Russ Riddle titles himself ‘Anomaly at Law’ and he proved that moniker correct at the February NSA Virginia program. Only an anomaly could transform an intellectual property presentation (yawn) into an engaging, entertaining and interactive program full of “aha” moments.
Just to set a baseline, try testing your knowledge on this very basic true/false test:
|You can use the © symbol with your writings only after you’ve registered the material with the US copyright office.|
|It is expensive to register copyrights.|
|You can use the ® symbol once you have applied to the USPTO to register a trademark.|
|You use a personal photo in a blog post. In the background, by chance and not germane to your topic, is a movie poster. This is considered fair use.|
Are you confident in your answers to all four of these? I wasn’t, and I’ve been in business for a long time. All four are FALSE.
- A copyright exists as soon as your post is fixed in a tangible medium (saved).
- Registering a copyright costs about $35 (and can be done online).
- The ® symbol can ONLY be used after a trademark is approved by the USPTO and issued a Certificate of Registration.
- The poster is a recognizable commercial image used without permission or payment (you might be able to defend fair use, but it would be difficult and expensive).
Copyrights, trademarks and fair use rules are critical to our success. By the way, I’ve violated a trademark right here in this posting. Can you find it?
Russ has trademarked anomaly at law®. Using the phrase in quotes, as I did above, is inadequate to indicate a trademark. In this case, I had Russ’ permission to do so, as long as I pointed it out and fixed it on the same page.
Whether new to the business or established long term, we need to up our game on what we write, our brand value and potential to enhance value. Russ provided amazingly valuable – and practical – advice and guidelines for us. I think I can safely say that each attendee came away with at least a few key actions for their business and, in some cases, instilled a bit of fear about where we might be vulnerable based on past actions or image use.
So, here’s the basic thought shift:
|Not income-creating; not a priority||Creates lasting value|
|Expensive, timewaster, deal with it only when forced to||Saves money, time and hassle|
I’ll close with a cautionary tale related to my own business. About six months ago I received a demand letter from Getty Images relative to an image that was on my website. It had been there for a while, was not prominent and had been used nowhere else. It was in no way related to my brand or any program title. It had been supplied to me by a web designer as part of the web design package. The ‘web designer supplied it’ was no defense. The fact that I didn’t know that it was rights protected was no defense. The fact that they took a long time to find me was no defense. The fact that I took down the image on the day that I got the first letter was no defense. I had to pay. With Russ’ advice and help, we did get the damages reduced significantly but I was, by IP law, liable. (BTW, I now either buy image rights or use pixabay.com for truly rights free images.)