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What Is Protectable Inside Your Course

Today you’re going to learn about exactly what you can protect in terms of an idea for your next course, and what you can’t.

I hate to break it to you, but ideas really are a dime a dozen.

That doesn’t help you.

But what will help you is to understand that line between an unprotectable idea and a protectable expression of that idea. What’s the actual protectable creative property behind an idea?

Examples of Protectable Creative Property

My go-to example is Uber and Lyft. The same exact idea, different execution, different brands, different feel when you’re in their app. But let’s bring it back to that course context.

How about Kajabi and Kartra? Those are platforms that integrate email and email marketing and hosting your online course and allowing you to upload videos and your course content. Same idea, different execution, different brands, different features.

Finally, a great example is Amy Porterfield and Jenna Kutcher. Each of them has online courses on how to build your email list. But again, different brands may be different content in that course, different videos, of course, different worksheets, all of those things are the different protectable parts of those courses.

All of those are examples of ideas, pure ideas that are executed in different ways. And it’s the execution that we’re focusing on.

What’s protectable when it comes to a course?

Well, there’s the brand name and logo and a logo that you might have for your overall brand. And the course you’re releasing under that brand, but also any special logo that you have for that course, those two things are protectable under US trademark law. There are artistic elements like graphic design that are part of that user experience. Those fall under copyright territory. There’s text, of course, whether it’s a script, or a worksheet, or a workbook, purely copyrightable.

To recap what’s protectable…

  • brand name
  • logo
  • graphic designs
  • text (in whatever form and in your course)
  • video

In other words, whatever you do, and create to make this idea of yours and make it different from someone else’s execution of that same idea, that’s probably what’s protectable here.

Whatever it takes it beyond, “This is my idea for the subject matter of a course” beyond that, too. “Here’s why people are going to buy from me here is the specific thing that I’ve created.” That’s what we’re talking about here in terms of the protectable parts of the course.

I hope that that helps you to better understand what’s protectable about a course idea!

If you have this little lingering feeling like there might be some legal issue out there that I’m not thinking of it could come back to haunt me, head to to find out the legal blind spot that is secretly killing your business and not only to find out about that blind spot, but how to fix it.

The Big Copyright Mistake You Might Be Making

Let’s talk about the surprise copyright mistake that you didn’t know you made… but you probably made.

At a certain point, you’re starting to outsource things in your business. And a lot of people make this same mistake.

So your business is growing, you’re starting to outsource things, you’re hiring a web designer, you’re hiring a copywriter, you’re hiring a brand photographer, you’re hiring a video editor, all of these different people play a huge part in your business, right? You pay them and you enjoy the fruits of their labor, maybe you make some tweaks to what they’ve created over time.

The Surprise Copyright Mistake

So what’s the surprise copyright mistake that you’re making? Well, you paid them, which is great. But unless you’ve got something in writing, you don’t own any of what they’ve created for you. And worse… you might have to share ownership in the resulting material.

What This Means In Terms Of Your Rights

Surprised? You paid for it, but you don’t own it. In the US, the default rule is that unless you’re an actual employee creating something as part of your employment, the default is that you own whatever you create. That means any independent contractors own what they create, unless there is something in writing that says otherwise. And that writing has to actually be signed, it can’t just be a policy to transfer copyright ownership from one person to another person or from one person to a business. There must be a signed written document, period, punto and a story.

So don’t forget, payment is not enough to own something that an independent contractor has created for you. This is where something like an IP rights agreement would come in handy. So if you want to own what your contractors are creating for you get that in writing. I hope that helps you to avoid that copyright mistake in the future. And I’ll see you next time.

Want to find (and fix!) the legal blind spot that’s secretly killing your business? Click here.

Canva Licensing Terms in 2021

woman sitting at her desk looking at her phone for canva licensing terms

By far, one of my most popular posts to date has to do with the terms of use that you didn’t read before using Canva. The problem with this post is that it’s about a year old, and Canva has changed this licensing terms recently. So here’s a look at the Canva licensing terms in 2021.

So Canva is amazing. I use it too. But when you’re using Canva, you kind of have to wonder, “Okay, with all of the media available, what are the restrictions around using this stuff?” And really, it comes down to two things: free media and one design use.

Of course, free media is media that’s available to everybody regardless of whether you have a pro account. One design use material is also available. If you don’t have a pro account, you just have to pay every time you want to use it.

Does having a Pro account make a difference?

One question you might be asking is, “Well, I have a pro account. Doesn’t that mean I can use everything however I want to?”

Nope, you are still subject to licensing terms, even if you have a pro account. So let’s dig in.

Can you see an identifiable person in free media?

Here are things you want to keep in mind if you’re using free media on Canva. When you’re using photos, make sure and see if you can see an identifiable person. Canva has come out and said that they can’t guarantee that someone’s face can be used in a commercial setting if you can see their face or likeness and a photo. So using photos, you can see someone that’s identifiable, make sure and maybe look for more info or contact the photographer or Canva if you want to use it in connection with a business.

Free media restrictions

For Free Media, you can edit it however you wish, you don’t have to necessarily give credit, although it is appreciated, and using free media on books and posters and other promotional materials all okay, but you can’t sell unadulterated copies of free media on a poster or physical print or anything like that without “adding value.” But it has to be more than just taking the free media and slapping it on something and selling it or using it. You can’t just use that free media by itself to sell note cards or whatever it is. When in doubt, ask Canva. Of course you can’t resell any free media or other media on Canva on any other stock media platforms.

Creating logos in Canva

Here’s a big one, you can’t use any Free Media in connection with a trademark or logo. So don’t use that Free Media stuff in order to create a logo. And then finally, look for “editorial use only.” This means that you can’t use that material that says for editorial use only for business purposes, it can only be for things that are newsworthy, and you have to give credit if that’s the case.

One Design Use

Okay, let’s talk about One Design Use. Again, you can use this stuff in printed context on social media, ads, on posters, etc. Books and magazines are cool. Websites and videos are cool. But for that stuff, there’s a 480,000k file limit.

What you can’t do is this: use it in more than one design. That’s why it’s called a One Design Use license. So this means photos, elements that you see in Canva, you can’t use those things more than once. That’s why it’s called a One Use License. Now, my understanding when you go into Canva is that you can resize it and use it say in an Instagram post and an Instagram story. And that’s okay, that’s not more than one design.

You also can’t use this stuff on a standalone basis in connection with selling merchandise like posters and shirts and mugs. So that’s a big one. When in doubt, here’s what I want you to do.

Right inside Canva, you can see all of these things, all these elements, you’ve got photos, whatever it is on the left hand panel, right? If you click on whatever element you want to use, you see these little dot dot dots, the ellipse. Click there. And it might say “free for Canva Pro,” then click on this little eye in the circle. This tells you what you can and can’t do with this particular type of media. And it’s kind of broad strokes because it gives you “Yes, you can do these things” “No, you can’t do these things.” But then “learn more about this license.” And it takes you to the One Design Use License Agreement. So you can see what licensing agreements apply to certain types of media.

When in doubt, this is what I want you to do to check on the status of these different elements because what it comes down to is what license applies, and what are the rules under that license.

Using images alone

Something I want to highlight when it comes to any image over here is that if I were to take this image just like that and post it to Instagram, I would be violating the license and this is not super clear on their Terms of Use. But you have to at least create some kind of filter or add some elements to it to add that “value” to the photo and make the photo different. Just adding a photo by itself is a violation of the Canva licensing terms in 2021.

So there you go: an update on the Canva licensing terms in 2021 (and use restrictions). Hope that helps and I’ll see you next time.

3 Lies Everyone Believes About Avoiding Copyright Infringement

Woman researching avoiding copyright infringement

Today I’m talking about the three big lies that you might have heard about avoiding copyright infringement.

You might think you’re not committing copyright infringement, but… you could be wrong. (Did you get that reference?)

In this video, you’re going to learn what every online brand needs to know about avoiding copyright infringement on the internet.

Lie number one: if I’m not charging anything, or making money from it, then it’s not copyright infringement. Right?


Copyright infringement is what’s called “strict liability.” That’s lawyer speak for: just doing the act is enough.

There doesn’t have to be any kind of intent to commit copyright infringement. You don’t have to make money from it. Just the act of copying is copyright infringement. There’s no requirement that you make money in order for it to be considered copyright infringement.


Number two: if I add a disclaimer, or tag the original creator, then I can’t get in trouble.

Wrong. So wrong.

(Apparently, I’m into quoting Mean Girls today.)

You’ve seen “I claim no rights to this music,” or “I claim no rights to whatever” in people’s posts, right? But, like I just said, you’ve copied it. That’s it. That’s the infringement. Just copying or using someone else’s material without permission is infringement.


I’ve heard of several photographers who actually track infringement on social media, by the people that tagged them.

Using someone else’s photo without their permission, unless you properly licensed it somehow, is copyright infringement. Credit, or no credit.

Numero 3: If I found a photo on Google image search or on Pinterest, then it’s royalty-free or public domain, and I can use it, and it’s not copyright infringement.

No, no, no, no, no.

I had a client once that used a photo that he found on Google image search in a blog post. He got a big fat cease and desist letter from a firm that does volume copyright infringement work. That just means that they sent thousands of cease and desist letters — that is their bread and butter.

The photographers that they represent all register their photos with the Copyright Office. (Which is very, very smart.)

Then, they pay these firms to crack down on unauthorized uses. So this cease and desist letter asked for multiple thousands. Based on the Copyright Act, if someone infringes your work, and you’ve registered with the Copyright Office, you get from $750 to $30,000 in damages. He didn’t end up having to pay 30,000, but he had to pay something.

Hear me on this.

Google Image Search catalogs images from everywhere. They are not necessarily royalty-free. They are not necessarily public domain. Don’t look on Google image search for free images. Nope, nope, nope.

So the secret to avoiding copyright infringement online?

Use things that only you’ve created, or if you’re using something that you didn’t create, or posting something that you didn’t create, make sure you have permission.

That’s it.

So I hope that helps you to better understand the three lies everyone believes about avoiding copyright infringement on the internet. And I’ll see you next time.

What to do About Podcast Copying

researching what to do about podcasty copying

What to do about podcast copying, including the one question that you really, really need to ask yourself before you even figure out what you’re going to do about it.

So here’s the thing. If somebody’s copying you, there are a few things that you can do. But there’s one question that you really need to ask yourself before you figure out which of those things is the best for you. I’ll tell you about it in one second. But first, here are some of the options when you are a victim of podcast copying.

Contact the infringer directly.

Number one, you can contact the infringer directly. You’d be so surprised at the lack of copyright or any IP knowledge that people have. Some people just don’t know that what they did was wrong. So a lot of times this option works if you are comfortable reaching out to the person directly and telling them hey, here’s what you did, here’s what I own, please stop or take it down.

DMCA takedown request.

You can also submit a DMCA takedown request. You see a DMCA takedown on sites like Facebook (here’s a link to its reporting tool) and YouTube (and here’s YouTube’s.). But basically, it’s like a copyright infringement takedown, where you fill out a form and say what was copied. But it’s that form that allows you to report copyright infringement.

You can always lawyer up!

The next option is consulting with a lawyer to maybe send a cease-and-desist letter, or maybe if it’s a really intense situation, depending on what’s going on, file a lawsuit.

Do nothing.

And then you might do nothing. If you think you might do nothing, I would say at least talk to a lawyer to make sure you’re not giving up your rights to anything if you really want to do nothing.

The one question you need to ask yourself before taking action when podcast copying strikes.

Okay, so I told you, there’s one thing that you need to figure out before you take any of these steps. That thing? Figure out what was copied?

Was it your podcast, general theme? Guess what? That might not be infringement. Same thing with a theme of an episode or subject matter of an episode. But essentially, think about the number of television shows about doctors. A general idea, or a general topic as it might apply to podcasts, is not really protectable under copyright law. Now, did they take your script? Did they take your words and just basically repeat them? That’s a little bit different.

Did they use the same guest that you use? Again, that’s probably not a situation where there is infringement going on unless you had some kind of exclusivity agreement with a guest, where the guest agreed that they would be, you know, your exclusive guest, maybe for a certain amount of time. Then your issue is with the guest, maybe not so much the podcast.

Podcast art? Totally legit. U.S. copyright law absolutely protects things like art, graphic design, and photography. So if someone copies your podcast art, that’s a situation you might want to handle.

Intro music. Again, it’s only an issue if you own that music, or if you licensed it under an exclusive license. “Exclusive license” just means you’re supposed to be the only one with permission to use that specific piece of music. And again, it might be an issue for the licensor — the person that you got the music or the company that you got the music from — maybe not so much the podcast.

Bottom line? If you’re a victim of podcast copying, the first thing you have to do is figure out WHAT was copied. That will dictate your next steps. (Especially if it’s something like an episode theme, which may or may not be protectable.)

So I hope that that helps you to understand some options and some things to ask yourself when you are a victim of podcast copying and I’ll see you next time.

How to Tell the Difference Between Copyright and Trademark

woman taking notes on the difference between copyright and trademark

Want to know how to tell the difference between copyright and trademark? It’s so super easy and not complicated, I promise you won’t forget after you read this post. I’ll even give you a little trick to remember so that you’ll never forget again. And if you stick around to the bottom, you’ll learn more about my latest free resource for content creators!

Alright, are you ready? Here comes the definitive way to remember the difference between copyright and trademark.


First, we’ll talk about trademark. Trademark is branding. Trademark is something — like a word or a slogan or a logo — that signifies your brand. It tells people where a product or service originates: whether it’s you, your company, whatever it is. You see the Nike swoosh, you know where those shoes came from. You see the red can with the white script, you know, it’s a coke. So think: trademark, branding. Trademark, branding. Trrrrrrademark? Brrrrranding!


Next, let’s take a quick look at copyright. Copyright protects creative works — technically original works of authorship. And there are a few specific categories of things that copyright protects. (There are also certain things that copyright doesn’t protect, like facts, or lists of ingredients.) But like I said, copyright protects your creative works like art, and music, and video, and even a downloadable PDF, graphic designs, infographics. So copyright, creative works, copyright, creative works.

A quick trick to help you remember the difference between copyright and trademark.

Copyright: Creative.

TRademark: BRanding.

That’s it!

If you want more info on copyright, check out this post on the content you can copyright.

And, for a trademark toolkit, click here! (Think of it as your go-to educational resource on trademarks.)

So I hope that this short little post helps you remember the best way to remember the difference between trademark and copyright.

What Year to Put On Your Website Copyright Notice

preparing to research what year to put on a website copyright notice

It’s a new year, and here’s a question I get asked a lot. And that question is, “What year should I put on my website copyright notice?” You know, that little copyright notice at the bottom of your website that says “copyright, blah, blah, blah?” Well, I’m going to give you the answer in this short post. And if you read through to the the end, I will give you the ONE exception for changing this general rule.

What’s in a copyright notice and why it’s important

So you’ve heard me say this before, but a copyright notice has three elements:

  1. The copyright symbol or the word copyright;
  2. The year that the creative work was published; and
  3. The owner.

A copyright notice is not a requirement for copyright protection (at least, not any more). But, if you don’t have one, an infringer could claim innocent infringement. And that’s a big deal, because it could drastically reduce the amount of money that they pay you for infringement, if it gets to that level.

What year to put at the bottom of your site

When was your website published? Well, if you’re constantly adding content to your website, by adding blog posts, by adding videos, then you have content on your website that could span a couple of years. So, what year should you put on your website copyright notice? A lot of times you will see a date range. So my website, for example, was first published in 2015. But I’ve added blog posts and videos for years and years since then. So if you scroll down to the bottom of this very page, you will see a date range at the end of my copyright notice.

The important exception to this rule

Now, the exception to this is: if you’re not adding new content to your website, or you haven’t added new content to your website since it was published. So if you have a brand new website that you’ve never added content to before, yeah, you would only have the one year: the year that the website was published. Otherwise, you are welcome to use that date range on your website from the date on which the website was originally published through the last date that you updated the content on your website.

One more thing…

All of this assumes that you actually own your website. Gotta look back at your contract with anyone that worked on your website to make sure. And if there wasn’t a contract, get your hands on my IP Rights Agreement Contract Kit™, stat!

IP Rights Agreement Contract Kit™

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.


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.


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?


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.


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.

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.

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.