When it comes to protecting our cars, homes, and personal property we’re all experts to some extent. We lock our doors, windows, cars, and gates at night, have insurance in case something goes wrong, and the police will lock the thieves up if they’re caught. On the other hand, when it comes to the things that we create and sell it’s not so easy. In the past, if you made a record it was almost impossible to copy, then came tape recorders. CDs were harder to copy, but now there are CD recorders too. Now, with the digital age, almost anything can be copied for almost zero cost and then resold to make a profit. Things that we create come in all shapes and sizes as do the ways that we have to protect them from being stolen and resold.
Intellectual Property Comes In Several Basic Forms
Most people don’t realize how much intellectual property there is all around them that they use each and every day, legally, of course. It involves nearly anything that a person creates in their mind like designs, music, movies, works of art, inventions, ideas, and even choreographic works as well.
When a person creates a property that they wish to protect from being stolen, used inappropriately, or used without compensation, they’ll copyright it. It can include things that they never published or that were published and sold. The copyrights will last for a definite period and then the original works are free for all to use. Many copyrights last until 70 years after the death of the author.
Other things that are not works of art or literacy need to be patented. These are usually processes, machines, biological discoveries, manufacturing designs and other things that are typically made from real matter like they can be touched, but not always. And then there are trade secrets and trademarks which are things that give a business an advantage in the marketplace or used in marketing. The Coca-Cola symbol is a trademark, and if you try and copy it, they’ll take you to court.
For Most Small Entrepreneurs Self-Protection Is All They Have
For many millions of creators that sell intellectual property online the only way they can protect their products is by being proactive online and shutting down the thieves. They have to keep tabs on who is trying to resell their products for cash or share them online for free and then take measures to block them. This can be a tedious endeavor and impossible to do at times, here are some tips on that.
The first thing you can do is try to copy protect all of your creations. So if you write an ebook then make sure that the PDF file that it comes in has copy protection installed. This will keep a huge number of small time thieves from freely sharing your work online and with friends. If your product is in certain niches, that’s probably all you have to do. If you sell on the computer, the internet, or online niche, you’ll have to do much more, however.
Then, you should set up a Google Alert with the name of your product and immediate email notification. Then if someone tries to copy and sell or share your product, Google will send you a notification immediately to your email. At that time, you’ll have to file a DCMA action to get Google to de-list the offending post, and if the file is shared online another DCMA complaint to the file sharing sites to get them to delete the files. This can be an ongoing process involving up to an hour per day of your time, but it could be well worth it depending on the value of your intellectual property. There are also companies that will do the work for you, they charge for their services, but that may well be worth it too.
If you’re selling software, the best way to stop the thieves is to have a good password system in place so that only buyers can open and use it. Another, more recent, development is to make the software cloud based which keeps any software hackers and crackers from stealing your software and unblocking the password protection.
Unfortunately, Many Countries Ignore Intellectual Property Law Violations
While many countries have signed the World Intellectual Property Organization Convention, many of them do not enforce the laws at all. In most third world countries you can buy copied CDs, DVDs, artificial brand name goods, and almost any other item you want from sidewalk vendors or business to business peddlers. The police won’t waste their time arresting the sellers or their distributors because the District Attorneys won’t prosecute them.
Some countries are well-known copyright infringers and even sell their goods online and ship overseas, but since they are so big, they’re impossible to stop. Most of the countries in Asia fit this description, and there isn’t much that can be done about it.
There Are Intellectual Property Lawyers For Important Causes
Many companies will keep an Intellectual Property Lawyer on retainer for fighting those that steal their works without paying for them. Industries such as the movie and music distributors are well known for going after people that copy and share their works, and they have been successful in deterring future thieves from starting. There have been some well-publicized cases where even teenagers were taken to court and prosecuted for music theft or movie theft and ended up owing many millions of dollars in fines. These cases do deter many of the small time thieves, and their parents, so they do serve a purpose and are effective.
The other times that lawyers have made their mark is when patents, inventions, trademarks and corporate secrets are stolen, so it’s well worth retaining an attorney in those instances where the value of the property is worth the cost of the legal action.
If you are an intellectual property creator, you have to decide whether your time is better spent creating more content or defending the content already created. In some industries, it’s easy to decide while others, not. If you’re in doubt, you can make an appointment with a lawyer that specializes in defending copyrights and intellectual property to get a better idea of what you’re up against and weigh that against the costs of taking legal action.