Should I register as an LLC or S Corp? How do I trademark my name? There are so many common legal questions we ask ourselves when getting our businesses in motion. But after we’ve hit the ground running, how many of us stop to consider how we are protecting our businesses going forward?
It’s a vital question. We caught up with Smith Global Media’s Head of Business and Legal Affairs Hillary Arlene Jones to find out common mistakes entrepreneurs make and what we should be thinking about when it comes to creating content in a digital age.
At the film studio, Jones negotiates the acquisition deals for all of the films that Smith Global Media distributes. She also works with filmmakers to ensure that the distribution of their film complies with all their production and talent agreements, and liaise with their team on everything from movie trailers, to the marketing campaign, to promotional partnerships for their films.
She also cofounded Jones & Jones Law Group in 2014 with her now retired father. Jones, 37, said the most common mistake that she has seen with entrepreneurs not putting things in writing from the beginning. “Frequently, people collaborate with friends and no one expects things to go wrong,” Jones said. “However, my entire career as a litigator was based on cases that involved ‘things going wrong.’ The single best piece of advice I can give someone is to work out all the details before the money hits the table. Once money is involved, that friend that gave you some notes on a script will quickly become a co-writer.”
Working in the digital age hasn’t made things any easier. “Obviously, the digital age made piracy more prevalent because content is so easily shared. Although there are clear drawbacks, I think the digital age is such an exciting time to be a content creator,” Jones said. “There are so many platforms to share content. From Netflix and Hulu, to AT&T and Playstation, to countless others – not to mention, filmmakers can create content and post it directly to Youtube or a similar platform.”
Jones said the best advice that she would give entrepreneurs launching a startup is that, regardless of the type of business you’re launching, get a mentor. “It is imperative to have someone that has been there before, and can help you navigate some of the struggles and pitfalls that are inevitable with a startup. For those that are launching a startup with proprietary information, to the extent that you can apply for a trademark or copyright, do it. I would also have anyone that you are working with (whether an employee, a consultant, or a vendor) sign a non-disclosure agreement before they have access to the proprietary information. And, talking to a lawyer before something goes wrong is always a good idea,” Jones added.