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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?

Wrong.

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.

(Sorry.)

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.

And!

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.

CONTACT COPYCATS YOURSELF WITH CONFIDENCE

A Content Creator’s Guide to Dealing with Copycats

Itching to contact that copycat, but not ready to go full lawyer-cease-and-desist, yet?

In this free resource, you’ll get:

  • A little checklist to run through before you contact someone yourself;
  • An idea of things that you can say; and
  • What NOT to say.

Click here for access.

7 Things An Online Business Can Trademark Right Now

reading about the things an online business can trademark

Let’s talk about the things an online business can trademark.

“Trademark” isn’t really a verb, but we’re going to go with it because people use it a lot.

A lot of times people think that trademark just applies to a brand name or a logo. But there’s more to trademark than just those things, and that’s what I’m going to go through in this post.

So here we go: seven things that an online business can trademark.

1. Obviously, an online business can trademark a brand name.

So first brand name. This one is obvious, maybe it’s the first thing that you think of when you think of trademark. But your brand name — so your blog name, if you’re a blogger; your podcast name, if you’re a podcaster; maybe your personal name if you are a lifestyle personality, or if your name is your brand name — those things are all trade markable.

2. Logos, logos, logos.

Your logo, of course is another type of trademark. Nike swoosh is an obvious example. It is a symbol that signifies your brand. It’s different from just a graphic design that you use it in an artistic way. It’s different from an infographic — that’s too much information for a trademark. It is a symbol that your brand uses to represent your brand.

3. Product names.

I’m not talking about something like “red pen.” I’m talking more about something like JANE DOE’S SPARKLICIOUS RED PEN. You know, if you have a product name “the sparklicious something,” something more than just “red pen,” yes, that’s probably a trademark.

This can also include a course name trademark! Or a membership name! Those are your products, too.

4. Your flagship service.

If you have a package or a service that is your flagship service, and you offer that service under a particular name, then that name might be a trademark.

5. Slogans and catchphrases.

These are sometimes a little bit difficult to protect because they can be really descriptive. But if you use a slogan or catchphrase a lot in your branding, then yeah, that might be a trademark.

6. Your username or handle.

Wait, whaaaat?

Yep, your username — like on Instagram — might be protectable trademark. A lot of times, people on Instagram or Tiktok or wherever are using those accounts to provide promotional services for other businesses. That is a service that you are offering under that handle. And yes, the Trademark Office sees a difference between your name with spaces and your name without spaces. So yeah, your Instagram username, your TikTok username, might be a trademark.

7. Moving pictures, as something an online business can trademark?

We’re seeing video more and more and more, not just with the popularity of TikTok but on websites, too. Maybe you’ve got a really cool video of your logo coming together on your website. That moving picture might be a trademark. Think of things like 20th Century Fox spotlights — those things that you typically see in movies, those are moving, but they are certainly trademark.

Maybe you have a motion picture trademark in your video show! So add a TM to that if you have a moving trademark in your branding. (Can’t use an ® unless you’re registered.)

Hope that helps you understand some of the many different things that an online business can trademark!

CONTACT COPYCATS YOURSELF WITH CONFIDENCE

A Content Creator’s Guide to Dealing with Copycats

Itching to contact that copycat, but not ready to go full lawyer-cease-and-desist, yet?

In this free resource, you’ll get:

  • A little checklist to run through before you contact someone yourself;
  • An idea of things that you can say; and
  • What NOT to say.

Click here for access.

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™

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Running a Giveaway (Legally)

woman reading about running a giveaway legally

If you’re running a giveaway on Instagram or elsewhere online, you must do it legally! Let’s talk about the three biggest mistakes that I see when people are running giveaways on social media.

Mistake #1: Creating an Accidental Lottery

Okay, so the first big mistake is accidentally creating a lottery. What the heck do I mean by that? Well, giveaways can actually fall under sweepstakes, contests or lotteries. A contest is something that’s judged based on criteria — like the best answer to a question or the most creative “whatever,” That’s a contest, when you have to judge the winner. A lottery, on the other hand is against the law in a lot of states.

What is a “Lottery,” and Why Is It a Problem?

To qualify as a lottery, you need a prize, you need chance — in other words, luck; luck of the draw — and you need “consideration.” What does consideration mean? Consideration means that to enter, you give something of value. It might be an email address, it might be a purchase. Note that an email address is completely free, but still valuable. A lot of times you’ll hear “no purchase necessary necessary to enter.” That’s because they’re trying to avoid a lottery. If your contest is actually a lottery, like I said, it could be against the law in a lot of states. (Some states consider lotteries to be gambling.)

Avoiding the Accidental Lottery

How do you avoid the accidental lottery? Well, you can make it into a pure contest, where you are judging people based on criteria — like I said, the most creative “whatever.” And you set out those criteria in your giveaway rules. OR, you give someone a totally free way to enter that doesn’t involve giving something of value. Tagging someone in the comments is an example. Another example? I ran a giveaway a couple weeks ago, and in my official rules, I said that you could enter either by filling out a survey, or by emailing me with the subject line “giveaway,” and that would count as an entry. Now, of course, you can give weight to different ways to enter. So, “you get five entries if you do this, you get one entry if you do this, no multiple entries allowed” — that type of thing.

Mistake #2: Not Having Giveaway Rules

You must, must must, must have giveaway rules in order to run a giveaway legally. You should also stick to those rules. Giveaway rules talk about things like how to enter, who’s eligible, what the prize is and what it’s worth, how the winner is chosen, how the winner is notified, and any other miscellaneous terms that are essential to your giveaway. For product-based prizes, you’ll often see that Alaska and Hawaii are excluded because the person holding the giveaway wants to avoid paying those Alaska and Hawaii shipping fees. You’ll also notice on Facebook and Instagram and many other social media networks that they require that you state that Facebook and Instagram or whoever is in no way affiliated with the giveaway.

Mistake #3: Not Adding the Proper Disclosures

Here’s a mistake you might not think of. Not disclosing when you are getting something for free in exchange for running the giveaway. Yes, even a giveaway can cause a sponsored relationship that you need to disclose to your audience. If you are getting something for free or something of value in exchange for running this giveaway, you have to disclose that to your audience. You should disclose that in any posts.

Running a Giveaway Legally: In Summary

So again, wrapping all of this up. One, avoid an accidental lottery. Two, have some official giveaway rules. Three, disclose, disclose, disclose if you are getting some kind of benefit or freebie or something in exchange for running this giveaway.

Those are the three biggest mistakes that I see made when people are running giveaways.

The #1 Trademark Registration Requirement for Online Brands

researching the trademark registration requirements

Curious about trademark registration requirements in the US? Today we’re talking about the number one most important thing that you need in order to file for federal trademark protection in the US.

I’m going to cut to the chase, the number one most important thing that you need in order to successfully register your trademark is use of the trademark in interstate commerce.

Whaaaat? What does that mean, exactly? Well, it means that you have to be able to show that you use your trademark across state lines. That can be a little bit harder for hyper-local businesses, or businesses that don’t do any business online. But if I know you, you absolutely do business online. In fact, you might only do business online.

So how does this trademark registration requirement play out? How do you show that you’re using a trademark across state lines? Well, when you file a trademark application, you have to submit what’s called a “specimen.” (Unless you haven’t started using your trademark yet, and then that’s a whole other can of beans.) Your specimen will show exactly how you’re using your brand. It will likely be a screenshot of your website and the services that you offer under your website. It also could be a screenshot of your podcast on Apple, or a screenshot of your video show on YouTube. If you promote others’ products and services on social media as an influencer, you can submit screenshots of your account where you promote those goods and services and your trademark might be your Instagram handle.

Bottom line, though, is that the best way to show that you’re using a trademark across state lines is to offer services across state lines by using the internet. And, if you have an internet-based business, you’re probably already doing that. Which mean you have this trademark registration requirement in the bag!

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.

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!

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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Why a Podcast Trademark Search is a Crucial Prep Step to Launching

woman who might not have conducted a podcast trademark search before launching
Rather watch than read? I got you.

By the end of this post, you will know why I think a podcast trademark search is a crucial prep step before launching. Hint: it comes down to saving you money and stress down the line. So here we go!


What a trademark search uncovers


So how can a trademark search ultimately save you money and stress before launching your podcast? First, it’ll tell you if somebody else is already using that name in connection with a podcast. You could argue that by using it in connection with a podcast (regardless of subject matter), there’s potential for confusion. And if you’ve ever searched for a podcast on Apple podcasts or Stitcher , you know it can get confusing if you’re looking for a podcast based on a name!

So again, a search will tell you if someone else already using the same or similar name. This ultimately saves you money and stress. How? If there is someone else using a similar name in connection with the podcast, you could save yourself from the experience of being on the receiving end of a cease-and-desist letter. And this rolls into reason number two…

Eliminate the surprise, and stressful scramble, from a cease-and-desist letter (to the extent possible)

It can be very stressful to be on the receiving end of a cease and desist letter. And if you have a trademark search done on the front end, that can save you the stress of finding yourself on the defensive and having to scramble when you receive a cease-and-desist letter. Of course it’s impossible to guarantee results 100%, but a search should uncover the obstacles that are out there. It’s worth spending a little money on the front end to save you from spending a lot of money on 1) an attorney to handle the cease and desist and related settlement, 2) a potential rebrand, and so on.

A podcast trademark search can help identify whether your chosen name is protectable

Let’s say there is someone else using a name similar to yours and connect with a podcast. In fact, let’s say there are TEN others using a name similar to yours. By using that name, it could be hard for you to police or protect your name from use by others when there are already ten others. So a trademark search can tell you the extent to which the name is used by anyone else. This can uncover whether you will have a hard time protecting your chosen name from use by others.

And yes, a trademark search can tell you whether there are any roadblocks to trademark registration. But ultimately, you can save yourself some stress and money in the form of having to scramble, rebrand, and maybe being on the receiving end of a cease and desist letter. Also, from a value standpoint, it can help to be sure you’re choosing a name that is protectable.

I hope this helps you understand why I think a trademark search is a crucial step before launching a podcast.


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woman contemplating a podcast trademark search

Canva: Terms of Use You Didn’t Read

Let’s talk about Canva! Terms of Use You Didn’t Read is back and we’re going to talk through just a couple of interesting terms that I found when looking through Canva’s terms of use. Remember, these are things that you’ve agreed to by using Canva.

I found some real treasure when reading these terms! There’s a term in Canva’s Free Media License Agreement that applies to how you can use some of the stock photos and imagery within Canva.


Plain-English gold star

First of all, like Pinterest, Canva gives a plain-English explanation of provisions in its terms of use so, gold star to Canva.

The many faces (or pages) to Canva’s Terms of Use

There’s more to its policies than just Canva’s Terms of Use. The policies are made up of several different pages or sub-policies, including a Contributor Agreement and a Free Media License Agreement. The Contributor Agreement applies to any designers that submit their work to be a part of Canva’s offering, whether it’s a template or photograph. And then there’s the Free Media License Agreement.

This is super important. So, if you use any of that free media, like stock photos or graphic art, here’s what Canva has to say about using that free stuff.

a selection from canva's terms of use

Yowza.

So, again. If you’re using anything with an identifiable person, with a logo, that reflects a certain place, Canva, here, is saying that they can’t guarantee they have the appropriate rights for you to use those things in a commercial or business setting. So that is important if you are using Canva in connection with your business.

By publishing on the platform, you’re giving permission to display

Next, simple, if you publish your designs in Canva, then you allow Canva to publish those for others to view.

Canva’s Terms of Use sheds light on what happens to media you’ve used if you cancel your paid account

I was curious about this, since I recently started dabbling in Canva myself. Obviously when you have a paid or “Pro” account, you have access to more things and you can do more within the platform. But what happens if you close your account or you cancel your membership to Canva? What happens to the designs that you created with media that were, say, “Pro” only, but you plan to still pin those pins or use those graphics on Instagram? Can you do that even though you don’t have your account any longer?

The answer is yes, of course, anything that you created under a valid, paid plan, you can still continue to use.

But, if there was some kind of invalid transaction, they couldn’t charge you during that period where that thing was created, you don’t have rights to use it.

Big Brother/Canva is watching

Finally, Canva has the right to monitor anything you import or export from its platform to make sure that you’re complying with its terms of use.


I hope this kind of opens your eyes on things that you’ve agreed to by using Canva, especially with regard to that Free Media License,.


Hey, online business owner! I’ve got a little something for you. Learn four things that you can do RIGHT now to protect your business online — one thing delivered to your inbox for four weeks — by clicking the image below.

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