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.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Creative Connection Trade Show Lessons

The Trade Show with Creative Connections went great.  There was a steady stream of traffic and I had some interesting conversations with various business owners.  I also learned a couple of lessons that will be very useful for the future.

The first is that I need to bring a drink.  I got parched fast talking with everyone.  It was great, but I found out quickly that all of the drinks and snacks were  cash only and I generally don’t carry cash.  However, this last time, a friend was kind enough to get a bottle of water for me.

Second, not too surprisingly, there were a lot of people who came through the show in order to give the exhibitors their cards and invite us to come to sponsored networking events or other trade show events.  This wasn’t bad, but it isn’t necessarily the kind of people with which one hopes to spend time talking.  Having a second person at the booth would be helpful to make sure that I am able to talk with those who might actually be interested in my services.

Third, I think that having on my sign some of the specific services I provide might help.  This would have gotten some of the conversations in the right direction right away as visitors to my booth did not necessarily know why I was there.  Listing out things like Trademark Registration, Copyright Protection, Contracts Review and Drafting, Company Formation, and so on, might be a helpful to visitors.

Fourth, setting aside some times for consults with prospects with a sign up sheet might have also been useful.  That way, I can move beyond introduction straight to a second contact opportunity.

Finally, I toyed around with a give away of some kind.  My firm has sometimes given away a simple will at Estate Planning presentations.  I was considering a Trademark analysis as a give away given the context, but perhaps a single member LLC Operating Agreement would be appropriate.  If one needed an Operating Agreement for a multi-member, I could discount the cost by the usual cost of drafting a single member Operating Agreement.  And I could simply make it a certain number of hours credit toward whatever work the prospect might need.  I think that next time I will move on that possibility.