The Fair Use Defense: What is it and How does it Apply to Businesses?

The proliferation of appropriation art—or art that intentionally copies another person’s work and alters it in some way—has been at the forefront of a series of copyright infringement cases over the last few decades. A common defense used in this age-old strategy is “fair use” under U.S. copyright law. This claim has provoked a longstanding debate among the industry. 

To some, the ability to claim “fair use” opens up the possibility to creatively expand upon existing visual works. However, others fear it opens up their material to exploitation at the hands of well-known artists and companies who make minor “cosmetic upgrades” and then take credit for the work as their own.

Of the 64 percent of professional photographers who had their work stolen in 2016, commercial businesses were responsible for 28 percent of the theft. 

As a business owner and decorator, it’s important to thoroughly understand the difference between “fair use” and copyright infringement to avoid costly lawsuits. But don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you. 

*Please note, this article should not be taken as legal advice. Always consult with your personal legal advisor before relying upon the information provided. 

The Fair Use Defense 

What is Fair Use?

“Fair use” is outlined in a set of guidelines found in Title 17, Section 107 of the U.S. copyright act. It allows the use of copyrighted materials without permission from the owner in specific cases. Essentially, the guidelines give people the ability to build upon the work of another so long as it doesn’t deprive the original artist of the right to “control and benefit from their works.” 

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6 Steps to Find (and Keep) Your Dream Employees

Employees who love their jobs perform better and stay with their companies longer. However, according to Gallup, only 15% of employees worldwide are truly engaged in their current roles. Put another way, this year, 52% of U.S. workers plan to hunt for a new job, and of those, 54% landed their current job less than a year ago, Adtaxi reports.

That speaks to a larger trend of smart business owners creating cultures that appeal to workers’ needs, like a work-life balance or flex time. But first, you need to find, train and retain the right employees.

“The most difficult aspect of hiring and training employees is finding the right match for the employee and your company,” says Linda Gadwood, owner of Omaha, NE-based LogoLinda LLC.. “From the company side, [that means finding] someone who’ll show up and be fully engaged with my business. From the employee side, [they’re looking for] a company that allows them to use their talents.”

We asked four industry business owners and experts to weigh in on six key areas for finding and retaining the best employees.

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5 Keys to Transform Your Business into a Lifestyle Brand

In today’s digital era, anyone can have an idea and start a business. Only a few, however, can truly become lifestyle brands with a devoted customer base. Great lifestyle brands have personality, influence behavior and create a strong connection with their audience. 

Here are five keys that will transform your business into one of the greats by building customer retention, brand loyalty and overall profit growth.

1. Understand Your Audience 

Integral to all facets of a business, you need to thoroughly understand your audience. The best way to do this is by creating buyer personas—or semi-fictional characters who represent your optimal consumers based on detailed market research. 

The most important things to include when developing these personas are:

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4 Ideas for Mini-Me Matching Themes

In light of the “mini-me” fashion craze, we’re seeing everything from parent-child tees to dresses to hats pop up in the market. In fact, if you search the hashtag #minime on Instagram, you’ll find over seven million results

High-profile celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé are no strangers to the style, as they are often seen flaunting matching outfits with their kids. So, why are we so obsessed with looking like our children and having them look like us? Let’s dive in. 

The Mini-Me Craze

If we travel back to the 1960s, mothers used to make clothing for themselves and their children using the same fabric. However, back then these matching styles were usually considered outdated. If only they knew how the style would be highly popularized today. 

Conversely, elegant mini-me matching has long been popular in Russia and the Middle-East. Only in the last couple of years have we seen an uptick in trendiness in the U.S., due in large part to celebrities and social media influencers. 

According to Carolyn Mair, author of The Psychology of Fashion, family members want to dress similarly because it creates a sense of belonging and show of good-standing. Mair explains, “It makes a positive statement about the family to observers, as it’s doubtful that a family or couple who were not in a good place emotionally would dress the same.” 

Not to mention, it pulls at the heartstrings. All in all, the trend is well-received globally by parents and kids alike and offers an opportunity for brands to expand their product offerings. 

The luxury market may be leading the charge, but that’s not stopping retailers from throwing their hats in the ring, and it shouldn’t stop you either.

We’ve rounded up four fun ideas for mini-me matching themes below.

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5 Things College Students Love Wearing

When we think of college we think all-nighters, dissertations and spring break shenanigans. College is a time for education, growth, and discovery, in all areas of life—from earning a degree to crafting a signature style. More importantly, the numbers show that the college retail market is vast and thriving. 

Research by Deloitte revealed college students and their parents planned to spend $4.2 billion on clothing and accessories in their back-to-school shopping last year, with an average per student spend of $279. 

So, what are college students actually wearing these days, and how can your brand cater to the market? Instagram, Youtube, and niche sites like CollegeFashionista can give you an inside look from the student’s themselves. 

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10 Ways to Increases Sales AND Create Good Business Karma

Distributor Rick Tidd has helped raise $750,000 for charity and local organizations during his 35-year career—and wants to hit a cool million before he retires.

“My primary goal is to help people, so that’s why I get involved in charitable efforts,” says Tidd, owner of Findlay, OH-based Mad Hatter Promotions. “But it also tends to help my business, since people invariably end up asking what I do and then want to work with me.”

Michelle Long, CEO of Glen Burnie, MD-based Hullabaloo Promos, agrees. “As a community, we need to work together,” she says. “If you have the capability to assist a neighboring company or school, it just seems like the right thing to do.”
But how do you get started when you’re busy running a business? “Evaluating your options is simple— don’t take on anything that will cause your business to lose money,” says Long, who advises that processing orders at a discount, at cost or as a donation for advertising is best. “It’s a balance, though. Remember to leave time for your regular clients.”

There are lots of charitable organizations, many with branches in your area, that would love your help. When you support a nonprofit that aligns with your firm’s values, you’ll also attract like-minded customers. One idea: Tidd recommends choosing a charity that you want to affiliate with—and offering up a few hundred tote bags free or at End Quantity Pricing, if they’re hosting an event. “You get to add your logo as a sponsor,” he says. “You can even ask one of your clients to sponsor the bags or other items for the charity, and put both of your logos on it. It makes everyone happy.”

Tidd has repeated this charitable model in one form or another over and over, helping to raise three-quarters of a million dollars for his local community. For a Kentucky Derby-themed gala to raise money for his local senior center, Tidd produces a printed whiskey glass or stemless wine glass each year. “We’ve gotten our customers to sponsor the glasses,” Tidd says. “And we all get our logos on the drinkware.” For his local Honor Flight Network veterans program, Tidd sources “challenge” coins, “good conduct” medal pins and celluloid pins at cost. “We’ve saved the group more than $2,000 vs. a retail cost,” he says. 

Read on to learn more about how generous distributors have gotten involved in their local communities—and been paid back in dividends. Plus, get some great ideas on how you can get involved.

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5 Innovative Pop-Up Shop Ideas Your Brand Can Emulate

Have you noticed how pop-up shops have literally been “popping” up everywhere? According to research by Storefront, a marketplace for short-term retail spaces, the temporary retail (i.e. pop-up) industry is expected to generate $80 billion per year.

From streetwear brands to influencer collaborations, pop-up events provide an exciting way for online retailers to connect with customers face-to-face. Additionally, they allow you to test out new markets and receive direct feedback to make any necessary changes with inventory moving forward.

That said, if you’re going to do it—do it right. A pop-up shop is the perfect opportunity to find an Instagrammable moment for your audience, which can catapult social and word of mouth awareness. From concept to creation, they require a significant time commitment and a decent amount of upfront costs, however, the return will be well worth it. Businesses have consistently found that pop-up shops are cost-effective in the end, and way less expensive than a traditional brick-and-mortar location.  

Here are five innovative ideas your brand can emulate, once you have a little revenue in the bank:

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Picking the Right Water-Resistant Jacket

Spring and summer showers are not only good for the flowers, but for your rainwear sales as well. Whether commuting or hiking, it’s not enough for customers to simply tout around an umbrella, especially for those who frequent the great outdoors. Now is the time when many people are searching for jackets that are breathable, stylish and resilient.

Customers want protective materials that allow them to enjoy their active outdoor adventures or strolls through the city without getting soaked from head-to-toe. In fact, an important piece of criteria that many people use to evaluate the best suitable lightweight jacket is water-resistance.  

Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant

In picking the right outerwear jacket for a customer, it’s important to understand the difference between waterproof and water-resistant.

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Dime MTL: How Teenagers Built a Legendary Brand

In today’s retail landscape, online storefronts and strong brand social followings reign supreme. One of the most exciting aspects about the rise of the online retail experience is that success is available to anyone with a real vision, knack for identifying trends, and strong ambition.

Never has there been a better time for mom-and-pop shops and small team brands to make it big. For some true underdog inspiration, look no further than Dime MTL, a Montreal based skate-streetwear giant. The story of how a group of teens came together to create a streetwear staple shows the power of community and niche markets.

The Dime legacy

The origin of Dime began in 2005, when teenagers Antoine Asselin, Phil Lavoie, Bob Lasalle, Hugo Balek, Charles Rivard, Eric Riedl and Alexis Lacroix began posting collections of silly (but impressive) skate videos to the backdrop of nostalgic 90s hip-hop beats. Within a few years, they had gained a small cult following in Canada and decided to make their first batch of 100 t-shirts at a local print shop under the original moniker, “Dimestore Crew.”

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4 Ways To Take Your Business to New Heights w/ Hybrid Marketing

Brandon Levy first opened his storefront after moving his decorated-apparel business out of his garage. At that time, he offered his local community a one-week-only coupon for one free monogram on any item they brought to his shop. The Denver, NC-based business ended up having a great turnout, in part because Levy used Facebook’s paid ads to promote his offer. “People loved the idea of something free—who doesn’t, right—and the majority of people who came in for their monograms also purchased another product or service,” says Levy, president and owner of Digitize4u.

Levy’s strategy was a great example of what’s often called hybrid marketing. This marriage of online and offline marketing allows marketers and business owners to combine two effective concepts, into one streamlined campaign. Plus, with the power behind hybrid marketing, you’re more likely to see better ROI on your advertising dollars, via better conversion or expanded market reach. “It’s a bricks-and-clicks approach,” says Luke Webster, a digital marketing analyst with San Diego, CA-based Miva. “Your company most likely already has some type of physical location, along with a digital presence.”

Focus Is Key

In the current multichannel browsing-and-buying climate, you can’t just focus on one or two marketing channels to get your message out to prospects and customers. Instead, it’s vital that your company crafts a marketing strategy using varied platforms and mediums to connect with the appropriate audience. 

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