What is a Copyright, When is a Formal Copyright Needed, and How to Get One

Copyright CutOut2Artists are incredibly creative and brilliantly innovative people.

They can pull ideas and forms out of the nether world and translate their insights into the material world with expertise through their respective medium and talent.

Their music fills our concert halls, their visual innovations greet us every day on everything from soup cans to ads on the Internet and authors of every genre help us to learn and grow by sculpting words into a content that informs and inspires.

Why would they need copyright protection?

Why do jewelers lock up their diamonds inside their own shop? Obviously, it is because valuable things get stolen.

A copyright is a sort of “locked jewel case” that federal law provides for authors to protect their “intangible jewels” or their legal rights in the original works of art they create. “

What is a Copyright and Why Does it Matter?

The easiest way to conceptualize the intangible rights and interests granted to an author by a copyright of his work is to imagine Continue reading What is a Copyright, When is a Formal Copyright Needed, and How to Get One

What Every Creative & Ad Agency Outsourcing Work to Freelancers Needs to Know About Copyright

Photo Credit: Mojave wins Creative Agency Awards 09 by Mojave Interactive used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Photo Credit: Mojave wins Creative Agency Awards 09 by Mojave Interactive used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Creative agencies are increasingly shrinking the number of in-house or staff creatives and opting to rely on freelancers to perform a multitude of tasks from pitching ideas to sustaining an advertising campaign.

The sluggish economy has stressed many agencies causing those employers to suffer difficulties in covering the cost of maintaining staff employees.

It costs a lot these days to maintain a regular employee on staff (payroll taxes, healthcare, insurance, etc.).

Outsourcing of Freelance Work on the Rise

Some employers hoping to pinch a few nickels have turned to hiring freelancers and specifically designating them workers under agreement or “independent contractors” to function as part-time, intermittent and offsite workers that in truth provide the majority of the agency’s day to day creative needs.

Unfortunately, these employers wrongly conclude that simply claiming an employee is an independent contractor even if he is supplying regular, ongoing and predictable company tasks will relieve an employer of his responsibilities to State and federal taxation authorities.

It will not, and worse, this action could be considered intentional tax fraud.

If they could only see and hear the state and federal agency tax-collecting accountants slowly pursing their lemon-sucking lips into a shape that only slightly resembles a smile. “Penny wise and pound foolish,” they’d sneer in response, “Do these people think we were born yesterday on what? Audit that company.”

Copyright Ownership & Transfer, Employees and Independent Contractors

And if navigating the many potholes and ditches of payroll doesn’t provide enough points of interest for unwary management there is always the very dicey issue of copyright Continue reading What Every Creative & Ad Agency Outsourcing Work to Freelancers Needs to Know About Copyright

Is Copyright the New Black?

Photo Credit: Copyright Symbols by MikeBlogs used under CC BY 2.0
Photo Credit: Copyright Symbols by MikeBlogs used under CC BY 2.0

There’s something special about the color black.

In the fashion world, it’s come to enjoy a sort of legendary status, expressing an authentic mix of poise and practicality that’s completely essential for every wardrobe.

Could it be that copyright, the supposed refuge for creators and authors, has also achieved similar status?

It’s an issue well worth addressing. In today’s technology-driven era of ubiquity and proliferation, our airwaves are ever awash in torrential downpours of information.

The combination of capable hardware and widespread social networking makes it convenient, entertaining and even rewarding to select and share, share, share. Herein, lies the crux of our issue.

Transcending the Copycat Norm

The non-commercial copying and pasting, digitizing and downloading, forwarding and freely sharing considered so normal these days often leaves one key player completely out of the loop: the original creator, not to mention her compensation and credit.

This means creative work is routinely shared illegally, and our culture simply accepts it.

The protection of originality in creation lies at the heart of copyright law – mostly so that artists, writers and other creators can keep Continue reading Is Copyright the New Black?

3 Common Copyright & IP Lawsuits Just Waiting to Happen to You & Your Business

Photo Credit: Large copyright sign made of jigsaw puzzle pieces by Horia Varlan used under CC BY 2.0.
Photo Credit: Large copyright sign made of jigsaw puzzle pieces by Horia Varlan used under CC BY 2.0.

The three most common Intellectual Property (IP) themed lawsuits are likely those that center on independent contractor/employee issues, copyright ownership issues and the hijacking of a unique and moneymaking idea.

The issues that create these types of lawsuits tend to crop up again and again for the simple reason that the law protecting the rights of the players is not always intuitive for most people with the result that costly and inadvertent mistakes can easily be made.

The first important legal mine field to know more about is the one that pits the rights of a creative or freelancer against those of an employer.

Part I. Independent Contractor IP Rights v. Employee

Just for a moment pretend that you created this really innovative business and you hired your neighbor’s kid do the programming work for your website.

Now that your business has really taken off you are wondering if the kid actually Continue reading 3 Common Copyright & IP Lawsuits Just Waiting to Happen to You & Your Business

Do You Make These 5 Common Copyright Mistakes on Your Blog?

Photo Credit: Blogging Research Wordle by Kristina B. used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Photo Credit: Blogging Research Wordle by Kristina B. used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Blogs are well-known for routinely violating common copyright laws.

Not only is it, well, illegal, but it also presents some major branding and reputation issues, as well.

Savvy readers, for one, can identify when a blog is using copyrighted information without permission.

And it doesn’t bode well for your reputation! If you want to be recognized as a true professional in your field, then you need to give credit where credit is due.  Let’s not forget about the ethical factor too, here. Freelancing is a community and we’re all in this together. Do your comrades a favor and give them credit for their hard work. I’m sure you would want them to do the same for you.

That being said, whether blogging is your business, or just a small piece of the bigger puzzle, it’s important that you do it right. Copyright infringement is no joke, so you don’t want to take any chances. You don’t have to be an attorney to understand copyright law and your blog, but it is essential that you do your homework to appreciate the basics. This will keep you out of hot water with the law and protect your quality reputation.

For starters, make sure you’re not making any of these 5 common copyright mistakes in your blog. And if you are, now’s the time to fix them!

Mistake #1 – You ignore the law in the first place!

First of all, most bloggers completely ignore the law altogether. Continue reading Do You Make These 5 Common Copyright Mistakes on Your Blog?

What the Winklevoss Twins Can Teach You About Copyright & Intellectual Property So You Don’t Get Zuckerberged

Photo Credit: Cameron Winklevoss at the 2008 Beijing Olympics by Johnnyroee used under CC BY 3.0
Photo Credit: Cameron Winklevoss at the 2008 Beijing Olympics by Johnnyroee used under CC BY 3.0

Do you remember the movie “Social Network” that came out in 2010?

The movie’s main story line revolved around a toxic business relationship and intellectual property dispute that arose between Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, known to the world as the Winklevoss twins, and the future owner of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.

The Winklevoss twins were students at Harvard and had hired Zuckerberg as an employee to work on the software of their social network business model and brand “UConnect.”

The twins would later claim that Zuckerberg stole their business model “idea” when he formed his own social network site “Facebook.” The twins sued Zuckerberg in federal court netting them millions of dollars in damages.

Ideas Are Not Copyrightable

Everybody knows that ideas are not copyrightable.

Does that mean then that whenever you have a brilliant and innovative idea for a business, a novel, a car design or have any other flash of true genius in the form of a concept or design that there is no law in place that can work to protect the intellectual property rights in your “idea”?

Is there no way to stop your “idea” from being stolen out from under you by trusted employees or other double dealing interests in situations similar to that of Mark Zuckerberg and those innocent and trusting Winklevoss twins?

The answer is Continue reading What the Winklevoss Twins Can Teach You About Copyright & Intellectual Property So You Don’t Get Zuckerberged