We’ve all heard stories about stolen content. One person had an image stolen. Another had a valuable brand name copied. And we’ve all heard of the business owner who had entire website or course copied and reposted on another person’s website. It’s enough to put you on high alert and ready to protect yourself from copycats! So let’s look at some ways to protect our valuable content.

1. Use Terms of Use

Terms of Use (also known as terms and conditions) outline what visitors can and cannot do on your website. For example:

  • No, they cannot steal, copy or reproduce your content;
  • No, they cannot infringe on your copyright rights; and
  • All of the content and related intellectual property on the website belongs to you.

Website terms put copycats and trolls on notice. This is why large brands and companies have terms and conditions. You have to control all the traffic that is coming to your website to protect yourself. Tell visitors exactly how to treat your site. Your Terms of Use keeps your website from appearing vulnerable to content theft.

So be sure to link your website terms in the footer of your site. Let others know that you’re aware of your rights and you will enforce them.

2. Copyright Registration

Did you know that you can submit images, blog posts and other content in bulk for copyright registration? A copyright protects original works of authorship. Technically a copyright is established the moment you create your content. But you cannot sue for infringement unless it has been registered with the US Copyright Office. For a small fee, you can register several items at a time. Some prefer to do this quarterly.

You should also use copyright symbols where possible. It should appear in the footer of every page of your website next to the current year. For example, ©2021 Copyright Owner Name. 

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3. Trademark Protection

Imagine finding your coveted brand name, logo or catch phrase on a stranger’s sales page, Instagram or website. You would be furious, right? There would be metaphorical steam coming from your ears. That name that fits your brand perfectly and took you forever to come up with could be used by a copycat selling something similar. So let’s not let that happen.

Use trademark protection! It sounds so simple but many business owners delay this step because they are unfamiliar with the process or afraid of the time and expense. And true, trademark protection is expensive and time consuming. But if this is a name that you are committed to and you would be devastated to find someone else profiting from a brand you built, then you’re ready for trademark protection.

And what is a trademark? It’s a name, symbol or design that is associated specifically with your brand’s product or services that is distinguished from another. So for example, it’s your name, logo or catchphrase that sells your specific products or services and is registered with the USPTO as being distinctly yours. Hooray! How’s that for legal protection.

4. License Terms

If you create one of kind work that you allow others to use or incorporate into their work, you should have license terms. So what are license terms and how do they differ from say, website terms?

Website terms consist of a Terms of Use and a Privacy Policy. The Terms of Use governs how your website is used by visitors. And Your GDPR Privacy Policy outlines how you keep your visitor’s information private after they visit your site. Both are vital documents for ALL business owners with websites.

License Terms on the other hand are specific to what you sell, like images, templates, illustrations, etc. If you want to offer your work to customers but want to control *how* it is used AND maintain ownership, this is where license terms come in.

What is a license? Think of it as permission to use something in a certain way.

For instance:

You can use my image but only digitally such as in your social media posts or Facebook ads. But you cannot use this image to print 5,000 coffee mugs.

Same goes for templates. Many business owners offer all kinds of digital templates (calendars, planners, presets, etc.) for use by their consumers but without protections to keep them from being copied or ripped off.

Don’t just give your work away.

As a creator, you may have different choices depending on what you’re licensing. With my license terms template, you have the freedom to decide what to license, how many reproductions are allowable and whether to restrict your customers use to personal only.

What’s the difference between personal use and commercial use?

Personal Use Example: Customer uses your design in their wedding invitation.

Commercial Use Example: Customer uses your design as part of wedding invitations they sell on their business website.

The choice is yours and my license terms template makes it simple of course. If you’re tired of selling your hard work without any protection at all (gasp!) get these terms on your website stat. License terms can be linked in your website footer, product page and/or checkout.

5. Non-Disclosure Agreement

We want to trust most people. It’s seems like the right thing to do. Surely this person who markets themselves so well and to so many wouldn’t steal from me.

And my friend from way back would never join forces with me just to copy my content and sell it as her own.

If I share my new project with a few work acquaintances in my industry for feedback, that’s OK, right?

Yet, I’ve seen each of these situations end in theft, fury and sometimes lawsuits. I mean if I had a nickel for each time…. Let’s just say as a business attorney you see this stuff all the time.

And all you can say to the scorned client is, we’ll try to fix this but this is why you need an NDA.

What’s an NDA? It’s short for non-disclosure agreement. You have someone sign an NDA stating that they will keep the confidential information you share with them private.

It’s the silence keeper of your business. Protector of your business secrets. You can’t operate your business in a vacuum without outside influence.

We’re not going to do that. BUT, when you do share your secret sauce or the parts of your business that make it tick, make sure you’re covering yourself.

It’s a competitive world out here and people even those you do not suspect will take your stuff! So what’s a business owner to do? Don’t freak out. No need for paranoia. Just have legal protection. This way you can operate with ease.

Do you do discovery calls or counsel clients with valuable, proprietary info? Have them sign an NDA.

Hiring an independent contractor to get all up in your business? Not so fast, not without an NDA attached. You get the idea.

Want more information on protecting your entire business legally? Get Legally Good Club! LGC has the contract templates (NDAs, Copyright disclaimers, client agreements, LLC operating agreements, etc), website terms and step-by-step videos that guide you on protecting your business. This includes detailed steps in content protection. Learn more about Legally Good Club by watching my latest Legal Masterclass today.

Want more legal tips? Of course you do! Sign up below and get my Business Legal Checklist to learn 10 things you can start doing today to secure your business legally!

This blog posting is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not provided for specific, individual legal advice.

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