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My Top 4 Legal Tips for Online Businesses

woman preparing to look up top legal tips for online businesses

My top four legal tips for online businesses. In this post you’re going to get an idea of my top tips when it comes to disclosures, copyright, and ideas.

Disclosure Requirements Apply to All Media.

First, remember that disclosures apply to all media. That means it’s not just for sponsored posts on instagram but also emails, blog posts, videos, photographs, anywhere where you’re talking about something and you have a material connection to that brand or that business — and remember a material connection can mean you’re getting paid, you’re getting free stuff, if it’s a family relationship — anytime there’s a material connection you have to disclose that to your viewer, your audience, your reader. And that disclosure should be conspicuous! That means it shouldn’t be hidden in tiny fine print at the bottom of a marketing email or affiliate email, it shouldn’t be at the very bottom of a blog post because someone might not scroll all the way down to the bottom of a blog post. Conspicuous means hard to miss.

Copyright Ownership Happens Earlier Than You Think

Next, when it comes to copyright, know this:

You own the stuff that you create by default. You don’t have to register it with the Copyright Office in order to own it.

(I say you own it and there are some exceptions when you’re an employee creating stuff for your employer.)

But for the most part, the default rule is you create it, you own the copyright to it, boom. You don’t have to mail it to yourself, you don’t have to register it — although, and that takes us to number three…

Copyright Registration Is Worth It

Copyright registration does have its benefits for a bunch of reasons. Like:

  • You don’t have to prove that you own it;
  • You can get statutory damages ($$$$); and
  • You can get your attorneys’ fees back.

Understand the Law of Ideas.

Finally, let’s talk for one second about ideas. An idea is just an idea.

Uber and Lyft: same idea.

Amy Porterfield and Jenna Kutcher both have online courses on how to grow your email list. Same idea.

What’s protectable is how you express that idea. What makes how you do it awesome? What makes it unequivocally you? Those little unique factors are probably what’s protectable about your idea.

So I hope that shines a light on my top four legal tips for online businesses and i’ll see you next time.

CONTACT COPYCATS YOURSELF WITH CONFIDENCE

An Online Brand’s Guide to Dealing with Copycats

Itching to contact that copycat, but not ready to go full lawyered-up-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.

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.)