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Top 5 legal myths

Top 5 legal mythsEver heard of a legal loophole that sounded too good to be true? Chances are you've stumbled on a legal myth.

Did you hear the story about…

The man who won $500,000 in a lawsuit against a lawnmower company after he used his mower as a hedge trimmer and injured himself?

Or what about the woman who threw a drink at her boyfriend, then slipped on the spillage and won $100,000 against the restaurant where it happened?

These kinds of stories are complete myth but are allegedly being churned out by commercial companies and insurance firms to limit damages brought against them.

The idea is, these horror stories make the companies appear vulnerable, reinforcing calls for law reform.

Everything on the internet is public domain and free to use

Nope! A work only falls into the ‘public domain’ once the copyright has expired. Work on the internet may be publicly accessible, it is not in the ‘public domain’ and is therefore subject to copyright law.

It’s OK to copy work if I don’t make money out of it

This is only true in specific circumstanced outlined in the fair dealing rules.

However, copying without the consent of the copyright owner is infringement if the use can be shown to have had a financial impact on the owner.

So it doesn’t matter that you’re giving it away, what matters is that you stop the owner from making a sale! If this can be proved, the copyright owner can claim for lost revenues and royalties.

File sharing is theft

This isn’t technically true. A few years ago the US Supreme Court dealt with a man called Dowling who sold “pirated” Elvis Presley recordings.

The Supreme Court made it clear that it was not “theft” but “copyright infringement.”

Read about the Pirate Bay file sharing case

If it’s not signed and sealed, it’s not legally binding

The suggestion that oral agreements are not legally binding is a myth. Both legal and written agreements are binding.

For instance, a cab driver may not have signed a contract saying he’ll take you to the shops, but if he’s verbally agreed to take you there then he’s in breach of contract if he stops halfway.

However, if there is a dispute without a signed document to back up the claim, a judge will have to determine whether there was an oral agreement based on witness evidence.

Comments

One of the most widespread, and potentially dangerous, myths encountered within family law is 'common law marriage' - the idea that unmarried couples who live together acquire the same rights as married couples.

This is true of some common law jurisdictions, but not in England and Wales. Here the law does not give an unmarried couple rights and responsibilities towards each other at the breakdown of their relationship. There will be rights and responsibilities in respect of any children from the relationship, but for adults usually there is nothing more than strict entitlement under property law.

Richard Bogue 8-1-13