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Ask Our Lawyer - October 2009

Shenanigans in Sturgis

Q: While we were at Sturgis, our bike was impounded by a local official who claims that he checked the serial numbers on our bike and determined it was stolen. This is a bike we built and we have receipts for all of the parts. The bike had been inspected and licensed in two different states, without difficulty. I can’t get my bike back and don’t know where to turn.

– ABATE member

A: Since you have the receipts for all the main parts of your motorcycle and since two states have allowed registration in those states, South Dakota is out of line. They should recognize that you folks did the right thing and that you have receipts to back up the fact that your bike was built with honest parts. I realize the seizing cop has been profane with you, so I have gone to the Attorney General's office in South Dakota. I have sent copies of this to ABATE officials, the MRF and various other SMROs around the country to get some support for you.

Remember there is nothing more dangerous to our liberties than an errant cop with very little to do. I will keep you posted. Let me know if you are served with any papers. You may want to consider allowing me to file suit here, since the bike is regularly kept here. Hopefully, I can talk them into returning your hard earned and built bike ASAP.

I realize you cannot afford to spend any lawyers fees on this matter, so ee are working on this as a fellow motorcyclist.

– Rod

P.S. I have sent a cc of this to former sheriff Joe McAtee here in Indianapolis. He and his son Bart are the perfect example of what a cop should be – and they know first hand about these rogue types that spoil Law Enforcement reputations. They are good clients and friends so I am hoping they can help ABATE LEGAL turn this around for you and get the Law Enforcement folks in South Dakota to do the right thing. As you can see, you are no longer alone – ABATE is there with you.

Desperate People Do Desperate Things – and So Do Desperate Legislatures!

A.B.A.T.E. OF ILLINOIS has sued former governor Blagojevich and now his successor in a class action for all motorcyclists. This month, ABATE LEGAL is arguing this case before the Illinois Appellate Court in Springfield as to whether the Legislature can sweep funds from the MOTORCYCLE SAFETY TRAINING FUND into the General Fund to be used for different purposes. The state swept these funds even though only motorcyclists paid into the fund and even though the legislature required the Safety Training Funds to be held in trust for motorcyclist safety training. Stay tuned on this one.

Who owns my website?

Q: I volunteer for a local motorcycle charity, and we are having a problem with our current web site and web master. Our group has always paid for our own web site. Several members got together to create a new web site with a new webmaster. Our current webmaster resigned but will not give us the site information so someone else can take over. When someone volunteers to create a website for a non-profit organization, does the organization or the person have property rights to it?

A: The law on this type of situation is not crystal clear, but useful parallels can be drawn from the laws regarding printed materials. As soon as work is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” the artist owns the copyright in the work. This would include visual works such as websites. This is true unless the work is a “work for hire,” where you, specifically, IN WRITING agree that all intellectual property is owned by the organization. Most often, designers will own the intellectual property unless or until the organization specifically receives an assignment of it. Since websites may be created with input from several people, additional factors need to be considered:

Volunteer-written newsletter articles. Even though an association may place a copyright notice on its newsletter, an author owns the copyright to his or her article. The association may obtain the right to publish the article if the author gives permission (e.g., a license), the author transfers his or her copyright interest to the association (e.g., an assignment), or the association specifically commissions (in a written agreement) the volunteer member to author the article.

Volunteer committee products. The written product of a volunteer committee, called a “joint work,” presents additional challenges. The association will have to determine which committee members actually made a copyrightable contribution (in other words, more than general direction or ideas) to the written work for the purpose of acquiring ownership of the copyright from all authors. If 10 committee members made a copyrightable contribution to the joint work, all will have equal ownership in the work, even if some authors contributed more effort than others.

If one person provided the text, another provided photographs, and a third actually created the website, each would own the copyright for his or her own contribution. If the designer created the coding for a site, then the coding, as distinguished from the text itself, may be owned by the designer. You may own the text but the designer may own the way the text is set up on the site.

An association may obtain an author's entire copyright interest by a written and signed document. The assignment language in a signed agreement could be as simple as the following: “Jane Doe, for value received, grants to 123 Association all right, title, and interest in the following copyrightable work [describe].” Associations need to establish procedures to protect their copyright interests in all works prepared by or for the organization. At a minimum, they should develop form agreements or templates for copyrightable contributions by members and for contracted works.

Blocking Roadblocks

Q: Illinois routinely sets up roadblocks. These roadblocks slow traffic and inconveniences many individuals who don’t drink and drive as well as those that don’t even drink. Does this practice really get more impaired drivers off the road than individual traffic stops of suspected impaired drivers? Also, what is the procedure to get this practice placed on a ballot to be voted on by all Illinois citizens?

A: I agree that reducing the number of impaired drivers is a good idea and that we are safer with impaired off the road. However, I am also troubled by the increase in these roadblocks and the assumption that we all need to have our “papers” checked by the gendarmes. The law in most states is that the roadblocks are legal if they have an objective method of selecting drivers for inspection. Only action by the legislature can prevent the police from continuing to use roadblocks. Illinois has a non-binding initiative procedure, but it doesn’t require the lawmakers to act and is not a simple process.

Bored cops and Bad Tickets

Q: I recently got stopped for having manually operated turn signals and having no baffles in my exhaust. I think I was entrapped, but that’s another story. I looked into the Indiana motorcycle laws. There does not seem to be any acoustical requirements for mufflers. There does not appear to be any requirements for automatic turn signals. Seems to me my bike is legal. Am I getting the laws correct?

A: Indiana law on turn signals can be a little confusing. One statute says that a motorcycle manufactured before January 1, 1956, is not required to be equipped with mechanical or electric turn signals. The statute that requires mechanical or electrical signals after that does not apply to motorcycles. Our interpretation is that manual signals on motorcycles are in compliance with Indiana law. On mufflers, Indiana does not have an acoustical requirements, but local towns and cities may have noise ordinances. Indiana law provides that a motor vehicle may not be equipped with a muffler cutout, a bypass, or any similar device.

RoadHazard.org Rides Again!

We got another note from the Illinois DOT telling us that hazard we reported has been fixed! Keep those notices coming – they work!

RoadHazard.org needs help

We feel like Lucille Ball and Ethel Mertz working on the bon-bon line in the classic I Love Lucy episode. We at RoadHazard.org are continuing to get your reports of road hazards around the country. We are a volunteer organization for motorcyclists and need assistance to process the many road hazards that get reported to us. Log on to RoadHazard.org and click on the contact link to send me an email and let us know if you can help. We need computer people, engineers, and road construction folks with a motorcycling background to give us their input on our site.

Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services

Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery and expenses as approved by client, consistent with and conforming to applicable state law. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. And, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to ASK OUR LAWYER, at rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2009, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services