Welcome to the Business Bites Podcast, the podcast for busy entrepreneurs. Whether you’re an online entrepreneur or seeking after brick-and-mortar success, this podcast brings you quick bites of content so you can learn and grow anywhere you are. Now, here’s your host, Rachel Brenke.
Welcome to this episode of the Business Bites podcast. I am your host, Rachel Brenke. Today, we’re going to talk about some quick steps on how to protect your intellectual property. This can be your images. This can be text on your website. These are the steps that you guys need to do and things you need not to do in order to protect yourself. In any field that you guys are working, whether it’s a product-based, services-based, we’re all marketing, we’re all trying, and we all have create intellectual property that is this intangible, yet tangible, fixed medium that people use to connect with our business, but it’s kind of this intangible idea and this intangible property, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not as important is …
Sometimes, I have business owners pushed back and go, “I’m not concerned if someone takes my image and they’re going to go use it for marketing.” And I’m like, “Why?” And they’ll say, “Well, it’s not like they took product out of my warehouse.” Well, they kind of did. Because if they’re using your image, they’re taking it and they’re using it maybe to market a competitor’s product or they’re just taking something that you take your time, energy, money, and resources that you, by the United States law, have protections. I’m primarily talking here under copyright law. This is things such as texts, logos, images, and so forth.
So, let’s go ahead and kick right off. First of all, I’m going to go over to things not to do. Then, I’ll move into the things to do. Actually, before I do that, let me talk a little bit about the copyright process just real fast. Copyright law in United States, as soon as you create something and publish it, you have the common law copyright protections to that. This is a federal based law. You automatically receive protections. However, by not registering your intellectual property, whatever that may be, text, images, logo, et cetera, you can end up having to have a little harder legal battle.
The options are non-registered or registered. Non-registered is just like merely creating of the intellectual property and publishing it and using it, right? With that, if someone lifts your stuff, uses your image, or lifts your texts off your website, and turns around is using it themselves, if you ever have to claim copyright infringement against them, you only … you have to prove actual damages. Whereas if you are having your intellectual property register with copyright.gov, which is a super easy process, you go on, fill out the application, upload the example of what you’re trying to register. You can potentially receive statutory damages and potentially attorney’s fees should you ever need to press copyright infringement against somebody. So, the process is really easy for the United States. It’s copyright.gov. Please consider whether or not you’re going to register your intellectual property or not.
One of the great things is you can do something called batching where you can take a bunch of blog post, or a bunch of content, or a bunch of images and you can batch it for … It’s like around 50 or 60 bucks. Guys, that’s cheaper than dinner at Outback. Come on. Then, you’re able to have a stronger legal argument and potential for more return of monies.
All right. So, say you guys stumble upon or you’re notified that someone is using your intellectual property. Let’s just say images in this case. Someone has taken an image that you set up and created for your business. These are the things I want you not to do should you discover this happening. Please do not run and go post it in a Facebook group. Do not go asking people what you need to do, what’s the process, or just to vent, okay? You have me. You know where my resources are. You’re listening to this podcast. I’m telling you what to do. There’s another episode as well that you guys can check out in order to get some defense sort of stuff. We’re only talking about registration and kind of the first steps of options here. So, the first step of what not to do is not to run around and post it in a Facebook group.
The second thing is not to run and send a takedown notice without any evidence gathering. Also, don’t send a letter lambasting them, especially without gathering any evidence. What do I mean by that? Screenshotting images, checking out their website, checking out their social media. Follow the trails. Because if it stinks once or there’s a smell, there’s probably more around there. Do not go on social media lambasting them. Do not send people on a witch hunt, okay? All these things. Do not post in Facebook group. Do not send out a quick take down notice without getting evidence. Do not send a letter lambasting them without evidence, and because it may be harder should you need to pursue legal action later. Also, do not post on social media or send a witch hunt after them.
Here are the things that you should do. This is whether images or your intellectual property has been registered or not, okay? Screenshot everything, the exact image or text that has been taken on that platform, say Facebook. Then, I need you to go over and look at their Twitter, their Instagram, their Pinterest, their blog. Follow the trails. People leave breadcrumbs. Thieves are not smart. Obviously they weren’t smart because they were using actual intellectual property that wasn’t theirs, okay? Follow the breadcrumbs and screenshot everything that you can. Dig around and see if there’s anything else. Gather as much evidence as you can.
Next, do a reverse image or a word search, such as like with Google alerts. I always do this when I publish a blog post or a podcast. I’ll take some snippets out of it, and I’ll set up a Google alert so that I automatically get alerts emailed to me on the weekly or daily basis. You can choose through Google what you’re going to do. It automatically is doing this searching for me. So, do a reverse image or a word search to see if there’s anything else being lifted, especially by this individual.
Lastly, of course, please contact an intellectual property lawyer for an initial assessment. This is before you start running to Facebook to have images removed. This is before you start lambasting them. Remember that whole list I gave you of things not to do. Please make sure that you try to preserve your legal argument and get an assessment of what you may be entitled to before you start running around throwing around cease and desist [inaudible 00:14:35], sending DMCA takedown notices or sending witch hunts after people. You want to try to be the one with the clean hands. You are the upstanding citizen of society and you have done the right things to get the right advisement and evaluation.
Now, keep in mind, you don’t have to get an intellectual property lawyer who is local. Copyright law stuff is federal, so you can work with people who not necessarily licensed in your state. They don’t have to be local. For instance, I am licensed in Virginia and Texas, but I can work with people all across the United States and I do. I do it virtually. I sit on my phone or we do Skype and we talk about copyright infringement and intellectual property stuff all day, every day when I’m not recording this podcast for you guys. Just keep that in mind that because it is federally based law and we’re looking at copyright infringement issues that more likely they don’t have to be local. That’s typically only arises when someone is lifting your images and they weren’t necessarily a party to a contract, okay? So for example, say that you have a client that has breached a contract and then it’s doing copyright infringement. You may want to consider having a local attorney, but you don’t have to. You could always check out any attorney that you know that as well versed in intellectual property.
It’s very important that you do guys get this understanding of the copyright process I just outlined for you unregistered, registered images, how the damages work. Remember, again, unregistered intellectual property, you could only receive actual damages. That means you would have to prove that they received profits or made money off said intellectual property use, and that it damaged you in some way. Whereas if you register your intellectual property for very cheap, as I’ve already explained, you can build it into the cost of the product, your service, and your business. You can receive up to statutory damages as well as potential attorney’s fees, because copyright infringement claims can become very expensive, as intellectual property lawyers are not a dime a dozen.
For those of us that are very niche and expert in it, it can be quite costly, which is another reason why I recommend to you guys, again, the things not to do. Don’t go posting in Facebook groups. Don’t post in social media lambasting them. Don’t send a quick takedown, and don’t send witch hunts because … Also, if you ever need to go down the path of legal stuff, you’re making it more difficult, more costly for the … yourself and the attorney, should you ever need to use them. This is why I say screenshot everything, dig around, see what else is out there, do reverse image search for images, do a word search, such as setting up Google alerts, and then obviously contact intellectual property lawyer for initial assessment. Then, they will give you an advisement on whether or not to have the images or the intellectual property removed or taken down.
You sometimes, maybe there’s a privacy issue, needed to go and have maybe an image or some text removed. Those are types of situations that I would advise, yeah, go ahead. Have it taken down, such as submitting through Facebook or even a DMCA to a web host. All of those have options of how you can have intellectual property that’s being infringed upon removed. But, make sure you’ve done all your evidentiary searching and gathering so you have all that information. And again, remember, follow the bread crumbs. Wherever there is one, there’s probably more and there’s a bigger cookie hidden somewhere. So, hope that helps you guys have a little context of what to do if your intellectual property’s taken, as well as how to register for copyright in the United States. Good luck.
Thanks for joining Rachel on this episode of the Business Bites. For show notes, a list of recommended tools, or referenced episodes, you can find at businessbitespodcast.com. Until next time.
*Fill out application
*Do within 90 days of publication
Things NOT to do
*post in a FB group
*send a quick take down without taking evidence
*send a letter lambasting them
*post on social media lambasting them
Things TO do
*Screen shot everything
*Do a reverse image or word search (google alerts)
*Contact an intellectual property lawyer for an initial assessment (doesn’t have to be local)
Rachel Brenke is a lawyer, author and business consultant. She is currently helping professionals all over the world initiate, strategize and implement strategic business and marketing plans through various mediums of consulting resources and legal direction.