Copyright and Intellectual Property – What you Need to Know
This is a 3 part series on copyright and intellectual property that looks at what copyright and intellectual property are, your rights as a content creator, how to protect your work, and what to do when someone steals your work.
Unfortunately this is a huge problem for all content creators, it has also happened to me, and I hope you find information here to help you protect your creative work and stop IP thieves.
If you are a content creator, blogger, podcaster, author, or share any original content on the internet, this is a series you will want to listen to and share with your friends. Listen to the podcast below, the rest of this article is below the podcast player.
At a business conference where I spoke about content production and copyright issues, someone told me she had just been to a paid weekend workshop by a ‘business coach’ and was shocked to see that the slides she was using were exact copies of another coach’s work – all she had done was removed the other coach’s name from the presentation.
I know of several gifted content creators who have quit writing and sharing their messages with the world after blatant theft of their work by numerous people.
Is this simply flattering imitation or is it something more sinister, theft of intellectual property and even plagiarism?
Should we dismiss it as an accidental misuse of information or reveal the perpetrators and insist on protecting our work?
One business coach famously says ‘No one can steal your energy so don’t worry if they steal your work.’ That is the worst advice I have ever heard and this person obviously knows nothing about copyright or intellectual property. She is also someone who regularly helps herself to others work, including mine. I’ll go into that in part 3 of this series.
In fact, some people think the internet is a ‘content buffet’ from which they can help themselves to whenever they want. They believe that whatever piques their interest, amuses, or inspires them is freely available for them to use and make money from.
They are wrong and that is illegal but it doesn’t seem to stop them. I know, as I have spoken to people about this and I am the victim of it too. It is frustrating and annoying and surprisingly, is done by people who should know better and from whom a better standard of performance should be expected. I am talking about people who describe themselves as authors, leaders in their field, business coaches and trainers, and self described experts.
Not only does usurping another’s work show an amazing lack of creativity, it is unethical, illegal, and the worst form of theft, stealing others’ ideas for their own benefit or profit, without attribution, credit, or payment to the original author or creator.
Let’s be clear, it is illegal to take any part of someone else’s work, without their authorization, and use it in any part of your own work, in a business, program, course, presentation, or workshop. But while it is known to be illegal, many do it anyway.
What is copyright? It is the ‘right to copy’ an original work, reserved for the author of that work. Original works can be officially registered with the copyright office and an original author also has a recognized copyright of any work that they publish, as of the date of publication or sharing with the public, even if they do not register it.
When copyright was first established the internet didn’t exist so stealing others’ work mean included it in print work, which was the only medium that existed at the time. This made it much harder to track and find and while it was occasionally done, it was expensive and time consuming to do.
But the internet has changed all of that. Now it’s possible to simply copy content from a page, put it on another page, write your name on it and it’s a permanent part of your blog and of internet history.
You can conduct internet searches for specific phrases or sections of your work if it is written content. You can also search for images and audio/visual content too although it gets a little more complicated. And if you have an audience, like me, that is very familiar with your work, they will often alert you when they see your work being used by others.
In part 2 I’ll discuss how you can identify copyright infringement and what your options are. And in part 3 I’ll go through a real life example of copyright infringement as it happened to me.