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Is Your Intellectual Property Protected?

Susan Dunn -- Whatever your creative media, you should always take steps to understand and protect what is rightfully yours.

The Noodle-Head

The other day I had quite a shock. A student who was taking one of my Internet courses e-mailed me to tell me that it was so beneficial "I emailed copies to all my friends and family." Thereby circumventing my $29.99 per course, and violating my copyright.

Yikes!

The Knave

I also market coaches. I design Web sites, including search engine optimization. In doing some work for a client, I discovered suddenly someone had overtaken them on the search engine. When I checked, it turned out they had completely copied the source codes I'd done, keywords and all. Not one word was changed.

Double yikes!

The Nerve

Another client was checking out the competition on the Web one day -- he cuts plastics -- and found someone had copied his entire entry page, just changing the logo and company name where needed. Same photos, same placement, same ad copy, same menu buttons ...

Busted!

Time to check with your attorney about your intellectual property rights?

Check with your attorney, because it's confusing. Even being a certified paralegal, I find intellectual property law daunting.

According to the Cornell Law School Web site, www.law.cornell.edu, "under current law, works are covered whether or not a copyright is attached and whether or not the work is registered." (This means registered with the US Copyright Office.)

HOWEVER, the American Intellectual Property Lawyers Association [AIPLA] says the "registration mark is not required for existence of copyright; however, it is a prerequisite to a lawsuit for copyright infringement and to certain legal remedies." [Source: AIPLA, www.aipla.org.] They recommend you have a specialist draft the document.

Does that mean you should get one? Is a © of any use if it doesn't allow you "remedies"? I refer clients to an attorney. To get an official copyright, you can apply directly to the US Copyright office at www.copyright.gov/register.

Here is another resource, www.lawgirl.com, that explains the process.

Here are a few of the things they list as being copyright-able:

Literary Works

-- Fiction and nonfiction
-- Manuscripts
-- Compilation of data
-- Automated databases
-- Dissertations, theses, reports, speeches
-- Bound of looseleaf volumes
-- Published or unpublished
-- Pamphlets, brochures
-- Online works

Apparently also included are Web site HTML code, source codes and Web site screen displays.

Registration becomes effective on the day they receive your application, and the official Certificate of Registration will come 4-5 months later (hold your tongue!)

There are also commercial sites you can register through. Here are two -- www.joukkoliikennekeskustelu.net, and www.godaddy.com.

Do you know the difference between a copyright and a trademark? You'll find a good review here from the AILPA.

Also on their Web site you'll find some educational materials, such as "How to Protect and Benefit from Your Ideas".

Apparently you will also receive something to place on your Web site more imposing than a ©.

Check with your attorney for legal advice, please.

Susan Dunn, MA, Clinical Psychology, is a certified Emotional Intelligence Coach, The EQ Coach(tm). She trains and certifies EQ Coaches, therapists and managers in EQ areas of relationships, career, resilience, transitions, personal and professional development. Susan is the author of numerous ebooks, including How to Live Your Life with Emotional Intelligence, Depression, and How to Develop Your Child's EQ.; she is widely published on the Internet, a syndicated columnist for WebProNews and Family-Content, and a regular speaker for cruise lines. (See "How to Get to Present on a Cruise" at her site) She offers home study programs through her distance learning school. For marketing services and more information, visit her site at: http://www.susandunn.cc.

© 2004 Susan Dunn

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