Legal Issues Faced by Start-ups: How Many Can There Really Be?
One of the questions my ex-classmates have asked me is: What’s it like doing legal activities at a start up?
Most of them did their internships at bigger companies where first and foremost they were just another intern, rarely being entrusted with big tasks or anything slightly risky. I can’t lie and say at the time I wasn’t jealous. I struggled with finding an internship and I applied to countless companies and NGOs, rarely even making it to the interview stage.
When I was approached by Holland Park Media, a small start-up based in The Hague in The Netherlands, I was sceptical. Would I have enough to do? What legal issues do they even face? It turns out, there are a lot.
For a bit more background, Holland Park Media are in the field of media consultancy. This means they work on behalf or with brands and companies, one of whom includes the Municipality of The Hague. This brings me onto the first issue that a start-up must face, client and employee contracts.
When a start-up begins, they obviously have to make agreements with not just the founders, but any staff they hire. Contracts can be long and drawn out and some start-ups can skip over important details as they can have other things to do or even just make the contracts verbally. The issue with this, it leaves a lot open to legal interpretation, often negative. To avoid this, start-ups should make sure that when they are drafting contracts, they leave themselves with no legal liability. This also applies to contracts with clients. Spending time and diligence on a contract can result in the difference between a lawsuit being thrown out or a bad result for the company.
Another legal issue that’s prevalent is the copyright and intellectual property issues that can be faced by start-ups. For example, with Holland Park Media, who produce images and videos for companies, the lack of credit can be sometimes infuriating and frustrating. How do you combat this? Media outlets and companies make mistakes sometimes, but when you’re constantly having to write notices for credit it can be tedious. What we’ve done however, is set a legally binding template which acts to make sure that if there has been a mistake in giving us credit, it’s rectified as soon as possible.
This is why ownership is important, especially regarding media creation. The Netherlands itself has good protection for copyright and it’s easy to make a claim. Firstly, you must send a cease and desist and thereon a temporary injunction before any further action is decided upon. The advantage of this is that it’s a quick process, where the judge can come to a quick decision and your own product is protected. However, with all things, the cost of legal action should be considered before making a claim in court.
All in all, start-ups tend to face many legal issues. Even if you think that you have them covered, there’s a huge range of what there is to think about like the aforementioned contracts and protection of your product. Furthermore, spending a few hours looking over and putting the legal protections for your own start-up can save you time and hassle in the future.
They say time is money, but not putting in the time for your legal side can end up costing you a lot more money and time than you need to further your company.
Curious about Dutch copyright law or just want to find out more about it? Follow this website: (In English)