.

Podcasts and the Law

Posted in Internet Law, Legal Tidbits

This is the third post in a series about Internet Law. You can find previous posts in the series here.

I listen to podcasts during my commute every day to and from work. A podcast is an audio or video program that is typically provided through an internet subscription service. There are podcasts available on almost every conceivable topic. There is a podcast about creating podcasts. Even President Obama was recently a guest on the popular podcast WTF with Marc Maron.

Since podcasts are hosted in the cloud, and are downloadable on demand, you can listen to them at your convenience. Often times when I find a new show, I’ll go through the back catalog and download dozens of episodes with topics or guests that look interesting.

Here are some of the shows that I listen to regularly and their iTunes subscription links (downloads or streaming versions are also usually available elsewhere on the web):

Startup Podcast – A series about what happens when someone who knows nothing about business starts one and what it’s really like to get a business off the ground.

99% Invisible – A tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.

HBR Ideacast – A weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management from Harvard Business Review.

The Talk Show with John Gruber – An interview show discussing Apple and technology.

The Tim Ferriss Show – Tim Ferriss is a self-experimenter and bestselling author. In this show, he deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, chess, pro sports, etc.), digging deep to find the tools, tactics, and tricks that listeners can use.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – The unconventional Dan Carlin takes his outside-the-box way of thinking and applies it to the past. Was Alexander the Great as bad a person as Adolf Hitler? What would Apaches with modern weapons be like? Will our modern civilization ever fall like civilizations from past eras?

Lawyerist Podcast – A weekly show about lawyering and law practice.

Are you interested in creating your own podcast? Were you asked to be a guest on a podcast? Just curious about the legal issues surrounding podcasts? Below is a brief summary of some of the important legal issues that podcasters may encounter. Continue Reading

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