Top 10 rights and legal issues everyone should know

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It is our civic duty to know the laws that govern our lives, whether we are traveling to another city or just wanting organize a garage sale. However, legal issues and our rights aren’t always clear, so let’s take a look at the most important ones that might affect you.

10. When you infringe copyright law

Just by doing typical online activities, you probably violates 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 are violating 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 this that you do “feels bad” to you.

9. What you can and cannot do while driving

You know you shouldn’t be using your cell phone while driving, but states have different prohibitions, on types of illegal cell phone use while driving: most prohibit texting while driving, but some do not allow it all using your phone while driving. Know what is allowed in your state and penalties for texting while driving (but, seriously, don’t). On a related note, is it illegal to wear headphones while driving? In some states it is. Many states have weird driving lawssuch as traffic violations if you leave your car door open “longer than deemed necessary”.

8. Take and share photos or videos

We have a right to take photos and videos in public, law? Because, after all, this is First Amendment stuff. There are times when you can get in trouble, however, as if you were posting photos that disclose private information about other people. How to post photos and videos also matters. This table of Creative Commons licenses might help if you are not sure if you are allowed to use other people’s work in your own.

7. Your rights vis-à-vis the police

No one wants to get arrested. When dealing with cops, know your rights, such as refusing a search, your Miranda rights, and how to safely exercise your rights. What’s more know your rights infographic, these ex-cop tips and these wallet cards might help you avoid jail.

6. Your rights as a tenant

Your landlord does not hold all the cards. Same difficult owners must follow state regulations to ensure you get fair housing in return for your rent. If you are renting, read on the laws of your state, like how your security deposits must be kept and if you must expect interest on this deposit.

5. Your rights when you travel by plane

There are a lot of rights you as an air traveler that you may not be aware of, such as locking your fare in advance and reimbursement to which you are entitled for lost baggage or accident flights. Know what to do if your flight is canceled (disclose: pick up the phone). The jury is still out on that reclining vs. Knee Defender kerfuffle, however.

4. Your rights as an employee

It is possible, depending on your type of position, that you have to pay overtime, whether your employer wants it or not. Likewise, even if your employer does not want you to discuss your salary with your colleagues, they cannot legally stop you from doing so. These are some of the less well-known rights in the workplace your HR department may not tell you. (Go to your state’s department of labor site for things like workers’ compensation and break laws etc.)

3. The legal documents that you should have prepared before you start

Having a will and all your important papers organized will give you peace of mind and reduce stress for your loved ones if you die suddenly or become seriously ill. In addition to medical directives, you should also share your property information, banking and insurance information, and other documents with your loved ones. here is our master information spreadsheet template for the establishment, the Wall Street Journal’s list of 25 documents to collect, and previously mentioned Everplans, which guides 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 will still need to read them all, but there are ways to better understand them quickly.

Some kind of deal we’re probably just skipping? These terms of use and privacy policies on each service or software. You can read them quickly too. Even if you violate the terms of use maybe not necessarily a crime, it’s always 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 can be your best friend in difficult legal situations, such as when you are trying to start your own business based on confidential information, get a divorce, or have been charged with a felony. Even just sign or create freelance agreements can be tricky (that’s why services like LegalSifter be useful). Here’s how to find and work with a good lawyer.

Photos by Jorgen mcleman, opensourceway, Lord Jim, Luke Ma, Banalities, Tina Mailhot-Roberge, wisaflcio.

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