Sunday

10

December 2023

Question: Is it Legal to Register a Car in Montana?

Written by , Posted in Tax Law, Traffic Law

motor home driving on road with montana landscape

Answer: Yes. In Montana, like in any other state, it’s legal to register a car as long as you comply with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requirements. There are no existing Montana regulations that prohibit individuals from purchasing a vehicle outside the state and then registering it under a shell corporation based in Montana.

It’s a legal loophole you can use, even if you’re from California.  Importantly, Montana does not require in-state vehicle inspections–and they don’t require to be driven or stored in-state either.

When considering registration in Montana, especially through a Montana Limited Liability Company (LLC), we should go over the legality and the various reasons to opt for this route, including tax benefits and avoiding state-specific regulations. Many high-Dollar cars, motor homes, boats and other toys are frequently registered in Montana. Here’s a more generalized overview of what you should know:

Tax and Registration Fee Savings

  • Using a Montana LLC for your car(s) registration and a MT title application can lead to significant savings on sales tax and registration fees, particularly if you reside in a state with high rates (such as California). For instance, one of my relatives has registered a motor home in Montana to avoid steep sales taxes and registration fees in their home state.
  • The financial benefit can be substantial, especially for high-value assets. A business acquaintance of ours managed to avoid taxes on over $500,000 worth of vehicles over several years through a Montana LLC.

Avoiding State-Specific Emissions and Smog Requirements

  • Montana’s lack of smog laws is a benefit, especially if you own older cars and trucks that might not pass smog checks in states with stringent environmental regulations. Registering an older high-value sports car or vehicle that’s not yet considered a classic but is challenging to get smogged in CA for instance is a common candidate. I’ve seen modified ZR-1 Corvettes and Zl-1 Camaros with MT license plates at Cars and Coffee more than a few times. But typically it’s the exotics like Ferrari’s and Lamborghinis that cost over $500,000 new who’s owners elect to go the Montana registration route.

Financing and Insurance

  • Securing financing for a car under a Montana LLC can be challenging, as not all financial institutions provide loans for vehicles registered to an out-of-state LLC. Nonetheless, there are specific lenders that cater to these situations.
  • It’s possible to insure the car in the state where it’s primarily used, adding the Montana LLC as an additional insured.

Enforcement and Legal Aspects

  • To avoid tax liabilities, legally I’d advise to keep the car out of the state where it’s normally used for at least one year. I’ve heard a story of California’s tax department coming after someone for not adhering to this guideline.
  • Ensure that the car’s and LLC’s names and addresses match for valid registration. If authorities start inquiring, they might request documentation to verify the legitimacy of the registration. Be aware that in California and Arizona there are apparently hotlines for “tips” that a neighbor or passerby can use to report you. Enforcement is usually up to a given state’s revenue department, not the police. For example in Arizona, there is a department with a dedicated unit focused on collecting use and sales taxes from high-value vehicles that reside in Arizona but are not registered there. To enforce this, officials from the department attend events like Cars and Coffee and other major auto shows. They document cars, trucks, motorhomes etc. with out-of-state registrations, especially those seen repeatedly at these events. While some vehicle owners are caught and penalized for this practice, others manage to avoid detection.To avoid falsifying records, you’d have to act preemptively and have your ducks in a row.This process is similar to tax planning, where you need to plan ahead and put the things in place that you may need in the future. Remember that tax avoidance is a virtuous obligation. Tax evasion is a crime. Some hypothetical examples could include:
    • Arranging with a storage facility or a person with property in Montana to rent a parking space. This should be a formal agreement, in writing, signed and countersigned, for a specific car and VIN, offering more tangible proof of your car’s connection to Montana. It can be in perpetuity and for a nominal sum if you can make that work.
    • Having evidence of frequent travel to Montana.
  • What About U-Haul and other commercial vehicles? There’s plenty of locations in California for instance but NONE of the trucks have California plates or registrations!
    • Well, based on the International Registration Plan (IRP), a cooperative agreement established among the states and provinces of the United States and Canada in the early 1970s, vehicles operated by U-Haul are designated as commercial vehicles. These vehicles are licensed and registered in accordance with the IRP, which facilitates the apportionment and distribution of vehicle registration fees among the jurisdictions based on the total distance operated in each. U-Haul is subject to the payment of registration fees at a rate significantly higher than that imposed on non-commercial or personal vehicles.

The How-To’s of Registering

To register a car in Montana, you’d essentially need to fill out some forms and do the following:

Open LLC in Montana (Bennett Law in Missoula is one of many choices, for example), with you as the owner or partner. The car would be obviously purchased in said LLC’s name. Typically the process involves selecting a business name, filing Articles of Organization, appointing a registered agent in Montana, obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and optionally creating an operating agreement (all things your law firm will do for you in a matter of minutes).

Then you can simply drive the car as named driver on the registration of the company-owned car, or what some opt to do is create a contract for an auto rental (think long-term exotic car rental) where you as a driver are renting the car from the company. This creates different (sometimes beneficial) tax situations, as well as gives you an easier “out” if a police officers wants to challenge your claim.

Other things you’d need:

  1. Proof of Ownership: Typically, a car title.
  2. Proof of Insurance: Montana requires minimum liability insurance.
  3. Valid Identification: Such as a driver’s license.
  4. Payment of Fees: Including registration fees, which vary based on the car’s age, type, and other factors.

Costs Involved

  • Setting up an LLC in Montana might cost around $1,000 and can be completed relatively quickly. The exact fees and annual costs can vary depending on the car’s value.

Re-cap

Registering a car in Montana through an LLC is a legal option that offers financial and other advantages. However, it’s crucial to consider the implications related to financing, insurance, and legal compliance in both Montana and your home state. At any rate, we’d highly recommend you talk with an attorney, and careful planning and understanding of the rules to ensure everything is in order.

Tuesday

7

November 2023

Question: Is It Legal to Use AI to Write a Book?

Written by , Posted in Copyright Law, Intellectual Property Law

author sitting in front of books bookself and computer monitors writing ai content blue

Answer: Yes it is legal.  There are no specific laws prohibiting the use of AI for writing and publishing books. The legality of using AI to write a book in the United States primarily depends on copyright and intellectual property laws.

Relevant US Law

  • Copyright Law: Under US Copyright Law, works created by AI might not qualify for copyright protection as they are not created by a human author. However, the person programming or instructing the AI can claim some rights. In my opinion, most traditional authors such as novelists would be very unlikely to disclose any use of AI as it may tarnish their reputation.
  • Intellectual Property Rights: If the AI uses existing copyrighted material to create a book, it might infringe upon the copyright holder’s intellectual property rights. The onus however would be on the infringed to spot this and to take action. Chat GPT, and especially Bing Chat powered by OpenAI is quite notorious for plagiarizing small chunks (1-5%) for its answers in my experience, often times taking 1-2 sentences verbatim from the source and including it in its output. This could lead to being caught if someone used Copyscape.com or another plagiarism detection tool that would detect these standalone plagiarized sentences.

Hypothetical Example

Imagine an AI that writes a novel based on input from an author. The author provides themes, character ideas, and plot points, and the AI generates the text. In this scenario, the resulting book may be considered a collaborative work.

In most likelihood however, the author’s technical and creative engagement with the AI system, alongside the careful vetting for originality, positions them to claim copyright ownership of the work under current interpretations of U.S. Copyright Law. The book’s publishing and sale on Amazon, contingent on policy adherence and full disclosure, is an exercise of the author’s right to distribute their original work.

Is it legal to sell AI written books on Amazon?

Answer: Yes it is legal to sell AI written books on Amazon and Kindle. However, in September 2023 Amazon introduced new rules and guidance for Kindle books generated by artificial intelligence on their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) portal. There is already quite an influx of AI-generated content on Kindle (such as self-help books, as well as coloring books and other visual type mediums). This is because of the low barrier of entry, so it makes sense that Amazon decided to clamp down here specifically.

The new rules require authors to inform Amazon when content is AI-generated. The company has also added a new section to its content guidelines focused on AI, which includes definitions of “AI-generated” versus “AI-assisted” content. Importantly, sellers are not required to disclose when content is AI-assisted.

In my view, what would most likely lead to legal trouble is if you use AI to mimic the style of a specific author or to replicate elements from their copyrighted works. This can lead to accusations of intellectual property misappropriation, claiming that you are diminishing the market value of their original works and can could create quite the legal headache for you, least of which is being potentially banned off of the KDP platform, or Amazon itself.

Selling AI-generated books that closely imitate another author’s style, especially if marketed as original works, can be considered false advertising under U.S. law. It would be akin to the sale of deep fakes in the art world which is a pretty low-brow thing to do, and a scheme that I would not recommend. “In the style of” is growing in popularity but not sure what the long term prospects are there.

Can you detect AI Generated Text

Answer: No, current public tools can’t reliably detect AI content. Even OpenAI’s very own AI detector tool didn’t work, and the tool was removed from their website within several months. Originality.ai also lost the public’s trust when Bible verses and other ancient works were flagged as 100% AI written. 02/12/2024 update: Originality.AI published their latest accuracy study, and we’ve played with it and it’s quite a bit better than before. It seems to do quite well at correctly identifying 100% boilerplate informational AI content. However if the content is tweaked a bit with examples or second-person language, Originality’s accuracy falls apart in our tests.

Detecting AI-generated content, including text and images, is possibly to a certain extent. However, it’s important to note that AI detection is a complex and evolving field, and no method is foolproof. AI-generated content, especially from advanced models, can be very sophisticated and challenging to distinguish from human-generated content.

Koala for instance , is a well-regarded AI writing tool that uses the latest GPT-4o API and can produce full blog posts from a simple keyword prompt that is good enough to publish on many sites. Its output isn’t detectable with any statistical significance and is popular with people making money online via long-form content but not wanting to disclose that they’re using AI. Koala’s proprietary SEO algorithm, data integration, and dynamic prompting tools are supposedly great.

For text, certain indicators can suggest AI authorship, like repetitive phrasing, unusual word choices, or a lack of deep contextual understanding. For images, signs such as unusual patterns, artifacts, or inconsistencies in the image might indicate AI generation.

It’s also useful to consider the context in which the content appears, as AI-generated content often lacks the nuanced understanding or personal experiences that a human might convey.

[CONTACT THE ATTORNEY WHO ANSWERED THIS QUESTION]

Thursday

19

October 2023

Question: Is it Legal to Buy Anabolic Steroids Online?

Written by , Posted in Criminal Law

Answer: No. If you are considering doing this and buying steroids online, we’d recommend against it. The stringent U.S. laws, including the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibit purchasing anabolic steroids online. However, each year tens of thousands of individuals in the US often unknowingly skirt legal boundaries in their pursuit of these anabolic vials and injectables. Internet transactions might seem convenient and discreet, but they’re often monitored.

With agencies like U.S. Customs and Border Protection vigilantly inspecting incoming packages, a seemingly harmless online Internet purchase of some Test or Tren can swiftly spiral into a legal nightmare (but more so if you’re a distributor buying large quantities in order to resell). Add to this the fact that many states have their own set of regulations, and the risk multiplies. Stories of intercepted packages, heavy fines, and even legal action serve as stark reminders that obtaining these steroids in the USA is a gamble that can lead to unintended consequences.

Outside of the USA? We don’t know the laws and regulations of other countries and don’t want to comment on them. Please do your own research and get legal counsel in whichever country you’re in if you plan to consume steroids and start a “cycle” as part of your strength training routine.

We can’t tell you what to do however, and if you’ve already made up your mind and want to buy a supply of steroids online at all costs, you can explore some of the legal variations available such as D-BAL, HGH-X2 and Trenorol. Users report that they are extremely potent, so you might not even need anything else riskier from a hormonal and legal perspective.

Read more: Are SARMs actually legal?

hypodermic needle containing anabolic steroids on brown granite countertop kitchen

Laws That Govern Anabolic Steroids in the US

Controlled Substances Act (CSA): As per the CSA, anabolic steroids are branded as Schedule III controlled substances. Their potential for abuse is evident, yet they have undeniable medical uses.

FDA’s Stern Stance: The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act makes it clear: no anabolic steroids without a genuine prescription. And the drug has to be FDA-approved for its intended use. These include expensive vials that are much loved on the black market and are frequently into thighs and buttocks: Testosterone Cypionate (Depo-Testosterone), Testosterone Enanthate, Testosterone Undecanoate (Aveed, Nebido), Testosterone propionate (Testoviron) and others.

Online Transactions: Not Always a Safe Bet: The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 is a testament to the legal risks of online purchases. Any online pharmacy dispatching controlled substances must be DEA-registered. Failure to comply could be a very costly mistake for them.

The Dicey Dance with Customs: Importing steroids might lead them to be seized at customs. There have been many real life cases you can find on online forums and disccusion boards where individuals faced hefty fines and even imprisonment after their packages were intercepted..

The Ambiguous World of Prohormones and TREN: Prohormones, precursors to anabolic steroids, fall in a tricky legal zone. Previously, many were sold over-the-counter. However, with the Anabolic Steroid Control Act amendments, most became controlled substances. Also we’re not doctors, but we’ve heard these prohormones can be extremely hard on the liver and aren’t sustainable long-term. On the other hand TREN (Trenbolone), often dubbed a “gray-area substance,” is a powerful anabolic steroid. While it’s intended for livestock, its non-medical use in humans is prohibited. The word on the street these days is that human-grade testosterone is much better and safer over the long term, and finding a TRT doctor is very easy if you put in the effort.

Federal vs. State Tug of War: The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act forms the baseline. However, states like California and New York aren’t content with just that, adding their layer of legal stringency.

Distribution vs. Personal Consumption: Under 21 U.S.C. § 841, the line is clear. Sell or distribute steroids without authorization, and you’re in for trouble. Personal possession might seem less severe, but it’s still a legal quagmire.

Summary

In summary, while the allure of anabolic steroids for performance enhancement might be tempting, the potential legal ramifications in the U.S. are significant. If you’re researching where or how to buy, then the clear directive for steroids is this: acquire only with a valid prescription, and ensure that online sources are authorized by the FDA. Venturing into the gray zones of TREN or prohormones? Tread with caution. Outside of the USA? Do your own research and get legal counsel in whichever country you’re in and plan to consume these steroids.

[CONTACT THE ATTORNEY WHO ANSWERED THIS QUESTION]

Friday

22

September 2023

Is It Legal To Do a Burnout?

Written by , Posted in Traffic Law

smokey tire doing a burnout on asphalt illegally

Answer:

The legality of doing a burnout varies depending on your location and the circumstances. As thrill-inducing as this maneuver can be, in the U.S. and many other places, burnouts are viewed as reckless driving and are illegal when done on public roads and highways. Engaging in such behavior can result in tickets and fines, loss of your driving privileges, and in some cases, jail time, especially if the burnout causes an accident or is done in a dangerous manner.

However, there might be certain designated areas or events, like a motorsports event, where you are allowed to perform burnouts. It’s advisable to check the laws and regulations in your local area or consult with a legal professional to understand the specifics regarding burnouts.

It’s not likely you’ll get caught if you’re doing it in a remote area, but just know that technically it’s illegal. Also there’s a difference between a chirp or two of a tire of an aggressive RWD or FWD launch, and a full-on smokey AWD burnout. For example, a small non-smokey spinning of your front tires can happen accidentally due to bad traction or cheap tires and you can plead ignorance and plausible deniability with cops, but not with a full on smoke show in front of a crowd..

Is it legal to do a burnout on private property?

On private property, the rules regarding burnouts is a lot more lenient, but it still largely depends on local laws and ordinances. Some jurisdictions may have ordinances that prohibit certain types of noise, nuisance, or hazardous behavior on private property. These regulations might be applied to burnouts regardless of where they are performed. A place like Irvine California has tons of these sort of ordinances. If you value your freedom, chances are you will find a lot less restrictions outside of California, or at least unincorporated areas of California such as parts of Corona and Riverside.

I’d say it’s crucial to have the property owner’s permission to perform burnouts and drifting. Without it, you could be charged with trespassing or other offenses. Unlikely, but in a worst case scenario where you hit someone’s building or work truck, and they caught you on security camera doing burnouts, you may end up having to pay the bill if your insurance sees it!

Are there laws against burnouts?

Yes there are. Laws against burnouts will depend by state and jurisdiction, but for example, California Vehicle Code Section 23103 states: Driving with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property” is considered reckless driving. Burnouts could easily fall under this definition due to the risks associated with losing control of the vehicle.

Updated: 09/27/2023

Tuesday

12

September 2023

Question: Is It Legal to Repair a John Deere Tractor?

Written by , Posted in Copyright Law

Answer: Yes, it is legal to repair your own John Deere tractor or take it to an independent repair shop. This hasn’t always been the case and we’ve been asked this question many times over the years.

In 2021, President Biden signed an executive order calling for a countrywide policy allowing customers to repair their products, especially in the agriculture sector. Very important. While John Deere has historically restricted independent repairs through their software policies and warranty language, they recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2023 that allows for wider access to tools and information while protecting intellectual property rights and ensuring equipment safety.

In simple words, if you fix your John Deere tractor by replacing a broken module, then telling the tractor’s ECU that this part is now fixed is ok and legal. On the otherhand, programing the ECU to run without the broken module may run afoul of laws. It’s not something most farmers or ranchers need to be worried about, but large aftermarket tractor repair shops should be careful as they don’t want to be sued!

Why it became legal to repair a John Deere Tractor based on our legal understanding:

  • As of 2023, many equipment owners have gained the right to repair their machines due to agreements like the one between the American Farm Bureau Federation and John Deere.
  • The “Right to Repair Act” enacted in some US states, like New York and Massachusetts, has paved the way for equipment owners to choose independent repair services over authorized service facilities.
  • An executive order signed by President Biden in 2021 emphasizes countrywide policy allowing customers to repair their own products in sectors including agriculture, further legitimizing the rights of farmers to repair equipment like John Deere tractors.
  • In 2023, John Deere signed an agreement with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) that acknowledges farmers’ rights to repair their own machinery and grants them access to essential tools, software, and documentation. This partnership is a significant transition in John Deere’s relationship with farmers, allowing for more autonomy in repairing their equipment while also protecting John Deere’s intellectual property rights. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) addresses concerns on both sides and supports farmers during crucial farming seasons where delayed repairs could result in substantial financial losses.

Note: John Deere tractors are generally reliable and don’t need to be repaired too frequently. However there are common problems with their lawn tractors that need some consideration as an owner.

What are the potential consequences of illegally modifying the electronics of a John Deere tractor?

The potential consequences of illegally repairing the electronics of a John Deere tractor can include legal action and financial penalties. John Deere, like many other manufacturers, employs software locks and end-user license agreements to control who can access and repair their equipment. Violating these restrictions could result in copyright infringement claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In recent years, there have been instances where farmers faced lawsuits and fines for modifying or repairing their own tractors, highlighting the legal risks involved.