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Legally Protectable Parts of a Blog

woman writing down the legally protectable parts of a blog

Curious about the legally protectable parts of a blog? Read on to learn a little more about copyright protection for a blog and trademarks for bloggers.

Blog Name

This is kind of an easy one, right? It is the name by which all of your readers recognize your work, your blog, and a name. Of course, the name is a protectable part of the blog because it is a signifier. And the thing that signifies a brand to your readers — the blog name — is protectable under trademark law.

Infographics

Next, infographics. Of course, that can be anything from an explanation of a process to a cool way that you’ve set out the ingredients that go into a recipe. And infographics are graphic designs, which are artwork, which are protectable, under copyright law.

Blog Posts

The actual blog post. So what is a blog post? It is text, it is maybe video or audio visual materials, maybe some kind of free download, and maybe graphic designs, and maybe all of those things. And each and every one of those things, is a creative work and creative content that is protectable under copyright law.

Videos

A video or a vlog. Well, that’s easy, it’s like a motion picture, right? And that motion picture or audio visual work is certainly a traditional creative work protectable under copyright law.

Hashtags (not really a protectable part of a blog, but quasi-protectable)

Hashtags are tricky. Sometimes, brands will use their own trademark, their own brand name, as a hash tag among other hash tags. When it’s used in that way, that trademark of course, is a trademark whether or not it’s a hash tag. It’s being used as a hashtag, but it is a trademark. Now other hashtags are moreso descriptors or descriptions — whether you are using DIY blogger, or #lifestyleblogger, or #lifestylebloggerlife, or any of those — those are hashtags you’re using to get people to find you. And because they are not really trademarks… they aren’t really copyright either. They’re not really anything, they are descriptors or descriptions used so that you can grow your audience, right?

Printables

Who doesn’t love a good printable? A printable is most likely a download and most likely in PDF or JPEG form. And so those are actually protectable under copyright law.

Photos

Same thing with photos, whether they’re downloadable or not, of course, photos are a huge part of blog posts, and photographs are certainly protectable under copyright law.

Recipes…kind of.

Finally, recipes. And this is a tricky one. So recipes, “mere listings of ingredients,” are actually called out as not protectable under copyright law. Now how to get around this as a blogger. Well, it’s very rare that you will see a blog post with just a list of ingredients without any kind of prose or at least instructions on how to make whatever the recipe is. And instructions by themselves too are kind of tricky when it comes to copyright law. But the more creative you can be with those instructions, the more storytelling you add to it, the more photos you add to the recipe, then it starts to become a more creative, copyright-protectable work. So recipes, kind of copyright territory depending on if you have the right elements in that post.

I hope this helps you to better understand what’s protectable in your blog, and whether it falls under copyright territory or trademark territory.

Disclosure Rules on Social Media

social media disclosure rules

In this quick read, you’re going to learn when to post a disclosure along with your social media post. (Hint: disclosures aren’t just for traditional sponsored posts.) You’ll also learn what makes for a good disclosure.

When do I need to follow disclosure rules on social media?

So, the very quick, very short answer to “When do I need to post a disclosure,” is whenever there is a “material connection” between you and the brand.

The question of course, is, what does “material connection” mean? A material connection is any connection between you and the brand that goes beyond just “I found this and I like it” or “I came across this brand and wanted to share it with you.”

The rules aren’t just for traditional “sponsored” posts.

Disclosure rules on social media aren’t just for sponsored posts. A “material connection” includes:

  • Receiving free products (or even discounted products),
  • Receiving a special invitation to an event
  • An employment relationship with a brand,
  • A family or friendship relationship with a brand, and
  • Some kind of stock ownership in a brand.

Basically, disclosure rules on social media come into play with any relationship that goes beyond what any of us consumers would have with a brand.

What’s in a good disclosure?

Well, a good disclosure is clear, and it is conspicuous. It is not ambiguous. A statement like “Thank you, [brand]!” is not really clear, and it’s a little ambiguous. It does not show that there’s some kind of material connection between the poster and the brand. Same thing with #partner. That kind of, might suggest that there’s something going on. But especially when you’re relying on hashtags, you want to make sure that those hashtags are very clear.

Does the user have to tap the “More” to see your disclosure? A lot of times people don’t tap more to see more. Even on visual media like instagram stories and Snapchat, you want to make sure that those disclosures are conspicuous.

So I hope you walk away today with a good explanation of what a material connection is, what a good disclosure has, and when to follow those disclosure rules on social media.

How Apple’s New Privacy Rules are a Good Thing for Influencers

I was probably unreasonably geeked when I saw that Apple’s new privacy rules that are rolling out in the fall of 2020. In this short post, you’re going to have an understanding of what Apple’s new privacy practices are, how they will affect the online space and why it’s a good thing for content creators.

Apple’s New Privacy Rules: The Features

When an app wants to track or collect data on a user, an Apple device will prompt the user. You’re actually already familiar with this. It’s just like the prompt you receive if an app wants to access your photos or access your microphone. But now, thanks to Apple’s new privacy rules, that prompt will say “Do you permit [app] to use your location data?” (For example.)

Also, an app will have to say which data they have on you that is linked to you. For example, financial information, contacts, browsing history, location purchases, and identifiers.

Probably the coolest part of this update is what Apple’s User Privacy Manager calls a “nutrition label for apps.” After the update, when you log into the app store, you will see that each app will have a nutrition label of sorts that shows what data they collect from users of the app, and what they do with it. That will be that data that’s linked to you and data that’s used to track you. The privacy updates will also apply if you’re a safari user. You will see a privacy report on that bar of Safari. You’ll be able to see all the third party trackers on a website when you’re on a website using Safari.

How is This Good for Content Marketing?

So what does this mean for content creators and influencers? Well, first, people in general might be less inclined to use certain apps once they see how their data is being used. Second, and most importantly, bought and paid for ads like Google ads like Facebook ads may start to be less effective when people are more in control of their own data.

That is where organic content marketing comes in. If traditional advertisements are less effective, because the data tracking has become harder to do or less effective itself, then don’t you see how organic content marketing can be all the more attractive? You, as a content creator, have analytics that don’t tie to any specific person. You can show engagement and keep track of that information without violating anyone’s privacy. And so content marketing and influencer marketing can only go up in value.

My opinion is that content marketing and influencer marketing will only continue to increase. So keep plugging away, and keep creating that content.

Protecting a Content-Based Business, Part 3: Content You Can Copyright

woman wondering what content you can copyright
Not a reader? Watch, and get the same exact info, here.

This is the third and final part of my three-part series on protecting a content-based business. In Part One, we talked about the prerequisites for copyright protection. In Part Two, we talked about making sure that you own that stuff.

And here’s part three, where I’m going to list off a bunch of content you can copyright with the Copyright Office. In other words, this is content that is protectable under U.S. copyright law.

Now when I say protectable, I mean able to be protected. So long as it goes back to those three things that I talked about in part one of this series: it’s creative, it’s tangible, and it’s owned by you.

Alright, let’s get to the categories of content you can copyright!

Content You Can Copyright, Category 1: Text.

This can be blog post text, text on a social media posts like an Instagram caption, the script for a video, and show notes for a podcast episode.

Content You Can Copyright, Category 2: Photos.

Blog post photos, photos from social media posts, those all count.

Now what does not count? Stock photos. Even if you’ve paid to use those stock photos, you probably don’t own them unless you commissioned a photographer to take some stock photos for you. And even then, check your agreement with the photographer to make sure you understand who owns those photos.

Category 3: Video. (Obviously.)

But watch out for any stock video elements. You probably don’t own those.

Content You Can Copyright, Category 4: Audio.

That can include any music you created, that includes podcast episodes, and that includes audio trainings.

Again, just like with stock photos, if you’ve paid for a license to use music in any of those settings, whether it’s your podcast intro or whatever it is, you might not own that music. A license is not ownership, it’s permission.

Category 5: Your Opt-In.

Opt-ins can definitely be protectable under US copyright law. This includes:

  • Downloadable PDFs,
  • webinars,
  • audio trainings,
  • templates you’ve designed,
  • checklists,
  • even quizzes.

Those things are all protectable.

Content You Can Copyright, Category 6: An Online Course.

An online course is chocked full of different content you can copyright. It’s full of:

  • Worksheets (aka, text),
  • Video,
  • Maybe audio recordings,
  • Maybe infographics.

All of that creative stuff that goes into an online course? Yep, that’s protectable under copyright law.

Finally, Content Category 7: Graphic Designs.

Graphic designs are artwork, and they are definitely protectable under copyright law. That includes:

  • Your pins that you pin to Pinterest — so long as you own all of the elements that go into the creation of that pin.
  • Podcast cover art,
  • Infographics,
  • Video thumbnails, and
  • Graphic designs that are encompassed into your video.

So I just ran through a bunch of things that are encompassed into content-based businesses and that are protectable under US copyright law.

I hope this series helps you when you think about protecting your content-based business!

Protecting a Content-Based Business, Part 2: How to Make Sure You Own Your Content

woman wondering how to make sure you own your content
Visual learner? Get the same info in video form, here.

This is part two in a three-part series on protecting your content based business. (This was part one.) I’m talking about how to make sure that you own your content.

Make Sure You Own Your Content by Actually Creating It Yourself

The first way to make sure that you own your content: create it yourself. It sounds a little bit obvious, but if you create the entire thing yourself, it is likely that you own it.

(Unless you’re an employee and you’re somehow creating it in the scope of your employment for someone else.)

Do you have to mail yourself a copy in order for you to somehow own it? Do you have to register it with the Copyright Office in order to somehow own it? Nope, and nope.

That’s it. Number one: make sure that you created it yourself, and you probably own it.

Now, did you use others somehow in the creation of this content? Examples might be a video editor, or a copywriter contributing to parts of your website. Really any other person that is contributing creative content to your overall work. If so, that person should sign a contract, making sure that you own the rights to that material. I call it an IP Rights Agreement, you might call it or have heard of it as a Work-for-Hire Agreement or IP Assignment Agreement. Either way, you need to make sure that that person signed over the rights in their contribution to you. Otherwise, the default rule is that they own it.

Quick recap.

It’s that simple. One, make sure that you created it. Two, make sure that anyone that contributed to your creative work signed a document confirming that you own the IP.

That’s it for part two! Join me in part three, where I’m talking about a long list of things that you can protect under US copyright law. (Some of which I bet you haven’t thought of.)

Protecting a Content-Based Business, Part I: 3 Prerequisites for Copyright Protection

protecting a content based business part 1 prerequisites for copyright protection

You really should know the prerequisites for copyright protection in the US.

But first, let’s talk about protecting content. A lot of content, like online videos, long form blog posts, micro-blogging, podcast episodes, or some combination of those things. This is a three part series that’s going to break down:

  • The three things you need in order to qualify for copyright protection, (which you’ll find here, in part one)
  • How to make sure you own your creative content (part two); and
  • A list of content that’s eligible for copyright protection, some of which you might not have thought of yourself (part three).

But this is part one, the three prerequisites for copyright protection.

Prerequisite for Copyright Protection, #1: If you want to protect content, it’s gotta be creative.

This doesn’t just mean that it needs to be a work of art, a musical composition, a video, or something that you traditionally think of as creative. It means that your content can’t just be a fact, a mere list of ingredients, a mere idea. It has to be creative. The content should be something that’s the product of “the sweat of your brow.” You’ve worked to create this thing somehow.

You might look at some creative works and think the bar to creativity might be pretty low. You’re right. There’s not a huge bar to creativity. But it does have to be creative.

A theory, a process, an idea: these things are not creative enough to satisfy this prerequisite for copyright protection in the US. But if you have a group of facts that you’ve creatively arranged, that creative arrangement is protectable.

If you’re protecting content via copyright, it has to be tangible.

Now that we’ve gotten the creativity part out of the way, thing two is that it has to be tangible. Not tangible in that you have to actually be able to grab it and touch it. Tangible in that it lives outside of your head. It is either on paper, it is recorded, it is somehow accessible by someone else.

You’ve gotta own it.

The third thing is that it is actually original to you. Now, it can be something that you’ve collaborated with someone else on. Maybe you paid a contractor to contribute creative work. (And, hopefully, they signed a contract.) Or, you have collaborated with someone else and you both own it. Either way, it has to be an original creative work. I will talk a little bit more about originality in part two, but it should be original — as in original to you or owned by you.

So those are the three things: creative, tangible, original. Hope this helps you understand the three prerequisites for copyright protection, and I will see you in the next part of this series.

Tik Tok: Terms of Use You Didn’t Read

woman reading through tik tok terms of use

Terms of Use You Didn’t Read is back and this month I’m looking at Tik Tok’s Terms of Use. By the end of this post, you’ll have a better idea of the terms that you agree to by using Tik Tok, what data they’re really using to track you, and how it compares to other social media platforms and the data that they collect on you.

What Tik Tok’s Terms of Use Say About Music

The first thing that stood out to me in Tik Tok’s Terms of Use was regarding music. Obviously, music and sound recordings play a huge part in using Tik Tok, whether it’s dancing or lip synching, or just using music in the background.

Here’s what Tik Tok has to say about music and sound recordings:

No rights are licensed with respect to sound recordings and musical works embodied therein that are made available from or through the service.

Tik Tok Terms of Service, Paragraph 7

Tik Tok also says that if you don’t own the rights to the musical composition and the sound recording, you may not upload that music to Tik Tok. It also says that if you create a musical work of some kind, or any kind of sound recording, whether you’re speaking or singing, that by uploading it to Tik Tok you allow all other users of Tik Tok to edit, manipulate, create a new recording based on that recording.

Data and Tik Tok’s Privacy Policy

Now let’s dive into the Privacy Policy. Privacy policies, of course, talk about what data a company collects, how they collect it, and how it’s used. The data collected by Tik Tok falls under three categories. One is information that you choose to provide to them; two, information that they collect from other sources; and three, information that they collect automatically.

Information You Choose to Provide

It should not surprise you Tik Tok collects information that you choose to provide; you are choosing to provide that information.

Let’s compare Tik Tok to Facebook, though. In creating your profile with Tik Tok, you might enter your email address or phone number, you might upload a photo, and then of course, you upload whatever content you upload through the platform. With Facebook, you’re uploading your photo, or multiple, multiple photos, and videos, your profile information, which can contain anything from your high school to your mother, who might have her maiden name up there. (Can you say, security question information?)

So in terms of privacy concerns with apps, that’s a big thing to think about — what information do you voluntarily upload to the platform? Again, Tik Tok has your face and your video and content that you upload through the platform, but the profile is very basic. You might have a link to your other social media platforms, a very short bio and your photo. Facebook has a lot more information. This is something to remember when you’re using any social media platform, but especially in comparing Tik Tok to other platforms.

Info Tik Tok Collects from Other Sources

Information that they collect from other sources can be information from social media platforms. If you connect your Facebook account to Tik Tok, for example, it might also collect your contacts on Facebook so that you can find your friends who are also on Tik Tok.

They might collect your information from third party services like advertisers.

They might collect information from you from other “publicly available sources.”

Info Tik Tok Collects Automatically

Information Tik Tok collects automatically can be usage information, device information, location data, messages, metadata, and cookies.

Usage information can be information like how long you stay on the app, what you like and what you favorite while you’re in the app — the type of information that relates to how you are using it. (So does Facebook.)

Device information. This is not just the type of phone that you use to log into the place form, but also your IP address, your mobile carrier, your timezone settings, keystroke patterns or rhythms, and file names and types. (Fb tracks this, too.)

Messages. Obviously they can scan and view messages that are sent within the app. (Facebook is notorious for this as well.)

Cookies are primarily used to track what webpages you’re clicking on, and to send targeted advertisements your way. You can disable cookies in the Tik Tok settings. Tons of sites track cookies, and, thanks to Europe, it’s now common to see an “opt-in to cookies” pop-up bar the first time you visit a website.

Is Tik Tok Scanning Your Device for Payment Information?

There’s nothing in this Privacy Policy about going into your phone and collecting credit card information. Note, though, that if you choose to upload credit card information or, for example, PayPal information, to the platform, that’s information that you’re voluntarily giving to Tik Tok. That’s one of the rumors out there that Tik Tok is crawling your phone and stealing your credit card numbers. I do not see that in this Privacy Policy.

How Tik Tok Uses Your Information

This section looks pretty standard. They use it to fulfill requests for products and services, to customize the content you see, to send promotional materials, to improve and develop the platform to measure effectiveness of advertising, make suggestions and provide customized ad experience, blah, blah, blah.

And, if you’re curious, here’s a little comparison or example of how Facebook tracks your activities on other websites.

What You Can Do If Tik Tok’s Tracking Makes You Nervous

So, what do you do if you’re uncomfortable with some of these privacy practices? Like I mentioned, you can disable cookies, that’s a setting in Tik Tok. Apple and Android devices allow you to limit ad tracking within your settings and switch off location tracking on your device as well so that Tik Tok doesn’t have access to that information. These are all things that you can do (and maybe should do!) with regard to a lot of social media platforms.

So I hope that gives you a better understanding of Tik Tok, the terms you agree to when you’re using Tik Tok, and the data that Tik Tok has on you.

Keep on creating that great content!

Breaking Up With A Brand (+ protecting yourself in the future)

It’s no secret that we are in the middle of a huge, huge civil rights movement. And one of the many consequences of that is that our eyes are being opened as to the values of many brands. Consumers are looking into the values of different companies and different brands where they spend their money.

You, as an influencer might find yourself wanting to break up with a brand because your values and that brand’s values don’t align. Maybe that brand is a little too apathetic for your taste, or the brand has been outwardly, atrociously racist.

So how do you break up with a brand? What do you do? In this post, you will learn what to look for in your existing endorsement contract if you want to break up with a brand. You’ll also learn about a few things to have in place before you sign with a brand. So here we go.

Breaking Up an Existing Brand Deal

Let’s first discuss where to look if you’re thinking of breaking up with a brand you’re currently involved with. Number one, you want to look at the termination section in your existing contract. In other words, under what circumstances can a relationship be terminated? Most likely, your contract will say something about when you can terminate. But you also want to make sure and see what happens to any existing obligations if you terminate the agreement. Also, what happens to the money if you terminate?

Number two, if there’s nothing there to guide you, then think about having a conversation. It could be just a matter of you saying, “Look, I’m very passionate about X. You do not seem to feel the same way. We, as an influencer and brand, don’t make sense. I don’t see any reason to continue this relationship further.” You never know where a conversation might get you.

Protecting Yourself in Future Brand Deals

There are some things to look out for before signing your name on the dotted line in future brand deals. Ideally, you build in the ability to break up with a brand if you don’t jive with it any longer. You’re also protecting yourself from getting the axe under some unfair circumstances.

So first, again, make sure that the termination section is there to protect you. You want to understand when it’s okay for you to terminate, and understand what, if any, waiting periods apply if you want to terminate. Sometimes, for example, 30 days’ notice might be required. And then, again, you want to understand what happens to any money they paid you up front if you terminate.

Next, consider a mutual morality clause. A morality clause is something that you find in a typical endorsement contract. Even before the age of Instagram influencers, you’d see a morality clause. You think about this in the context of athletes more traditionally. What comes to mind for me? Tiger Woods and his whole cheating/ sex scandal thing. He lost $22 million in endorsements throughout the course of the year when all of that came out. It’s meant to cover scandals and “bad behavior.” But again, we could argue that it should cover “bad behavior” on the part of a brand, too. So if there’s a morality clause that speaks to your behavior, turn that right around and make it mutual. (Mutual meaning it goes both ways.)

Another, more creative option is to put in a clause that basically says:

“Hey, I, influencer, I talk on a number of things that I’m passionate about. And if there’s a topic that I have posted about or spoken about before, then you cannot terminate this agreement based on me talking about that, again.”

This idea is not the end-all-be-all because it doesn’t protect you from obviously talking about new passions, new interests. But it’s an additional protection that you might think about.

Finally, in terms of protecting yourself in the future, do your due diligence. It’s impossible to find out everything, but do your due diligence. Research a company before you sign with them. Look into what people have said about them. Snoop on Glassdoor to see what employees and workers have said about them. Look on social media, see if anyone has had issues not only with the company itself, but maybe one of its products or services. Do due diligence, do due diligence (that’s tongue twister, hmm?). Just look into a company before you sign.


So you’ve got some things to look at in your existing contracts in terms of finding out when how you can terminate under that contract and what happens if you do terminate. You can think about having those conversations with your contact at the brand if your contract is not clear. And then in the future, make sure that termination clause is there to protect you. Think about adding a mutual morality clause. Also consider that kind of more creative clause where you’re saying, “Hey, I have posted on these topics before, and if I post about them again, that can’t be grounds for terminating this agreement with me.”

So I hope that you have found this helpful in terms of breaking up with a brand and putting things in place to protect yourself before signing with a brand.

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straightforward legal protection for influencers

an explanation of 4 frequently-googled topics + 4 easy-to-DIY action items

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2 Ways to Protect a Recipe

2 ways to protect a recipe

There are really two ways to protect a recipe. How to protect a recipe depends on how you’re using it and what exactly you want to protect. Are you a food or lifestyle blogger wanting to protect your creative content? Are you an essential oils guru, wanting to protect recipes you’ve developed? Or are you more of a chef that wants to protect a secret recipe? This post will guide you through a quick and easy explanation.


Ways to Protect a Recipe as a Blogger

So the first example, you know, maybe you have a lifestyle blog or a food blog, and you’re publishing recipes, and maybe some mouthwatering photos to go with those recipes online.

Copyright doesn’t extend to lists of ingredients. Lists of ingredients don’t really qualify as a creative work. Recipes are kind of instructional and instructions are functional.

So is anything protectable? Yes. What’s protectable is a photo, an anecdote or a story of maybe how you came up with the recipe, the prose and the text around the recipe, all of those things that make your blog unique and beautiful. The things that make it more than just a list of instructions.

If you are a blogger maybe that falls into this category, you might think about establishing some kind of copyright regimen, and registering those blog posts with the photographs, so long as you own all of that content.

Ways to Protect a Secret Recipe

If you have a secret recipe, then you’re probably thinking more along the lines of trade secret. Now, what is a trade secret? It is a valuable secret that gets its value because it gives you some kind of competitive advantage.

So how do you protect a trade secret? Well, make sure it stays secret. Make sure that it only falls into the hands of those who need to know and make sure those people sign an NDA — Non-Disclosure Agreement. And one kind of famous example of trade secret protection is KFC, their herbs and spices, right. So, allegedly half of the blend is mixed at one facility, half of the blend is mixed at another facility, and neither facility knows what’s in the other’s recipe.

You don’t have to register a trade secret anywhere in order for it to qualify for protection, you just kind of have to take those protective measures.

Maybe you’re not mixing things at two different facilities, but maybe you’re password-protecting, you know, any files that contain the recipe.

I hope that helps when it comes to understanding ways to protect a recipe.


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easy-to-understand legal guide for influencers

an explanation of 4 frequently-googled topics + 4 easy-to-DIY action items

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Your information will NEVER be sold or shared with anyone outside of Spear IP, and will always be used according to Spear IP’s Privacy Policy. By signing up, you will receive relevant email updates from Spear IP from time to time (but you’re free to opt out if you wish).

3 Steps to Take After Infringement Happens

steps to take after infringement

By the end of this post, you’re going to have a good idea of three steps to take after infringement happens. (Like the stages of grief, but different and a little more actionable.) There is life after infringement, so let’s talk about what happens.


Feel the feelings, and then, handle it.

First things first, when infringement happens, you have to handle it in whatever way makes the most sense for you. I have a separate post on your options when you’ve been infringed. And that can range from contacting them yourself or submitting a takedown request, it can mean getting a lawyer involved and sending a cease and desist letter or filing a lawsuit, and sometimes that can mean doing nothing. It’s usually worth talking through with a lawyer to see what the best option is for you. But whatever you choose to do when infringement happens, first, you have to handle it.

Next step to take after infringement? A gut check.

Once the actual infringement is behind you, you want to do a gut check or an internal audit. An audit in this context means asking these types of questions:

  • How did this infringement happen?
  • Was there a contract that should have been in place that wasn’t in place?
  • Was there something that made you particularly vulnerable?
  • Could you have registered something with the U.S. copyright or trademark office that would have made this process somehow easier or less stressful or less expensive?
  • Would it have made a difference if something was registered with the copyright or trademark office?

Some of these things might be things to talk through with a lawyer. That internal audit is a good practice to see how this happened, what could have been done to lessen the effect on your business, and what can be done to prevent future incidents (if possible!).

And finally, don’t stop creating after infringement. Keep going.

Please don’t let infringement be a hindrance to your creative abilities. Don’t let it stop you from continuing to create that awesome content. Don’t let someone else’s infringement of the product of your blood, sweat and tears stop you. It can be frustrating or annoying to hear this sometimes, but mimicry is a form of flattery, right?


So remember, don’t let infringement stop you or slow you down, just: 1) Handle it. 2) Figure out what could have been done differently or what could have been in place to help or diminish the stress of the situation; and 3) keep on going.

I hope this helps you understand some steps to take after infringement happens. There is life after infringement!


FREE AUDIO DOWNLOAD + PDF GUIDE

easy-to-understand legal guide for influencers

an explanation of 4 frequently-googled topics + 4 easy-to-DIY action items

with Maria Spear Ollis

Your information will NEVER be sold or shared with anyone outside of Spear IP, and will always be used according to Spear IP’s Privacy Policy. By signing up, you will receive relevant email updates from Spear IP from time to time (but you’re free to opt out if you wish).


4 Legal Documents Involved in Pivoting Your Online Business

woman thinking about pivoting her online business

By the end of this post you’ll know more about four legal documents that are involved in pivoting your online business. And it’s not as intimidating as it sounds. We’re going to be talking about trademark applications, non-disclosure agreements, work for hire, and a trademark license. So here we go.

Trademark Application

So first, a trademark application. Contrary to what you might think, you can’t add to an existing registration. Once you register your trademark, it’s registered in connection with whatever product or service that you’ve registered previously. What you can do is register the same mark, but in connection with a different offering altogether. Are you registered in connection with podcast episodes, but you’re pivoting your online business and offering e-courses under the mark? Simple. You’ll basically file another application for the same trademark, but under that new category, that educational services/e-course category.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (aka NDAs)

People often refer to non-disclosure agreements as confidentiality agreements, they’re the same thing. It basically protects confidential information from being disclosed to the public. Who might you disclose confidential information to when pivoting your business? Maybe a manufacturer, maybe a contractor, but again, that non-disclosure will help keep that information confidential.

Work for Hire/IP Rights Agreement

You’ve heard me talk about Work-for-Hire/IP Rights Agreements before. (I have one for sale in my Contract Kit™ shop). If you’re pivoting your business, odds are that you’re needing some new, creative content. Essentially, anyone that’s creating any creative content for you — whether it’s graphic designs, slides for a presentation, a logo, a new website — anyone creating something creative, should sign this type of agreement. Under U.S. Copyright law, just because you’re paying somebody to create something for you doesn’t mean that you own it. So the purpose of the work for hire/IP rights agreement is to make sure and reinforce that you own all of the copyright to that work product.

Trademark License

And finally, a License Agreement. A license agreement is meant to help you where someone is already offering something that you want to sell. And rather than reinvent the wheel, and come up with a formula for perfume, let’s say, you go to someone already in the business of making perfume, and you license your brand name to that existing product. You may be a blogger for entrepreneurs and you want to venture out into creating a physical planner for instance. Or you are a podcaster but you are venturing out into your own sound equipment line. Or maybe you’ve built your fame around a little ol’ cooking show and now you and Macy’s partner up on things like sheets. (Hello, Martha Stewart.) You are venturing into a new area but you may be licensing your brand and your reputation in connection with an existing brand.

So there you go. You’ve got your trademark application, your nondisclosure agreement or confidentiality agreement, you have a work for hire or IP assignment agreement, and trademark license.

I hope that helps you understand some of the different documents that go into pivoting your online business.


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Protecting Yourself When Using Guest Bloggers

women who have protected themselves when using guest bloggers and contributors

By the end of this post, you’re going to understand who owns the IP when you use guest bloggers and how to change that. You’ll also learn about some alternatives to asking for IP ownership when working with guest bloggers and contributors. So here we go.

Who owns the IP when you’re working with a guest blogger?

Let’s say a guest blogger writes a really great post, or even a guest vlogger on your video show creates really great content that you publish under your brand. Who owns that content?

Well, by default, the guest blogger owns that content. Unless you have something in writing, that’s signed, of course, the author of that creative work, that post, owns that content.

Now, if you wanted to change that, you could enter into what’s called a Work-for-Hire/ IP Rights Agreement. Essentially, that type of agreement says, I, content creator, grant all of the rights to this post, this work product, to you, blog owner.

Alternatives to asking for total copyright ownership

First Publication Parameters and Exclusivity

Now depending on the platform, depending on the guest blogger, they may not want to give up all rights to their blog post. So there are some alternatives that you can consider depending on your relationship.

The first is first publication rights. Essentially, if you don’t ask for IP ownership, it’s reasonable to ask for first publication. This means you are the one that gets to be the first to publish this post or this video. And it’s reasonable to ask for a certain period of exclusivity. Think of exclusivity as a certain amount of time where you are the only one that publishes this content on the internet and the guest blogger has to wait a certain amount of time before they can republish it elsewhere like medium or their own blog or platform.

Attribution (You know. Credit.)

Second, let’s say this is stellar, stellar content. And for that stellar content, you, the blog owner, have provided this great platform and this great audience that has caused this post or this video to go viral. You as the blog or platform owner may not ask for ownership. But, to the extent that this one post turns into something more — maybe it becomes the catalyst for an e-course or maybe it becomes part of a print publication like a coffee table book, or another type of written work. Well, you can require, as the blog owner, the platform owner, attribution, such as “this post originally appeared on such and such a blog at such and such a date, and is reprinted by permission” or simply stating it was originally published on your blog.

What happens if someone infringes on the contribution?

And then something else to consider when using guest bloggers or contributors is the question of what happens if that post that video that contribution is infringed? Well, this is why some kind of contributor agreement is a good idea, right? You want to make clear who owns the IP to that contribution. But you also want to be sure who has the right to enforce it. If there’s an infringer, without a written document, there might be a question of, okay, who gets to who sends the cease and desist letter, the blog owner, or the guest content provider? A good contribution agreement will speak to that.


I hope this gives you an idea of things to think through in terms of who owns the IP when using a guest blogger or guest contributor. You have some alternatives that you can ask for or discuss, like first publication, and also thinking about attribution and requiring credit if that content turns into something more. Then, of course, think about infringement and who has the right to enforce when someone has copied that guest contribution.


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