Top 10 Legal Rights and Issues Everyone Should Know About
10. When You’re Breaking Copyright Law
Just by doing typical online activities, you’re probably breaking copyright law. If you use a copyrighted song in a home video uploaded to YouTube, for example, or create a gif (or other derivative work) to start a meme, you’re infringing on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. However, some copyright infringements are more tolerated than others—and copyright law is complex—so a quick test if you still want to share online without legal recourse might be to ask yourself if what you’re doing “feels wrong” to you.
9. What You Can and Can’t Do While Driving
You know you shouldn’t use your cell phone while driving, but states have different bans, on the kinds of cell phone use that are illegal while driving: Most ban texting while driving, but some don’t allow any use of your phone when you’re at the wheel. Know what’s allowed in your state and the penalties for texting while driving (but, seriously, just don’t do it). In a similar vein, is it illegal to wear headphones when you’re driving? In some states, it is. Many states have strange driving laws, like traffic violations if you leave your car door open “longer than is deemed necessary.”
8. Taking and Sharing Photographs or Videos
We have a right to take photographs and videos in public, right? Since, after all, this is First Amendment stuff. There are times when you can get into trouble, though, like if you’re publishing photos that disclose private information about others. How you publish photos and videos also matters. This Creative Commons licensing chart could help if you’re not sure whether you’re allowed to use others’ works in your own.
7. Your Rights When Dealing with the Police
No one wants to get arrested. When you’re dealing with cops, know your rights, such as refusing a search, your Miranda rights, and how to exercise your rights safely. In addition to this know your rights infographic, these ex-cop’s tips and these wallet cards could help you stay out of jail.
6. Your Rights as a Renter
Your landlord doesn’t hold all the cards. Even difficult landlords have to abide by state regulations to make sure you’re getting fair housing in exchange for your rent. If you rent, read up on your state laws, such as how your security deposits must be kept and whether you should expect interest on that deposit.
5. Your Rights When You Fly on a Plane
There are quite a few rights you have as an air traveler that you might not be aware of, such as locking in your fare in advance and reimbursement you’re entitled to for lost luggage or bumped flights. Know what to do if your flight gets canceled (spoiler: get on the phone). The jury’s still out on that reclining seat vs. Knee Defender kerfuffle, though.
4. Your Rights as an Employee
It’s possible, depending on your type of position, that you are owed overtime pay, whether your employer likes it or not. Similarly, even if your employer doesn’t want you to discuss your salary with your co-workers, they can’t legally prevent you from doing so. These are some of the less-known workplace rights your HR department might not be telling you. (Head to your state’s department of labor site for things like Workers’ Comp and laws on taking breaks, etc.)
3. The Legal Documents You Should Have Prepared Before You Kick the Bucket
Having a will and all of your important papers organized will give you peace of mind and reduce stress for your loved ones if you suddenly died or were seriously ill. In addition to medical directives, you should also have your property information, bank and insurance info, and other documents shared with your loved ones. Here’s our master information spreadsheet template for setting this up, the Wall Street Journal’s list of 25 documents to gather, and previously mentioned Everplans, which walks you through estate planning.
2. How to Make Sense of Legal Documents
Everything from opening a bank account to getting a new job requires us to sign long and often confusing legal forms. You’ll still have to read through them all, but there are ways to quickly make better sense of them.
One type of agreement we probably all just skip through? Those Terms of Service and privacy policies on every service or piece of software. You can quickly read through those as well. Even if breaking a Terms of Service might not necessarily be a crime, it’s still a good idea to know what you’re agreeing to.
1. When You Need a Lawyer (and How to Talk to One)
A good lawyer may be your best friend in difficult legal situations, like when you’re trying to start your own business based on proprietary information, are getting a divorce, or have been charged with a crime. Even just signing or creating freelancing agreements can be tricky (which is why services like LegalSifter come in handy). Here’s how to find a good lawyer and work with him or her.