You don't need to pass the bar to be a good event planner — but it wouldn't hurt.
Once again we have come to the end of the school year. While none of us ever seems to graduate, we can all relate to final exams. So, here's a little quiz to test your knowledge of meeting-related legal issues:
- To get copyright protection for a work, I must:
a. Register it with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
b. Register it with the U.S. Library of Congress.
c. Put a copyright notice on it.
d. Make sure it is an original expression of an idea.
e. All of the above
- I'm contracting with an outside firm to run the children's program at my annual meeting, and they are going to indemnify me against all liability. I'm completely protected. True or False.
- My with a hotel doesn't say anything about paying damages if I cancel. In fact, it doesn't even have a cancellation provision. So, I can cancel the contract without penalty. True or False.
- I need to cancel a meeting. The hotel's damages will be calculated as follows:
a. Lost revenue
b. Loss of good will, reputation, and business opportunity
c. Punitive damages to discourage me from ever canceling a contract again
d. All of the above
e. None of the above
- If I hold a meeting in a hotel and an attendee doesn't have physical access to some of the activities because of his or her disability and the hotel's design, I could be liable for damages. True or False.
- The answer is d. Copyright protection exists automatically when an original expression of an idea is created in a tangible form (e.g. book, software, music, and so on). It need not have a copyright notice, nor must it be registered. However, providing copyright notice is a good idea (it gives notice that the work is original, owned by someone, and protection is claimed), and registration provides certain statutory rights, including damages for infringement. By the way, copyrights are registered with the Library of Congress.
- False. An indemnity is only as good as the financial health of the company providing it. If a company has no assets, its indemnity isn't worth anything. So protection isn't really afforded unless the indemnitor obtains insurance to cover its indemnification.
- False. Where there is no contractual provision addressing cancellation, courts are likely to look at cancellation as a breach of contract for which the nonbreaching (noncanceling) party would be entitled to damages.
- The answer is e: None of the above. Damages for breach of contract are calculated on the basis of actual, measurable damages that are the direct or consequential result of the breach. There is no such thing as “punitive damages” for breach of contract. And, it would be very difficult to prove damages to good will or reputation just by cancellation. But be cautioned: A letter of cancellation could result in a separate legal challenge. For example, if your letter says that you are canceling because the other side is a liar and cheat, you may be creating a separate cause of action. As for “lost revenues,” such a concept does not necessarily equate to actual damages. In any event, the nonbreaching party has a duty to mitigate its losses.
- True. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability by a “public accommodation,” defined as both a place of public accommodation (e.g., a hotel) or a private entity that uses the facility. Thus, the facility and the meeting sponsor are jointly responsible for ADA compliance. Typically, meeting sponsors shift responsibility for compliance with the physical access requirements of the ADA to the hotel by contractual agreement and indemnification.
Jed R. Mandel is a partner in the Chicago-based law firm of Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, where he heads the trade and professional association practice.