Bloggers! Know Your Intellectual Property Rights
This week we’ve turned to Akila McConnell, an attorney and freelance writer who blogs at The Road Forks, to answer some questions on intellectual property rights with bloggers. By now, we are all well-versed on the issues that blogger Turner Barr faced this summer with Adecco, but have you gone that one step further to protect your our rights? We asked Akila some questions on why and how.
***Please note that all information provided herein is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you directly contact an attorney if you have any legal questions.
What should bloggers know about their intellectual property rights?
Understand your legal rights and protect them. Just because you’re a small blogger doesn’t mean that you don’t have intellectual property worth protecting. Briefly, here are the three types of intellectual property protections:
- Copyright: Copyright protection extends to tangible works created by you, such as pictures, videos, and text on your blog.
- Trademark: Trademark protection extends to brands and unique packaging/logos, etc., such as the Coca Cola trademark.
- Patent: Patent protection extends to concepts and ideas. A patent is filed only for unique ideas — i.e. a special microprocessor — not for generic concepts — such as a travel blog.
I hear a lot of bloggers say things like, “Oh, I never write contracts with sponsors or with guest posters.” Who retains the copyright when a guest poster writes on your blog? Him or you? Are you using copyrighted imagery on your blog? Will you get sued for using such imagery? These are all things that every blogger should think about.
Bloggers tell me all the time that it’s not important to learn about legal rights because “nothing bad would happen to their tiny blog.” But, Turner’s situation was an excellent example of the unthinkable happening to his one-man operation.
In a nutshell, learn your legal rights and be vigilant in protecting them.
What would you have done if you were in Turner’s position?
If this had happened to me, I would have:
- Hired an attorney who specializes in intellectual property law.
- Created a document stream to show how my idea was unique: for example, the year that I registered the domain name; where my brand would have popped up in a simple Google search; copies of videos and imagery that show similarities between the two
At that point, I would have talked to my attorney about engaging social media. I think that Turner did a great job in getting people enraged and, ultimately, the social media pressure forced Adecco to change their name. Social media is a very powerful tool for bloggers who are confronted by legal violations and I’m glad that Turner used it.
What can bloggers do to prevent having their ideas or online identities stolen?
There are a few very simple things that you can do:
- Make sure you have a unique concept and unique name (Around the World in 80 Jobs is much more unique than Vacationing Girl, for example). It’s easier to show that someone has stolen unique concepts rather than generic concepts.
- Put a copyright symbol on your blog. Technically, U.S. copyright code does not require a copyright symbol but other countries, such as the EU, can require copyrighting.
- Consider filing a trademark application.
- Protect your rights and be vigilant about your rights. If someone steals text from your site, file a DMCA shutdown request. If they steal photography, do the same. Be vigilant about your intellectual property because your intellectual property matters!
If a blogger decides to go the trademark route, what can he/she expect in terms of cost?
In the United States, the cheapest way to trademark is to write the application and file it yourself which will cost $325. You could also hire LegalZoom to produce the materials for you which costs $170 plus the $325 filing fee. And, you can hire an attorney to do the work for you which can range from around $300 to $1,000+ depending on the complexity of your trademark.
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The views in the links represent those of the author and not necessarily those of the PTBA or its Board of Directors.