I often hear from entrepreneurs who are building an online business: launching a digital course or program, pushing a workshop full of their favorite content out into the online space, publishing their best tips and articles online, building an online “home base” for their best content in order to serve the clients they are here to serve, launching a podcast, starting a training series, and more. It is crucial to protect your online content.
But HOW do you protect all of this content?
(Hint: Come join me for my monthly Ask Me Anything LIVE and bring your questions!)
There is a lot that I won’t cover here, but what I wanted to start with are 3 Things You Can Do Today (Without a Lawyer) to Protect Your Online Content (& Business)!
1. Use your copyright notice.
You do not need to obtain a federal registration to post a copyright notice on your work. As soon as a work takes tangible form, you can place a copyright notice on the work.
A proper copyright notice looks like this: © [Year of first publication of the work], [the name of the Copyright Owner]. For example: © 2021, Heather Pearce Campbell.
Remember that copyright rests with the individual who created the work, unless it is otherwise transferred, by agreement, assignment, etc. Sometimes, I will list my copyright notice like this: © 2021, Heather Pearce Campbell, The Legal Website Warrior® so that if someone wants to search my work or brand, they will find it. But ownership of the copyright originally rests with the individual.
Where does it go? When using a copyright notice online, use it in conjunction with your articles, your images, any visual works you create, in the footer of any PDF downloads you offer, etc.
You can overlay it on images, videos, infographics (or other visual works) like a watermark. If you are publishing blog posts or articles, your copyright notice should be placed shortly following the end of your post or article. Do not rely on the copyright notice in the footer of your site. The reason being is that if someone scrapes your copyright notice from a digital work, you get access to additional damages and recovery of attorneys fees that you might not otherwise get without a prior registration. So your copyright needs to show up on or very near the work.
You can also place a copyright notice at the footer of your website. If you created your website in 2011 and have updated content over time, it should look like this: © 2011-2021, Heather Pearce Campbell. Many people make the mistake of removing the original copyright date and just referencing the current year. You want to establish that your content has been around awhile. Especially if you are a thought leader and are creating content that is frequently duplicated or copied.
Please be aware that using a copyright notice doesn’t prevent people from stealing your content or work, but in my experience, from a practical perspective it does help put them on notice that it’s your content.
Also, a copyright notice is not legally required – you own copyright to your content whether you post a notice or not.
2. Obtain Copyright Registrations on the Core Components of Your Work.
Most people that I serve are information entrepreneurs. They develop services, programs, workshops, presentations, digital downloads, online courses, etc, all based around a body of work – information that they have created and developed and perfected over time.
One of the primary ways you can protect your online business is to obtain copyright registrations for the core pieces of your work.
What are the core pieces?
Do you have a framework, a system, a step-by-step process or methodology that you teach? Do you have a different way of presenting your ideas, a unique approach to your work that sets you apart?
Keep in mind that a copyright registration doesn’t protect your idea, it protects your unique expression of that idea.
What is the best way for your to express the core components of your work?
Is it in writing, via video tutorials, using an infographic, or via a series of articles or blog posts?
I often help clients assess how they are already expressing the core components of their work, evaluate the most effective ways to communicate their ideas, and select the pieces that are most important for copyright registrations.
But you can obtain copyright registrations without the assistance of an attorney.
They are inexpensive, and the benefit of having a registration is that if you ever have to enforce your IP rights (including via litigation), you get access to statutory damages and the recovery of attorneys fees. This is the piece that makes pursuing your rights accessible. If you do not have a registration for your work, it becomes practically very difficult to obtain damages.
So I recommend that you set aside a few hundred dollars and go get protection around your core work.
You can also check out FAQs regarding Copyright Registrations for more info.
3. Implement an Online Monitoring Service like Copyscape.
I use Copyscape (an online plagiarism checker) to monitor my content.
I have had to pursue infringement of my work around the world.
You would be surprised to see some of the names of folks in the online space who have ripped off my work – either directly from my site, or from the sites of my clients.
A service like Copyscape makes infringement easier to find and track. And for only a few bucks a month you can monitor your most important online pages to make sure other people are not duplicating your content and using it on their sites. You can also put a Copyscape badge on your site that informs people that your site is protected with a monitoring service, which I highly recommend.
This service will tell you what percentage of your content was copied word for word, which makes it a reliable way to scan for online thieves. You know when someone has taken 70, 80, 90 or 100% of a page (which is frequently the case with plagiarism) that it was lifted from your page. That’s assuming of course that you create original content. You want to always examine the potential piece of plagiarism to double check that it is indeed your work.
There are ways that you can begin to protect your work, without the help of an attorney, starting today. These steps will go a long way towards laying the foundation to a stronger online business and presence.
Of course, I recommend that you also consider getting comprehensive protection in place, like my Website Protection Package. And that you assess whether or not your business & brand is ready for a Trademark registration.
If you have a lot going on in your business, and are making above $300,000 per year, I recommend that we begin with a Business Risk Assessment and Legal Roadmap Strategy Session. This service really helps you get a comprehensive understanding of your business legal needs, and helps you put a map in place that will allow you to confidently and strategically tackle those needs in the right order to support you as you scale!
Please reach out if I can be of any support. Wishing you so much success in your online business!
Here are my last three posts in case you missed them!
© 2021, Heather Pearce Campbell, The Legal Website Warrior®
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS POST MAY CONTAIN LEGAL INFORMATION, BUT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. NO RELATIONSHIP, INCLUDING ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP, HAS BEEN FORMED AS A RESULT OF THIS POST. YOU ARE ADVISED TO SEEK THE ADVICE OF AN ATTORNEY LICENSED IN YOUR STATE IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS.