Know your rights: Copyright right means no copying

By Richard Alderman
March 30, 2013 at midnight
Updated March 29, 2013 at 10:30 p.m.

I own a small bakery. A customer brought in a cartoon picture that she wanted on her child's birthday cake. I told her I couldn't copy it because of copyright laws, and she became very upset. I told her that even a hand-drawn copy could get me in trouble. Am I correct?

You are correct. Without permission, no one can make commercial copies of any material that is copyright protected. While the odds are that the owner of the copyright probably would not discover your use of the cartoon or come after you, from a legal standpoint, you took the correct approach.

How do I have negative information removed from my credit report?

If the information is not accurate or complete, you can insist that the credit-reporting agency reinvestigate and remove it unless it is substantiated. On the other hand, if the information is accurate, there is no way to have it removed simply because it is negative. Credit reporting agencies are in the business of reporting information. All the law requires is that the information they report is accurate and complete, not necessarily favorable. Most negative information will continue to be reported for seven years, after which it becomes obsolete.

My mother recently passed away. We have some furniture she bought for us. The creditor wants us to make the remaining payments. Do we have to pay?

When a person dies, his or her estate is responsible for their debts. This means the creditor should collect from your mother's estate. If there is no money in the estate to pay the bills, the relatives or heirs are not responsible for the debts of the estate. On the other hand, in some cases you may lose the property if you do not continue to pay.

If your mother gave the store what is called "a security interest" in the furniture to secure payment, the store has the right to take the furniture back if it is not paid. This means you either must agree to make the payments or give back the furniture.

I suggest you speak with the furniture company and ask them why they believe you are responsible for your mother's debt. Then review the documents to see if the store is correct.

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at



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