Saturday, April 10, 2010

Intellectual Property (IP) Copyrights and Copywriting—Just Like Music or Movies

It has recently come to my attention that some copywriters do not necessarily understand that they have the same kinds of rights as other creative artists.  And this is likely true for many professionals who create original works.  However, copywriters, like musicians and other artists have the same set of statutory rights. 

For example, many are familiar with the idea that a musician or movie studio can license their song or movie to others for specific purposes like personal use.  When one buys a copy of a song performance, or a copy of a movie, they are generally buying a license for personal, private use.  The buyer does not have the right to make copies of the work, to play it for the public, or to make it available for download on the internet.  

Copywriters and other creative professionals have the same ability.  A copywriter can license their copy to their clients to be used for specific purposes, or they can give them all of the rights to the copy.  Likewise, when a designer creates a logo or a web design, they can license the use.

The fundamental idea is that all creative professional (as well as consumers) need to know their rights because this defines the product they are providing or buying, and should determine the price to be paid.  A creative professional who provides their clients with all the rights to copy, use, modify, distribute and otherwise work with a creative product is giving away a great deal more than a professional who provides the client with a license to use the product in a certain way.  The price should also be significantly higher.  And finally, the professional who gives away everything must understand that they have not retained any right to use the product for their own purposes such as inclusion in a portfolio unless they specifically retain that right.

Depending on the business model of the creative professional, these issues should be closely examined so that the professional manages their assets appropriately.  For example, a copywriter can license the use of their copy and charge a fee based on the anticipated use.  Then, if the copy is successful the copywriter can reap the benefit or offer the client the opportunity to buy more rights to continue to use or modify the copy.

Key to the management of creative products, and the sustainability of the businesses in question, is first knowing the legal rights as they relate to the asset and product, and then accurately reflecting the transfer, and retention, of the appropriate rights through contracts and agreements. 

From the consumer side, it is important to make sure the buyer knows what they are getting and how they can use it, and to make sure the price reflects the value being provided.  The last thing anyone needs is a fight about who can use what.

Finally, the clear identification of the buying and selling of the rights to a particular creative work can help the parties decide who will register the work so that they can enforce the proper party has confidence in the ability to enforce their rights down the road.

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