10 Ways to Avoid a Joint Venture Fail

10 Ways to Avoid a Joint Venture Fail

10 Ways to Avoid a Joint Venture Fail

Joint Ventures are great for collaboration

Working together with another like minded entrepreneur is a clever way to accelerate business growth, which is why joint ventures remain a popular way for individuals or organisations to collaborate. But before you ‘Give it Away’ (as there’s always room for a Red Hot Chilli Peppers reference in a legal consideration blog), it’s critical to shore up your joint venture’s credentials to ensure a smooth, surprise-free partnership from beginning to end. In this Onyx Legal blog , we highlight 10 ways to avoid joint venture fails. [Ok, so we ended up with 11 – Ed.]

Joint Ventures are usually for a specific and limited project, goal or purpose and may also be limited by time.

1. Who is party to the joint venture?

Establishing a joint venture is no time to be carefree with the details.

Before entering into a joint venture, establish the legal identity of all parties. This means performing ABN and other similar regulatory checks. It might also mean checking driver’s licence details of individuals. 

A client recently came to us with a proposed joint venture, and we could not establish who would pay him the $400k that he expected to receive as his share of profits. The deal fell over when the other party also failed to establish who would pay that sum.

2. How Should You Structure a Joint Venture?

It is important to understand that joint ventures and partnerships are different structures.

A partnership is a long-term working proposition with full legal liability – a commitment to working together into the future.

A joint venture is project or purpose-focused, and facilitates separate parties to continue working on other businesses simultaneously. Joint ventures can be done by contract with each party paying their own tax, but one of the parties must hold the assets relating to that venture (paperwork, accounts, assets) unless it is established in its own identity.

3. What do you want to achieve with your joint venture? 

It’s easy to get caught up in the potential of success and innovation at the beginning of a joint venture, which is why understanding what you want to achieve from the collaboration is so valuable.

We’ve observed web designers, marketers and programmers enter joint ventures expecting to receive a share in profits at the end of the build, only to have ‘goal posts’ moved so regularly they exit the venture – leaving thousands of hours of unpaid labour in their wake.

Failing to understand – or formalise – expectations in a joint venture regularly leads to disappointment.

Put together a clear written agreement covering all the moving parts of your proposed joint venture, and allowing some flexibility for change as your venture grows. 

have a written Joint Venture agreement

Failing to understand – or formalise – expectations in a joint venture regularly leads to disappointment

4. How long should your joint venture last?

How long is a piece of string?

There’s no single answer to this question; the duration of your joint venture is based on the purpose of the project.

Will you be building something – a house or a piece of technology?

Are you going to be running a developing a piece of software or an education program together?

If you are building or developing something together the period of the joint venture might be the development period, and once you have a completed MVP (minimum viable product) you might roll it over into a company and start building a team to run it. 

Where you’re entering a revenue share deal, it might be a two year focused time frame for growing the base income of the business. 

Whilst you do not need to define a hard ‘end date’ to your joint venture in documentation, it’s useful for all parties to understand the purpose of the relationship, and a general timeline to completion of the project, and what completion looks like.

We regularly write in rolling successive terms, such as a one year agreement that rolls over for another year unless someone terminates before the end of the year. 

5. How can disagreements be dealt with or avoided? 

A joint venture agreement should be robust, providing options should parties fail to perform their role, or decide to walk away from the project.

In collaboration with your lawyer and with your project’s specific risks and opportunities in mind, carefully identify pressure points that require clarification and consider an approach to realistic exit should your working relationship end unexpectedly before the project is completed.

Good joint venture agreements remove the element of surprise from projects, leading to higher rates of completion and reduced conflict.

For a two party joint venture, it is a great idea to have some way of independently breaking deadlocked decisions. You could use a trusted third party as a referee, such as a mentor or board adviser. You could also allocated areas of decision making to each party that give one person a try breaking vote on those issues.

6. What if someone wants out if the joint venture early?

Build the possibility of a party leaving the joint venture into the structure of the joint venture to avoid future problems.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and a party may need to exit the joint venture for any number of reasons. Family life may be under pressure, there could be financial considerations, or health issues to address.

Fairness is key when devising a graceful exit from a joint venture. 

7. What if you want someone else to join in the venture part way through? 

Joint ventures can be created to allow for the possibility of other experts parties joining the project. Sales professionals are typically invited to join in after an MVP is achieved. 

It’s important that you’re working with a lawyer to structure your joint venture for all possible contingencies … which could  include growing your collaborative group.

8. Who will do what in your joint venture?

Formalising a joint venture is no time for pussyfooting around responsibilities or making assumptions about role workloads.

Success in your project relies on clear delegation of work, as all parties will have other responsibilities that could take their attention, in addition to the joint venture.

It’s important to know exactly who will be paying the bills and who will be responsible for particular milestones.

Having difficult conversations early on about the work or outcomes due for completion by exact parties of the venture will save plenty of strife when life gets busy or timelines become blown-out. 

9. What happens if someone fails to live up to their responsibilities in the joint venture?

As with any project, it’s possible that the whole thing could become scrambled eggs.

Of course you don’t anticipate that will be the outcome, but it’s prudent to plan for unlikely circumstances. Think about COVID-19, a virus which has changed the trajectory of the global economy in the space of months. It was nigh on impossible to imagine the world shutting down a year before the corona virus; but there it is.

People can fail to live up to the responsibilities in a joint venture for a variety of reasons, including circumstances beyond their control.

Build into your joint venture contingencies around ‘failure to perform’ and decide what the dissolution of the relationship should look like. Who gets what? What will trigger the dissolution? How will any debts be paid?

These are important matters to discuss with your collaborative partners and your lawyer.

10. Who retains any intellectual property created during the venture, once it ends?  

Often a complex matter to consider, the ownership of intellectual property is the cause of many disagreements.

If the joint venture does fail, there is likely to be an argument about intellectual property and who owns what. If you can work out IP ownership at the commencement of your joint venture, you’ll design a logical way of dealing with the matter if you fall out.

Maybe each party only walks away with what they contributed; maybe each party walks away with one complete copy of the created intellectual property.

Certainty around what will happen at the time of the exit gives everyone confidence and reduces the risk of legal action. 

11. How will the project be managed?

A joint venture teaches entrepreneurs a whole lot about project management and communication. There are many moving pieces you and your partners will need to consider:

  • planning
  • stakeholder relationships
  • reporting
  • regular meetings and agendas
  • cashflow 

While it is appropriate for different roles to be attributed, a single party needs to be appointed to ensure accountability across the whole of the joint venture. You will need someone with the energy and drive to ensure that things happen. 

Flexibility must be built into this role, and an allowance to break ‘deadlocks’ in decision making.

Many’s the time we have observed joint ventures fall apart when the directors of the governing entity failed to design a mechanism for change, independent of the warring parties. 

Joint ventures are a terrific way for business owners to collaborate, to stretch their skills, test ideas, and to innovate. A well-designed joint venture allows for the clear division of work and responsibility, provides safeguards for failure and disappointment, and deals with the sticky stuff of business relationships before they become complex.

At Onyx Legal we support business owners to come together with like-minded partners in joint ventures, creating structures that respond to your unique projects, packed with safeguards to keep you as confident and safe as possible.

Our key takeaway for joint ventures?

Think on it.

Clarity at the beginning of a project leads to better results in a joint venture, and the chance everyone will meet or exceed their expectations. 

How can Onyx Legal help you?

Joint ventures have a contractual foundation.
You can form a joint venture with a handshake, or you can put a little thought into your expectations and negotiate an agreement that clearly sets out each party’s rights and obligations, as well as exit opportunities. We also highly recommend incorporating sensible dispute resolution mechanisms that will support the joint venture moving forward. If you are already in a joint venture, we can review the contract and clarify any legal rights and obligations you don’t understand.
Using Copyright Material Online

Using Copyright Material Online

Using Copyright Material Online

What is copyright?

Copyright is the legal protection given to any kind of work (eg writing, movies, website content) which has been created by a person. 

Copyright gives the owner of the copyright in the works the exclusive rights to:

  • reproduce the works
  • publish, perform or otherwise introduce the works to the public for the first time and any other time thereafter
  • control the importation of the works to other countries
  • rent the works out to other people
  • assign or license the rights in the works to others. 

There is no need to pay for, register or apply for copyright in any works, it is something that is automatically given when new works are created. 

The work does not need to be published, or made available to the public in order to be protected by copyright, nor does it need the copyright © notice. Protection is free, instant and automatic as soon as the work is created.

Copyright protects a wide range of works which include:

  • written work (“literary works”), which include newspaper and journal articles, songs, poems, screenplays, novels etc
  • computer programs
  • compilations, which include things like albums 
  • artistic works, such as paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, architectural plans, buildings etc
  • dramatic works, such as screenplays, theatre works and choreography
  • live performances
  • musical works
  • films 
  • broadcasts, such as television or radio broadcasts
  • published editions (copyright applies separately to the layout of a publication and to the actual content of the publication)

Some works which attract copyright protection, have copyright in more than one aspect of the works.

For example a musical recording will attract copyright in relation to:

  • the lyrics of the song
  • the musical composition of the song
  • the actual recording of the song
  • and also in relation to the live performance of the song.

Who owns copyright?

Although parties may agree to change the standard position on copyright, generally, the person who creates the work is the owner of the copyright in those works.

There are a few exceptions to this rule however:

  • Where work is produced by an employee for the employer. By law copyright belongs to the employer. When signing a contract for employment, the employee will usually confirm that they assign to the employer any copyright in work produced by the employee as part of the employee’s job.
  • Where work is produced by a freelancer, such a photographer, the general position is that the copyright will be with the freelancer. The exception to this is where somebody commissions a freelancer to produce work for a private or domestic purpose. For example, the photos produced by a photographer at a wedding; copyright will sit with the bride and groom, not the photographer unless there is something different in writing between the parties.
  • In relation to film and sound recordings, usually the copyright will be owned by with whoever paid for the recording to be made (eg. the producer).

What are moral rights?

Even if the creator of the works does not own the copyright in the works (such as when an employee develops some work for their employer), the creator still has what is known as ‘moral rights’.

Moral rights give a certain amount of protection to the work of the person who created the works. These rights include:

  • The right of attribution, which means the creator has the right to be given credit for their work when used by anyone else – including the owner of the copyright. For example if a photograph appears in a magazine, although the magazine may own the copyright in the photograph, the photographer still has the right to be given credit for their photo by having their name put on or next to the photograph.
  • The right to defend against any false attributions to their work. That is, if someone gives credit to another person for the creator’s work, the creator may take legal action against this. After this change in the law a variety of people who had had books ghost written suddenly started acknowledging the true writers for their ‘contribution’.
  • The right to take legal action if their work is treated in a way which has a negative impact on their reputation. Like a building being defaced.

A person can only give up their moral rights by agreeing to do so, in writing.

attribution of works

Attribution is like avoiding plagiarism.

Attribution of works means that, in your work, you give credit to the other people whose work you have used within your own work. This ensures that you do not breach the creator’s moral rights.

Attribution of another person’s work may also be necessary where you use material under a creative commons license or where you intend on relying on a ‘fair dealings’ exception to copyright infringement. These are discussed below.

How do I properly attribute the work of someone else?

If the creator of the works has not specified how they would like to be attributed, then as long as your attribution is clear and obvious enough that the audience to your work knows who the original creator of that particular part is, that is all that is needed.

WHAT DOES ‘FAIR DEALINGS’ MEAN – AUSTRALIAN POSITION?

‘Fair Dealings’ are those situations where you may use someone’s work (which would normally be protected under copyright law), without asking for their permission to use it.
There are very defined circumstances when this can be applied. To fall under the ‘fair dealings’ category, the use must be for one of the following reasons:

  • research or study 
  • criticism or review – this involves making a genuine review or critique of the material or the ideas underpinning the material, there cannot be ulterior motives for the review/critique 
  • parody or satire 
  • reporting news – the reporter must be using the copyright protected works for the main purpose of reporting the news, not for any other purpose (such as a funny article which is actually intended to entertain the audience rather than report the news)
  • and for the purposes of advice by a lawyer, trademarks or patent attorney.

To rely on any of the ‘fair dealing’ exceptions to copyright, you must be able to prove that the use does in fact fit into one of those categories above, AND that the use of the work in question was also fair in the context.

In addition, if you use copyright protected works without permission and plan to rely on a ‘fair dealings’ use, then you must acknowledge the source and the author of the original works in your own work (see attribution above).

What does ‘fair use’ mean – United States position?

In the United States, there is a similar concept called fair use. The fair use exemption is wider than the Australian concept of fair dealings. 

The United Sates provision includes purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research. These categories are more flexible than the strict Australian counterpart. 

To determine if a use is a ‘fair use’ the following factors should be considered:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including if the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. The more commercial the intended use, the more likely the fair use exemption will not apply. 
  • The nature of the copyrighted work.
  • The amount of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and whether it is a substantial part. Substantial does not necessarily mean a lot. It can be a small but distinctive part.  
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. 

So, if you plan to use copyrighted material for one of the categories (eg news reporting) then you may be able to do so if the use would be fair (based on a consideration of the above factors). In general, the word fair means the use is not harmful to the original creator of the work. 

In this example, the use of an audio clip (like a quote from Winston Churchill) or a video clip (from a movie or television program) to emphasise a point in a podcast, would be likely to be considered fair use.

What is a creative commons licence?

A Creative Commons license is a license that the owner of copyright may choose to use to allow other people to use their works without any payment or need to ask permission for use.

There are various Creative Commons licenses which set out the different terms of use according to the type of license chosen by the person who owns the copyright. Some licenses may only need you to give credit to the person whose work you are using. Other licenses will prevent you using that particular work for commercial or profit generating reasons etc. 

WHERE CAN I GET CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE MATERIAL FROM?

Material which is made available for you to use via a creative commons license (ie. you don’t have to seek the copyright owner’s permission before using it), is available right across the internet.

One good place to start is creativecommons.org.

This website allows you to search a range of sites which offer creative commons licensed material for your use. 

WHEN DO I NEED PERMISSION TO USE COPYRIGHT MATERIAL?

As a general rule you must get permission to use someone else’s works whenever you want to use those works in a way which is reserved for the exclusive use of the owner of the copyright. ie. whenever you want to publish, communicate, reproduce, perform or alter the works, or any part of the works.

Even using a small part of some copyright protected works could see you infringe copyright. If the part that you want to use is a “substantial” part, that is it is an “important, essential or distinctive” part of the works, then you will need to get permission from the copyright owner.

As an example, still shots from movies and television programs are something you should, in theory, seek permission to use. However, unless you are using that still for a commercial purpose (eg. putting on mugs or t-shirts and selling them because of the image) you are unlikely to have any problems.

Some good questions to ask yourself, “Am I using somebody else’s work?” If yes, then: 

  • Has the creator of that work used any skill or labour to create the work that I would like to use? For example, have they gone out to a statement from a source themselves, or have they copied the statement from somewhere else? If they made the effort to get the statement themselves, that act has required some skill and labour from the copyright owner, whereas copying a statement obtained from another source would not. 
  • Do I want to use a “substantial” part of the other person’s work? ie. Is it an important, essential or distinctive part of the work that I want to use? The word “substantial” does not indicate the amount of the work that you want to use, as a percentage for example, just the overall significance of what you want to use.

If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, the safest option is to seek permission from the copyright owner to use the material in questions.

There are some exceptions to this rule however, where there is: 

  • a ‘fair dealings’ exception
  • creative commons license, or
  • copyright has expired (generally 70 years after the death of the creator however there are various times depending on the year it was created or first published).

WHERE DO I GET PERMISSION TO USE COPYRIGHT MATERIAL?

A good place to start when looking for permission to use the work of someone else, is with the publisher of those works.

Another place is with a copyright collective agency. These are agencies which grant permissions and receive payments for copyright licenses in a range of copyright protected industries. There are many such agencies right around the world which operate locally (such as across Australia) or globally.

In relation to use of government owned materials, you should check the government websites for permitted use for each particular government.

How can Onyx Legal help you?

If you want purchase copyright work, license copyright work, ensure your employees understand that you own copyright in their creation, protect your copyright work, or defend a claim of copyright infringement contact us.