Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. Do not use any of the information on my site for anything other than wasting time.
A note on playing nice
The goal of this post is to protect you from the casual “oops” of business – NOT to arm yourself for battle. Oops happen. Keep an open line of communication through your site (a monitored e-mail address, or feedback form, for example). You’re not trying to be invisible or anonymous, you’re trying to shield yourself from legal retards, and want to listen for real communications. If John Doe wants to sue you because your logo reminds him of his favorite cat, you’ll be well protected. If Lady Gaga’s agent wants you to stop using something, you might want to stop or change regardless of where your corporation is based or how many shells you have – Consider it a bonus you most likely won’t have to pay legal fees, produce ridiculous logs or settle anything. Try to keep it at the goodwill level – the last thing you want is someone very pissed at you – The way to keep people from getting pissed is to let them get a hold of you easily, and right any wrongs quickly.
I just watched the new Shoemoney System video and felt it was missing information. I find the multinational perspective missing from a ton of folks and material – Its like World War III broke out, the entire world is a nuclear barren wasteland but only the US survived… Only that didn’t happen – everyone else is still there, folks!
Jeremy did an awesome job on the videos and it is really cool that he is sharing the information he is… Well, that and he is also sending a message out to the marketplace. The message reads “Don’t fuck with my brand and my stuff, or I’ll unleash the Sith Lords on your sorry ass“. Nice dual-purpose video! Wish I had thought of it.
What Jeremy doesn’t mention is what he does when he is faced with an international dolt stealing his stuff. Are all his cases US-based? Only the ones worth pursuing?
If you’re going to run ANY sort of business, you need to protect yourself legally. While Jeremy comes across as a nice guy, the world is full of assholes (I know this for a fact – just look at all the shit around you… And where does shit come from? Assholes, of course!)
How you go about creating your little legal cocoon can take many forms. You can wrap yourself in the equivalent of bubble-wrap by incorporating an LLC in Delaware, or you can order a Stealth Klingon Bird of Prey from eastern Europe – it all depends if you want to protect yourself from a knee scrape or a plasma cannon, which in turn depends on what you’re trying to do – sell an eBook or scam the planet. Let’s assume you are not out to screw everyone, but would much prefer to stay away from trouble…
The key to preventing problems in the US is to not be there. Simple, huh? It all hinges on what laws affect who and where. Your state laws do not affect other US states, and US federal laws do not affect other countries. What DOES affect other countries are international treaties and how different countries have implemented them – The nice thing about international treaties is that bullshit rarely makes it into a treaty, so you’re safer from some of the sue-happy legal circus.
Here are five steps to ‘be gone’. You only really need Step 1 and 2 to protect yourself from 90% of nut cases. Step 3 and 4 if you’re paranoid. If you need to go as far as Step 5, please do not tell me what you’re into.
Create a limited corporation overseas… You are an investor in it and a managing director – The “limited” means your liability is limited. Different countries will call this a bit different, but they all have this figure… Sociedad Anonima de Responsabilidad Limitada (Anynomous Limited Asociation) in most of Latin-Ameria, osaühing in Estonia, GmbH in Germany, Société à Responsabilité Limitée in France, etc… You get the point. Talk to a lawyer. A corporate lawyer. A good one. A very expensive one. You need one with experience in this or living in the country you’ve picked. Alternatively, there are a TON of online services that will do this for you in whatever locale you heart desires. I hear the weather in Cayman is awesome this time of year.
Get all the papers squared away. Expect anywhere between two weeks and two months for this. Make sure you document your funding into the company, as well as who gets what share, and any major decisions, such as appointing yourself king of Umpa Lumpa Land and Managing Director of your company. Sounds retarded and ridiculous, you appoint yourself, yes… Just trust me you have to do all this paper stuff – don’t dismiss it.
Register any domains you will use with a registrar located in your favorite jurisdiction – For example gandi.net in France. If you have to ask why, watch Jeremy’s video again.
Get hosting overseas, and MAKE SURE their data center and your server is overseas. Ideally, make sure they don’t have a US presence at all (like a sister company). Some companies resell us-based virtual servers or will use a European IP that by some magic maps back to the US. Avoid with simple geo-location tools. Re-test the geolocation using traceroutes and network assignment maps after getting the hosting to make sure.
Beware of anything linked to the site. If you have AdSense in the site, or drive traffic with AdWords, or if you promote a zip submit with neverblue, think what jurisdiction(s) neverblue or Google are in.
A note on taxes
If you are a US citizen or Permanent resident, make 120% sure you PAY YOUR TAXES. Consult a good tax person. Understand that whatever money you make (you, not the corp) will be taxed by the US just as if you had earned it in the US – Don’t let an overseas lawyer derail you here, taxes are serious shit – And remember the corp will be paying taxes wherever it is based. Again, I can’t stress this enough… Remember Capone, do your taxes right.
Reprise of the note on playing nice
The goal of this post is to protect you from the casual “oops” of business – NOT to arm yourself for battle. Keep an open line of communication through your site (a monitored e-mail address, or feedback form, for example). Listen for real communications. Try to keep it at the goodwill level – The way to keep people from getting pissed is to let them get a hold of you easily, and right any wrongs quickly.