Leasing Buildings Commercially

If you’re just getting ready to launch your small business, chances are, you’re looking to lower your risk any way you can, which may include leasing space instead of buying. Yes, real estate can be an investment, but the capital required to launch will be considerably less if you start out renting. To protect your business and the money you are putting into it, educate yourself as much as you can on the ins and outs of commercial real estate law. Know some of the key considerations and savvy questions to ask before signing on any dotted lines.

What’s Going on Around Your Business Space

Visibility, foot and road traffic, and the nature of the businesses around you are all going to hugely impact your business’s chance of success. Find out as much as you can about plans for building, time left on leases/future endeavors in the spaces adjacent to yours, changes in road/parking lot construction — it all matters.

A busy suburb (and they’re getting increasingly busy as millennials start families and head out of cities) is going to have crazy rush hour traffic. Is your potential space easy to get into and out of during high-traffic times? If it’s not, are there plans in place to mitigate that problem, and when are they going to be executed? These are things you need to know.

Another consideration: what kinds of businesses are established or are planning to be established near yours? If there’s an anchor store all but guaranteed to bring in traffic, that could be your golden goose. But if the anchor reneges or abandons the space, your golden goose has flown the coop, which could mean bad news for your business. Or let’s say your business is a workout facility, which is right next to a healthy cafe, potentially a huge win-win, but if the healthy cafe becomes a traditional bakery…you see where we’re going. Consider a co-tenancy clause if the success of your small business is relatively dependent upon the longevity of adjacent brick-and-mortars.

Tenant vs. Landlord Responsibilities

Commercial properties differ from residential properties in myriad ways. If you’ve ever rented an apartment, you likely experienced the joy of simply calling your landlord to report a maintenance issue and then having it repaired in a few days, no invoice sitting on the counter for you. Often, with commercial properties, the tenant is responsible for minor repairs. The landlord is required to make the property inhabitable and may also be required to make structural repairs to the building, but smaller repairs may be up to you to handle. Similarly, financial responsibilities may be divvied up between landlord and tenant, i.e. you pay for the utilities, he or she pays the property taxes.

If you share common space — bathrooms, hallways, fitness rooms — with other businesses in the building, tenants may be paying for that in included square footage and may be responsible for maintenance of those areas, or that may be one area where the landlord maintains responsibility for upkeep. These things should be hashed out and put in writing up front to prevent conflict in the future and to assist you in monthly budgeting.

Option to Buy

In that same growing suburb, new businesses are coming in and are ready to buy up space. You may not be ready to do that now, but you want to be given the option if your landlord decided to sell down the road, right? That’s where the Right of First Refusal comes into play. If you have the financial means to buy the space/building, you’d hate to have it sold out from under you, forcing you to relocate.

Launching a business or relocating–either option is overwhelming. But in the flurry of to-do lists, don’t let your leasing space just be “find a cool place we can afford.” Commercial leasing laws vary by state, but in some, you will be required to pay the rent on the remainder of your agreement even if you choose to move out of the property. To protect your interests and stay on the right side of the courtroom, it’s critical to educate yourself, not only to ensure that you select the right space for your new second home, but to help you sign the healthiest lease agreement possible.

Let’s Plays and Copyright Infringement

With the rise in Let’s Play videos, where someone records themselves playing a video game, then puts the recording on YouTube, it has come into question whether or not these videos are breaking any copyright laws. There has not been a precedent set yet on this issue, because no game developers have taken any Let’s Players to court over copyright infringement.

This is in part because game developers can see an increase in sales after their game has been aired on a high-profile streamers’ YouTube channel, so many seem somewhat reluctant to take these cases to court. For example, Ryan Clark, the design of the independent game “Crypt of the Necrodancer,” told the New York Times that he saw a $60,000 increase in sales after famous YouTuber Felix “Pewdiepie” Kjellberg played the game on his channel.

One of the major arguments against Let’s Plays is that for games with a storyline if you watch someone else play through the narrative, you now have no reason to buy the game yourself. While this is valid in some cases, there has been an abundance of evidence that sales can go up on a game if it is streamed. It is unclear though if Let’s Plays have harmed sales of any games.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) gives copyright holders the right to take action if someone is displaying, reproducing, or distributing their work. Game developers have the rights to have entire playthroughs of games removed from a YouTube channel since there is still much debate on whether or not Let’s Plays count as fair use. They are completely reproducing the game for people who did not pay for it, so it can easily be considered copyright infringement, but the gaming industry seems reluctant to do so, allowing Let’s Players to flourish.

“The amount of content used [in a Let’s Play]—the fact it goes to the heart of the game itself—is way in excess of what any court up until now has said is fair use. You use too much of the content for it to qualify for fair use,” Mona Ibrahim, a video game attorney with the Interactive Entertainment Law Group, told Kotaku.

In the movie and music industry, a video similar to a Let’s Play would be removed instantly, but yet when it comes to streaming video games, there is an overall reluctance in the desire to bring these to court. Lawyer Mira Sundara Rajan, who specializes in intellectual property, says that once the precedent is set it has the potential to “transform the industry completely, and qualitatively change the relationship between the people who are playing games and the people making them.”

Taking a Let’s Play to court over copyright infringement could have major ramifications for Let’s Players everywhere. Let’s Play channels are some of the biggest on YouTube, so having this legal precedence could be disastrous financially for YouTube. There are also other programs that would feel the shift even harder than YouTube, like Twitch, which is primarily used for Let’s Plays and live streams of games.

Rajan said that “if there’s a symbiosis in the industry between those groups [gamers and developers], and there’s kind of a balance that’s been achieved, it may well be that things go ahead without the intervention of courts and copyright intervention suits… [but] it’s really hard to predict.”

There are some game developers who have given licenses or blanket permissions on their websites for their games to be used in Let’s Play videos, but not all are willing to do this.

Nintendo chose to enforce its copyright claims on their video games in the early days of Let’s Plays, by creating an affiliate program where the streamers are required to give the company a portion of their revenues. This is fair since they are making millions playing these games, and the developers are only getting potential sales out of the deal.

Currently the Let’s Play industry is a gray area legally speaking, but eventually, a developer will take a streamer to court and the precedence will be set, officially drawing the line in the sand for what is and is not considered copyright infringement for Let’s Players.

Apex Legends as a Metaphor for Life

We dropped into Skull Town. A tough drop for sure. Lots of teams drop in Skull Town every game. It’s one of those places that, if you come out on top you’ll be positioned for a win, but the odds are not in your favor.

Alec dropped nearby and we had a third, random teammate who dropped near Alec. Another team descended on them immediately. I don’t know if Alec even got a gun the fight hit so fast. They were down quick, their names in red on the side of my screen. I knew I had to act immediately to have any chance of reviving them.

But weapons were hard to come by, and I was under the same fire they were. I happened on a Longbow, a slow firing sniper rifle, not ideal in a close quarters gun fight.

I raced through the corridors of Skull Town heading towards the red indicators. My team was down in a small room at the end of a shortish corridor. The opposing team had come through a door opposite from the hall. As I approached the room, I saw my first opponent. He met me in the corridor.

The shots came fast and frantic. I was no-scoping my sniper rifle – range was too short for aiming down sights. I have no idea what weapon my opponent had, but it was firing fast. The corridor was filled with violence.

I did my best to strafe in the tight space, and I’m sure my opponent was doing the same. Fortunately, I was able to line up a few head shots and, in seconds, he dropped.

I raced to my teammates and started reviving, using Lifeline’s shield to protect myself and them from my opponent’s teammates.

Fast-forward two minutes, we rotated out of Skull Town, feeling strong. Seconds later we took a battle against a team entrenched behind some rocks…uphill… Game over.

It’s tempting to call this game a failure, and I suppose it was, but failure is essential to learning Apex Legends. In fact, failure is essential to learning anything, including the law and business.

Many of you know Apex Legends so I don’t want to go into a ton of detail about the game, but some explanation is necessary. In Apex Legends you and two teammates drop from an airship on a large map with 19 other teams. The object is to be the last team standing. You drop in with no equipment and no weapons. It’s a mad scramble for initial weapons and armor. Once you’ve survived the chaotic first minutes, the game slows into more of a chess match between the remaining teams.

The interesting thing about being a beginner in Apex Legends is that you’re tempted to rate your success based on your rank at the end of a game. In the game I detailed above, we probably finished like 11th overall, I don’t actually remember. We certainly didn’t “do very well.” In order to end with a high rank, some beginners attempt to avoid fights early in the game, hoping to survive till the end. But that is a fool’s errand.

Anyone who has learned Apex Legends and acquired any sort of skill in the game will tell you that the only way to improve is to drop right into the thick of things. You have to seek out fights so that you can learn how the game works. Figure out which guns you prefer, understand cover and your character’s abilities. Your rank doesn’t really matter. What matters is laying foundation for future games.

If you throw yourself into the conflict every game, you’ll have a lot of games like the one I described. Short, frantic, and perhaps a little fun. You have to lose a bunch before you start to get wins. If you avoid fights, you’ll never learn how to get the game-winning kills.

Why am I discussing this? Because Apex Legends is actually a lot like life.

You can’t really learn anything without throwing yourself into the mess and sorting it out. For example, you can’t learn how to manage the stress of trial by avoiding trials your whole career. It’s tempting for a young lawyer to fear trial and, therefore, figure out ways to avoid it. But, much like the conflict avoiding Apex player, if you’ve never handled a trial, you won’t be able to manage it when the time comes. And the time will come someday.

Young attorneys are much better off jumping right into the hard stuff. When I first started practicing law, I had the fortune of being an Assistant State’s Attorney. You simply could not avoid trial as an ASA. Impossible. But I took it a step further and created a rule for myself where I would say “yes” to every challenge offered to me. You want to handle this dead-bang loser case? Yes. You want to handle this super messy sentencing hearing? Yep. I said yes over and over again because I knew that the only way to learn was to try a bunch of cases. The outcomes mattered, of course, but not as much as the experience I was gaining through practice.

This is also true in business. I started my firm at 28-years-old. Too young, probably. But I figured it out by handling any case that would walk in the door. I took some messy ones in those early days (and I still do), but every case handled was another notch on my belt. Each one gave me more experience and more confidence.

If I had focused on my “stats” at the beginning of my career, I would have been disappointed and found my talent lacking. Frankly, it was lacking. I needed that experience to get to where I am today. The only way forward was to put my head down and work, ignoring the end results (though, most of my cases worked out just fine).

Mark Zuckerberg had a famous quote while building Facebook, “Move fast and break things.” It was their mantra. Now, I’m not claiming to be as smart as Zuckerberg (nor as wealthy), but he’s not wrong. In every pursuit in life, your best bet is to move fast, try lots of things, and fail a ton. Because through failure we learn, and we lay a foundation of experience for the future.