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Copyright That Content! Often, we think about copyright only in relation to works of art, like books or photographs. That’s a shame, because copyright protects the right to use or distribute so many other kinds of creative works, including computer programs, certain architectural creations, and –get this—the pantomime. It also protects all of your marketing content. I’ve read a lot of articles that talk about the importance of content marketing. I wish I saw just as many articles about the importance of protecting a company’s investment in that content. I mean, creating content for online forums is exactly that: a creative endeavor. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be able to wake up to a new article about “Dazzling Storytelling in Marketing” every day! But it’s more than that. When you and your employees come up with blog posts, website articles, or infographics on behalf of your company, you’re establishing your company’s voice and identity. If you’d rather read it in business terms, content marketing builds your brand’s equity. So why don’t more of us register our copyrights and protect that investment that we’re making? I have some guesses: 1) We think a trademark is all we need. I understand the thinking behind this one. Most of us associate a brand with either a catchy slogan or a design like the Nike swoosh. To keep other people or companies from using your slogan or symbol without your permission, you’re right: a trademark is absolutely what you need. But your brand is so much more than that. It’s the expertise and authority you’ve established with all of those insanely well-researched white papers. It’s the voice you and your employees use in all of your online communications. And to make sure that voice and that information together are associated only with your company, you need copyright protection. 2) We assume that we get the full benefits of copyright at the time of creation. I understand this one, too, mostly because of what the United States Copyright Office says on the matter: “Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is ‘created’ when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.” Good old phonorecords! However, even if a work is given copyright just by the virtue of existing, there are benefits of registering your work with the Copyright Office that, as a business owner, I find hard to ignore: If a work is created, it has to be registered before a lawsuit alleging infringement can be filed. If you want to take legal action against that company that reposted all of your website text without giving your company credit, it’s a necessary step.
Again, according to the Copyright Office, if you’ve registered your work either prior to any copyright infringement or within three months of publishing it, you can get statutory damages in later infringement suits (in addition to being awarded actual damages and profits). This means that you don’t have to show that the use of your material hurt you monetarily; you just have to show that it happened. For creators who believe in their work, the comfort this provides can’t be measured.
Of course, we business people don’t always approach these matters in the same way as our creatives. 3) We’re not used to thinking about text on websites as material that gets copyrighted. Is it because everything on the Internet always changes so quickly? Because it’s not tied to a physical form, like a CD or a page in a magazine? Because a lot of our social media marketing is done in fewer than 140 characters? Online marketing is still creative work, and while your tweets probably wouldn’t be a wise investment of your copyrighting dollar, your longer works—infographics, white papers, blog posts—most certainly are. In fact, it’s because everything on the Internet changes (and spreads!) so quickly that registering your copyright becomes more important. Our ability to share information as widely as we do opens the door to so many more unauthorized uses of the material you used to establish your brand. I might be a businessman, but there’s a metaphor I keep in mind to remind myself why registering copyright is a good idea: When you create content for your brand, you’re investing money into an account that you hope will bring you great returns later. When you don’t copyright your content, you’re leaving access to that account open to just about anyone. So protect your investment. Protect your copyrighted material. And enjoy all of your returns!
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