Your website is a hub of your creative work and intellectual property. As a creative and expert in your field you’ve taken the painstaking time of crafting expert advice on your website. You’ve curated content that aligns with your brand, hired graphic designers to create brand-specific graphics for your website, visual content for your blog posts, and your brand logo.
Along with all of that creation, you may have also written e-books, guides, white papers and made stunning video content, original photography or artwork for your audience. Hours and hours of strategy and creativity poured into making your website a leader in your industry.
Now imagine someone coming along and stealing all of your hard work by repacking your content as their own. Using your original artwork or graphics on merchandise like mugs, t-shirts or any other paraphernalia. You see your original photographs on someone else’s website without your express permission and they’ve failed to leave credit for the work. Your natural response is to be angry. But how do you go about protecting your creations and intellectual property?
This article will answer that question by outlining the tenets established by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in the UK. We will discuss various ways you can protect your content, your brand as well as highlight the need for Trademarks. You have legal rights to your creations and no one can use your work without your express permission or without giving credit.
As a business owner, it is your business to ensure that you secure the integrity and authenticity of your brand.
Let’s talk about the ways in which you can do just that.
Table of Contents
Knowing Your Rights and Limitations
When it comes to your work and anything you create and publish online, copyright, rights, and licenses all belong to you. Your work is your intellectual property, and what’s more, is that under the UK law copyright is automatically applied at the time of its creation.
This includes a myriad of mediums but are not limited to, blog posts, written materials including white papers and e-books etc., visual content like photographs, original artwork, and commissioned graphics, audio, music and the list is endless.
It is well to note that these rights may not apply or be limited to work created or built on existing creative materials used from Creative Commons or Fair Use, for example, more on that later.
Work created by you belongs to you. There are measures you can take to ensure that your intellectual property is protected under the law.
Licensing Your Work
If your business is concerned with creating original artwork, photography, visual media, or any original creative work you can seek to acquire licenses for the work. This enables you to license aspects of the work or the totality to other users, entities or creatives. You expressively stipulate the use of your work.
For example, if you’re a graphic artist and you created a stunning piece that you licensed for a recording artist to use as their album cover art and related materials to that specific album, you can stipulate that the recording artist is unable to use that graphic art for any other merchandising like t-shirts etc. this is because it wasn’t expressly included in the license agreement.
Tailor Licenses for your creative work:
You may have seen this if you’ve ever downloaded stock images for your blog posts. Some sites offer stock images under a free license, and while others may require a small fee. Most of these images have a license that specifies online use only, however, if you wanted to use the image for merchandise you would probably be required to purchase a higher license for use.
Entities can also get partial Rights:
For example in the Publishing Industry, an author can sign over the domestic rights to their book to a Publisher within their own country. However, the author can then retain the rights to publish their book internationally in other countries. With book publishing, there are audio book rights and screenplay rights that can also be sold or retained by the author.
The rule of thumb with licensing:
Content that you create is your intellectual property as we’ve established, so, whenever you decide to allow the use of that content by another entity ensure that your legal team reviews the contract carefully so that the rights you are selling are the ones you want to part with.
When purchasing licenses of content created by others that you wish to use apply the same principal. Review the license with a fine tooth comb. Ensure that your legal team has a crack at it as well.
Automatic Rights to Intellectual Property
The moment you create and publish a work under UK Law it is automatically protected by Copyright. This umbrella of protection includes literary works, books, art, photography, films, television, web content, music, sound recordings and more.
There is no need to make a formal application or pay any fees to copyright your work. Copyright protects your work from theft and unauthorised use. With the exception of fair use.
As stated by the IPO, to copyright your work simply mark it with the well-recognised copyright symbol [©], along with your full name, and the year of the work was created.
A point of note, even if you do not mark your work with the © symbol it is still protected under Copyright Law by automatic right. Your work is also subject to protection under various International Copyright Agreements like the Berne Convention which has protected the works and rights of authors since 1886.
How long does copyright last in the UK?
Under UK law copyright protection for published works can extend up to 70 years after the author’s death. However, the period of copyright differs depending on the type of work and whether it was published or unpublished. After the copyright expires, the work is automatically placed in the public domain.
Intellectual Property Rights you have to apply for:
The ultimate protection of a business’ brand is through trademark. You can add a trademark to the name of your business, a product name, word, phrase, symbol, logos, slogan, brand names etc.
A company usually obtains a registered trademark to ensure that no part of their branding can be used by another company or entity. Within the UK the IPO ensures that by registering and securing a trademark you’ll have the rights to carry out the following:
- Pursue legal action against any entity or person that uses your trademark without your express permission. This includes counterfeiters.
- Use the ® symbol next to your brand specific trademark to show ownership of the trademark.
- Full authorisation to sell and license your trademark to other entities.
Note: The UK trademark registration process takes up to four months, providing no other entity objects. Any registered trademark lasts ten years, safeguarding your trademark in the UK. There are different procedures for registering EU and international trademarks which the IPO outlines here.
UK patents help to safeguard your invention; giving you the legal right to pursue legal action against any person or entity that makes, uses, sells or imports it without prior permission from you.
The IPO has the following framework in place for successful patent applications:
- It must be something that can be made or used in any kind of industry.
- The idea must be a completely new.
- It must be innovative; not a simple modification of something that already exists or existed.
Note: It can take five years maximum for the approval of a patent application. Once granted, the IPO states you can then commercially benefit from the invention by licensing, selling or mortgaging your patent to third parties.
Protecting Your Work
When it comes to protecting your work online your automatic Copyright ensures you cover everything on your website or blog. But to be certain, include something along the lines of: “All content on this website/blog is copyright © 2019 by your name. All rights reserved”. This helps to prevent casual unauthorised use of your content by blatantly discouraging users.
For added security, it is best to discuss internet security measures with your hosting provider to protect your work from hackers and cybercriminals. While intellectual thieves are bothersome enough, cybercriminals are always crawling vulnerable sites look for an easy take-down.
To protect and secure your work against these criminals be sure to enable all of the following:
- Use SSL Certificates to secure your server connection online, protect your users and your website. Be sure to check for errors and fix them quickly.
- Ensure that you have a solid back-up plan in case a security breach happens. A backup enables you to restore your website to its last healthy state while you fix the breach.
- Equip yourself with knowledge on hacker attacks and tactics. A useful article on DDOS Attacks and how to fix them is a great place to start.