Disclaimer: I am not an IP lawyer/ professional, I merely studied the practical side of Intellectual Property during my Legal Practice Course (LPC).
So you’ve taken the leap and actually started creating and sharing your content (Congratulations!). And because we’re all about being very intentional with the content we produce and share, it’s important to protect your OWN work and mitigate against intellectual property theft (because that’s how serious we are about our art on this side!).
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is the product of human effort, intellect and endeavour. Such property are usually intangible and the knowledge of such rights gives the producer the legal right to stop others using the owner’s property without permission and a monopoly right to exploit that property commercially (in some cases).
Your IP Rights as a Creator.
As a Creator, your IP rights includes (but are not limited to):
Copyright: Jegede and Idiaru define copyright as ‘the exclusive right granted to the originator of a creative work to reproduce the work for a limited period’. Essentially, copyright grants exclusive protection of the original work to the creator and those the creator has authorised to use the work. Global copyright laws seek to protect all round creatives, and not just writers.
Passing off: When someone intentionally or negligently creates something that is so identical to the work you’ve created, passing off occurs and is a tortious liability. T&A Legal describes passing off as ‘an unfair competition by misrepresentation or causing confusion or deception’. For creatives, passing off may occur when for instance, another brand or page takes off pictures from your page (e.g skin care reviews, hair, make up, short pieces, graphics etc) and promote them on their own pages as THEIR OWN creations, without making reference to you as the originator.
Trademark: Trademark often protects any sign, letter, name, logo, design or mark associated with your brand or product.
Design rights (Unregistered Design Rights): for graphic designers (and essentially any time you create graphics for your social media platforms) It is debatable whether you own the IP for the graphics seeing as many creators use apps as a base for designs (for instance Canva)- but the written definitely content falls under copyright.
Protecting your IP.
So as a creative, your first question after knowing you have IP rights over your work is: how can I protect these rights, and what practical ‘non-procedural’ steps can I take to achieve this aim?
1. Always have a first/rough draft of your creation which is easily accessible (for articles, creative writing, short stories etc). This allows you to easily have a defence, whenever another person is claiming copyright infringement or passing off over the works you’ve created.
2. Watermark your work (e.g for IG posts, include your @/ anywhere on the post)
3. Trademark your brand name when possible (because if someone else goes to trademark it for their own brand, you lose it- first to trademark owns it). If you’re a big business or you have the potential to be much bigger, it’s always advisable to trademark your brand name (or better still, take the leap and register your business name and incorporate your company!).
4. Reference whenever you have gotten an idea/inspiration from another person (infringement protections).
5. Have a general idea or knowledge of the copyright laws and commissions available to you wherever you are! Having this knowledge enables you identify situations where there has been an infringement on your right and what steps you need to take to protect against the infringer and against further and future infringements.