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The Business of Doing Business Podcast Episode 4: Protecting Your Content Online

In this episode, Yasmine discusses how to protect your content online in various situations: whether you’re providing free or paid access to original content you’ve created, creating content for others, or have caught an infringer in the act.

Knowing your rights when it comes to the content you create is crucial to staying ahead and protecting your intellectual property. Yasmine also talks more about how contracts are a useful tool and a first line of defense that adds a much-needed layer of protection to your content online.

Key Takeaways:

  • Be proactive in protecting your content by clearly stating the terms and conditions of its use by the user, reader, client, or subscriber.
  • When hiring someone to create content for you, ensure that ownership of the content is clearly defined in a written contract.
  • If you discover someone infringing on your content, gather evidence and consider sending a takedown request or consulting with an attorney.
  • To reduce your legal liability and likelihood of committing infringement yourself, avoid using copyrighted material without permission and be aware of the rights of content creators.

Episode Timestamps:

00:00  Introduction and Explanation for Disappearance

03:49  Intellectual Property Breakdown (Copyrights & Trademarks)

06:13  Protecting Your Content: Providing Access to Content

09:18  Protecting Your Content: Creating Content for Others

12:57  Protecting Your Content: Stopping an Infringer

17:36  Avoiding Infringement 

21:13  Conclusion

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Episode Transcript

(00:00) Introduction and Explanation for Delayed Episodes
They literally ripped the website design off. They stupidly forgot to remove the site credit from the bottom. Welcome to the Business of Doing Business podcast with Yasmine Salem Hamdan.

Hey, hey, y ‘all. Welcome back to another episode of the Business of Doing Business podcast. I am especially excited to record this episode because I feel like I know I don’t owe anybody an explanation, but I totally recognize that I dropped the first three episodes of this podcast three weeks ago when the podcast first dropped when it first launched. And then I haven’t published anything since and I have every intention of publishing this podcast on a weekly basis.

So what happened? Well, let me just say, and you might be able to relate to this, the cold and flu season and like the viruses and whatever is going around this time of year has had, I mean, it’s just been a doozy, I feel like it’s just a never-ending cycle. I was just telling a girlfriend the other day that I feel like out of the last three months, like the last 12 weeks, I’ve been out of the office because my son has been sick or I have been sick for four of those 12 weeks.

So it wasn’t a month-long vacation by any means. Let me just say that, but you know what? It’s all good. We are out here. We’re doing it. And I know that this is just me paying my dues as a parent.

My son just started pre-K this year, so he has just been, it’s just, you know, been a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun. If you’re a parent, you can probably relate. I am grateful that we’re healthy now and I hope you and your loved ones are healthy as well. I’m grateful that it did give me time. I mean, I guess that’s a silver lining. It gave me time away from my business.

So I find that anytime I take time away from work, I have the space I need to gain clarity of perspective, to develop ideas that maybe I didn’t have the time or space to develop when I’m in the thick of it. So that has certainly been a silver lining. But it also gets in the way when you’re not feeling great. And I know most people can relate whenever you’re sick and you’re just like, God, I really took it for granted when I could breathe or I could have the energy to do the things I enjoy doing.

And one of those things that I wanted to do and I was planning to do over the past few weeks was produce more of these podcast episodes. And of course, you know, I actually did try to record when I was sick one of the weeks and that was not great. So we’re not doing that again. But, you know, one of the things that I’ve been wanting to do and spend, and I’m excited to spend my time on is to continue producing this podcast for today’s episode too.

I think it’s going to be a great episode. I think you’re really going to enjoy and benefit from what we’ll talk about today. One of the things I was thinking about was how excited I am to share people’s stories on this podcast. That in my opinion, has been one of the best parts of my entrepreneurial experience.

Meeting different people, meeting all kinds of people from all walks of life and different industries and different interests and different experiences and different opinions and perspectives. And like I said, I think it’s just the best part of entrepreneurship. There is no one type of person that’s attracted to entrepreneurship.

So many different people can find a place in business and in entrepreneurship and have different passions, have different interests. I’ve just met so many incredible people. And so I’m really excited to use this podcast as a platform to share their stories and their lessons learned.

And that’s what’s also really incredible too, is as different and unique as everybody is and all the people that are in business, still we all have shared experiences and we’re all walking a similar path with just our own version of it. So I believe that we can learn from one another. I’m all about learning lessons. I’m all about not having to learn lessons the hard way. So hopefully if we can take from one another’s wisdom and experience, I think it’s a win all around.

(03:49) Intellectual Property Breakdown (Copyrights & Trademarks)
So… today we’re gonna talk about protecting your content. So if you are selling services or digital products online, then it is highly likely that you are currently creating content. And content creation is asset creation, my friend. So every time you create a piece of content, you are creating an additional intellectual property asset. We talked about IP in, I think it was episode two.

I always visualize intellectual property, the two primary kinds of IP that should be on your radar as a business owner and somebody that’s selling services and creating content are trademark assets and copyright assets. These are two forms of IP. I always visualize a box or a present, something with wrapping paper on the outside, and the wrapping paper on the outside has logos, name, a slogan, a tagline, things that identify the source of where this package came from and the source of what’s inside the package.

And those are your trademark assets. So that might be your company name, your brand name, your program or course name, your podcast name, your logo or slogan, or tagline. Then when you open the box up and you look inside, you find the content of the box, which is literally your content, your business content. And those are your copyright assets.

Those are original works of art or authorship. So that might be written works, visual works, audio works. Maybe those are your podcast recordings. Maybe they are your blog posts or emails, social media captions, a book that you wrote, a video, a chorus that you recorded, anything that is an original work of art or authorship can be classified as a copyright asset.

And when you own the rights to a copyright asset, to your content, you have the exclusive rights to the use of it, to publish it, to profit off of it, to license of it, to others, to repurpose it, or create derivative works based on it and more. And so this is, and when we look at bigger picture too, is the value. And when we zoom out and look at the bigger picture, in your business, you probably don’t have very many physical assets or equipment or inventory, which traditionally that is what would add to the value of a business, a local business, a physical business.

But when you have a digital business, a business that market sells, delivers, operates primarily online and your brand lives online and that’s where your consumers are interacting with your business and brand, then your intellectual property is huge in terms of adding to the value of your business and brand. So I wanna make sure that we are preserving those assets that we’re protecting them, that we’re enforcing our rights as it relates to them.

(06:13) Protecting Your Content: Providing Access to Content
There are three different situations that I want to talk about today. So how to protect your content when you’re providing access to your content, whether it’s free content or paid form of content, how to protect your content when you’re creating content for others, or if you are hiring someone else to create content for you or your company, and then how to protect your content when you catch an infringer. So when you find somebody infringing on your content, what do you do in that instance?

So when it comes to protecting your content, when you’re providing access to your content, free content, like on your website, or paid content where people are having to pay in order to access the content, whether it is an ebook or a course, or maybe it’s a paid newsletter. I mean, there are many different kinds of paid content and then there are different kinds of free content too on your social media platforms, on your website.

Let me say this too, because this is important to note and keep in mind is you really want to be preventative. And I know I’ve said it so many times to be proactive, don’t wait to be reactive, but you really want to be preventative whenever it comes to protecting your content. Because yeah, there are some things that you can do, you know, if you find yourself facing an infringement situation, but you really want to be preventative.

You want to avoid that situation from coming up in the first place. So term the conditions of the use of your content are key here. This is really your first line of defense. This is your best at communicating your policies and the terms of the use of your content and how people can use it, where they can use it, when they can use it, etc. Think of a licensing agreement.

Like when somebody provides you with the ability to use their content, whether it’s a photo or a video or audio, they specify the terms of your use of that content commercially or personally. So make sure you have some strong terms and conditions on your website that state how people can use the content that’s published on your website and that appears elsewhere on your social platforms.

You can include that in your terms and conditions on your site. And then use your copyright notices. So that’s that circled C. The small circled R and the small TM, those are trademark symbols. We’ll get into those in a future episode when we focus on trademarks specifically. Today we’re talking about that circled C, your copyright notice.

So make sure that you are using that. You don’t have to use it, but this goes back to you want to put others on notice. You want to be preventative. You want to be proactive. You don’t want to hide it in the fine print where people aren’t aware of what your rights are or what their rights are as it relates to the use of the content that they’re seeing or that they’re getting access to.

So if you open up any book, if there’s a book within reach of you, you know, open up to that first few page, the first few pages, you’ll find a copyright notice and it’ll state you cannot or maybe you can, depending on what the author and the publisher decided they wanted to include, use this content or reproduce this content without the authorization of the author or the publisher.

I’ve seen some books that state you can republish it and you don’t need authorization from the publisher or from the author. And so you as the owner of that copyright, like I said, you are in the best position to state what your policies are and how people can use the content in an authorized way. And that way, if they use it in something outside of what you authorize, it’s a clear violation of your rights and you’ll be in a position to enforce your rights and pursue damages if needed.

(09:18) Protecting Your Content: Creating Content for Others
Now, when creating content for others or if you’re hiring someone to create content for you, how can you protect your content? This is our second point. The reason why this is important and relevant here is because we’ve got to ask ourselves the question of who owns this content? Who owns the right to the use of this content?

And when you create the content, of course, you own it. If it’s original content, you own it. And under the law, the creator of that content owns the copyright asset. So if you hire an agency or a freelancer or an individual to create content for you, if they’re an employee of your company, then your company owns it by default. If they are not an employee of your company, if they’re an independent contractor, then it has to be in writing, the transfer of the ownership of that copyright.

So what I’ve seen in the past, I remember I had a client who, she had a physical product-based business and she hired somebody to take photos of the products that they were selling in their e-commerce shop. And the photographer, they’re creating a copyright asset, they’re creating this visual work product, maintained ownership of those visuals of those photos. It was never put in writing. It wasn’t in the contract.

I can’t remember if they had a, if they didn’t have a contract at all, or maybe they had a contract and they didn’t address ownership in the contract either way. And both of those are common practices. Unfortunately. Um, hopefully you can avoid making that mistake. That photographer was able to take those photos and license the use of them to other people who were selling a similar product online, which of course the client did not want that to be the case. They’re like, wait, what? Like I invested a lot supporting the production of these photos.

However, the independent contractor, the photographer who captured those images was the one that held the copyright. So they had the right to license these of those photos to others. So you want to make sure you own, if you’re hiring someone else to create content for you, you want to make sure you own that content. And that way you can do whatever it is that you’d like to do with it.

Another instance is I had a friend years ago who worked with, I don’t remember if it was an agency or a freelancer, but it was somebody that provided copywriting services. And they wrote the copy, really great copy, if I remember correctly. I remember that specifically because she was so excited whenever the copy went live on the website. She was just so pumped. I remember thinking like, wow, this is some really great written work. This is awesome.

However, in the contract, they did not address transferring ownership to the client of the copy after the project was complete, which that is a common practice. You can put that in your agreement if you’re creating content for clients or you’re hiring someone to create content for you, address that in the contract.

What happens after payment is made and the project is complete, who owns the content? Or maybe the person who owns the content by default, the creator of the content, maybe they want to reserve their rights in the content and provide you with a license. That’s an option too. And there’s no right or wrong approach here. Everybody has different priorities and needs as it relates to ownership and use of the content.

So it’s certainly on a case by case basis and you want to have that communication openly with the person who’s creating content for you or that you’re creating content for. And so they didn’t address it when they created this awesome website copy. And then the copywriting service provider was able to take that content and modify it slightly, create a derivative work from it, and sell that as website copy to a competitor, somebody that was selling similar products or services.

And so you can see how and why that would be an issue with the client. And so those are situations that we can avoid and get ahead of by making sure it’s clear upfront who owns the content upon completion of this contract. Is it the person who created the content or is it the person who is hiring the provider to create the content? And at what point does that take place?

(12:57) Protecting Your Content: Catching an Infringer
So finally, let’s talk about how to protect your content when you catch an infringer. So like I mentioned, ideally, you really want to be proactive and prevent any infringement situations from happening either intentionally or unintentionally. However, this just comes with the territory. There will always be a risk to your content being copied or stolen. It’s just a reality of the digital landscape and the world that we live in today. However, you’re more in control than you might believe.

As I’ve described here, there are certain steps that you can take to clearly state your policies, clearly state your rights, preserve your rights. make sure that you are owning all of the content that you intend to maintain control and use up. And so I want to encourage you to not let fear of facing a copycat or infringement situation, don’t let that hold you back from putting your content out there, from putting your genius out there, from showing up as yourself online.

As a creator you are, as the educator you are, as the writer and creative that you are, et cetera. keep creating content, keep putting your content out there, just be smart about how you are presenting your content and make sure that you’ve got your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed from a terms and conditions standpoint and the terms of use standpoint.

Now, if you’ve done all that and then you still find yourself facing an infringement situation, somebody’s copying your content, is using your images, is using your music, written content, whatever it might look like, that might still happen. And I want you to know that if you find yourself facing that situation, you’re going to be okay.

If you’re facing that situation right now, you’re actually in the middle of that, you’re going to be okay. You’re not the first person or the last person. If this is of course a high-stakes situation, absolutely right off the bat, I encourage you to consult one-on-one with an attorney so you can figure out what the legal analysis of this situation is from an expert’s perspective and also understand what your options are as far as navigating the situation and enforcing your rights go.

So it does make sense to always call out infringers and enforce your rights. You want to make sure you are preserving your rights in your intellectual property. You don’t want to allow for dilution of your content or in the rights and the use of your content.

Now, before you call anybody out on the internet or otherwise, one, take screenshots of everything, document everything, capture all of the evidence that you would need in order to present a case against this person. And not that you’re going to be going to court next week or anything, but…

You want to make sure that you have all of the evidence you need to show what took place and that your rights were infringed upon as an intellectual property owner. Now, before you send the cease and desist or message them online, make sure you closely examine the situation first. Make sure what is taking place is actually copyright infringement.

If it is an exact use of your image or a copy and paste of your copy or content or graphics or music or whatever it might be, there are some avenues that you can explore as far as takedown forms on most online platforms. Most online platforms these days have a takedown request form or a copyright infringement notification form. And some platforms are really good about taking down infringing content. Some platforms can be a bit problematic. And when it comes to a copyright infringement situation, it’s certainly a lot of gray area. It’s very rarely a black or white situation.

It’s like, okay, Is there actually infringement taking place here? Be aware that just because somebody is talking about a similar topic, that doesn’t mean that infringement is taking place. It’s an exact use or a use that is clearly derived from this original expression in a written format, an audio format, or a visual format.

So examine the situation. Make sure you’re actually dealing with infringement here. If you need help figuring that out, an attorney one-on-one licensed in your jurisdiction and that specializes in intellectual property should be able to help you there. But if it’s clear, like they literally ripped off exactly what it is that whatever the piece of content is, then you can explore filing a takedown request form on whatever platform the content appears on.

And that is one approach that you can take here. If it’s clear that the alleged infringer has been profiting of the unauthorized use of your content, then there might be more for you to pursue there that you might be entitled to damages due to their infringement and their unauthorized use of your content. And so that is something I would talk to a lawyer about to see how you can approach that and maybe even help you communicate with that other party in order to make your demands.

(17:36) Avoiding Infringement

Something to keep in mind as an individual who is marketing online or publishing content online, and you want to be aware of this as a user and as an asset owner, as somebody who owns intellectual property assets, is that every piece of content on the internet, somebody owns the rights to the use of it. So spare yourself having to receive a cease and desist letter.

Do not use random photos or music from the internet or Pinterest or Google or Instagram or wherever to promote your offers and promote your business. Doing so can land you in hot water because you are using somebody else’s IP asset. You’re using somebody else’s copyright asset commercially and so you want to avoid that.

You can go to websites like Pexels or Pixabay or like there are tons and tons of other websites that provide access to stock photography. If you’re looking for photos to use on your website or in your marketing materials, you always want to read the terms of use on those websites. Many of them have no fee and you can just use them commercially. Some of them there is a fee associated with them. So if you use it without paying that fee, then you are not authorized to use it commercially.

Oh, you always want to read what the terms and conditions or the terms of use state. Another tool that I have not checked out myself personally, I haven’t used it myself, but I’ve had clients use it in the past. There’s a tool called Copyscape. It has a monitoring function. And so they basically crawl the web in real-time, searching for copied content based on the content that is on your website or content that you provide them with that they are searching the internet for.

And then they provide you or they’ll send you a notification if they detect your content being used online and you determine that it’s unauthorized, then you might decide to take legal action against them or otherwise enforce your rights. So there are tools out there and I’m sure that’s one of many tools that exist, but that’s something to look into. And then there are some other things that are low cost or no cost, like Google alerts. I saw somebody on the internet the other day talking about how she has a web design agency.

And her agency built a website for a company in, I don’t remember what state, maybe it was like Virginia or something. And she set up a Google alert for her. So you can set up Google alerts to where if anything is published online using the name that you set the alert for, maybe it’s the name of your company, maybe it’s your name personally, maybe it’s a keyword. You receive an alert that something has been published using that name or that phrase or that word.

And so she received a Google alert for her company name. She had set her company name up for Google alerts. And the alert, I’m sure she was shocked when she saw it, was for a website that looked exactly like the website of the client that she worked with in Virginia or whatever state it was, except it was a different business. It was a similar business. They sold the same thing, but it was a different business. But they literally ripped the website design off. And they stupidly forgot to remove the site credit from the bottom.

If you’ve seen this on some websites, you might have seen this or maybe it’s on your website. Some web design agencies or web designers like to include a site credit at the bottom and the footer of the website. And when they copied and pasted everything, because clearly how else would that have happened?

They forgot to remove her site credit. And so she got a notification. My understanding is that she made a demand to them to take it down and they agreed to take it down. But if I remember correctly, I think she said that they denied that they copied it, but I mean, what else are they going to say? I don’t know. It’s the Wild West. Let’s just put it that.

(21:13) Conclusion

I mean, anything can happen, but there are laws, you know, so it’s important that we do understand that that is considered infringement. So you want to avoid that if you can, you know, you never want to be the infringer, of course.

And then as the asset owner, as a person that owns the rights, you want to avoid those situations as well and call out infringers and force your rights and make sure you are protecting what is highly likely to be the most valuable asset in your business. So I hope this has been helpful for you as far as protecting your content online, some different practices that we can engage in. I would love to hear from you. If you’ve loved this episode, please send me a voice memo.

I’m always down to voice memo on Instagram. So if you want to send me a voice memo @Coachesandcompany, that is the inbox I’m always in. I also like to hang out on threads. You can send me a thread on Threads, say, hey, let me know that you listened to this episode, if you enjoyed it, if you have any follow-up questions, or if you have any stories related to different copyright infringement situations. If anybody has ever copied your content, I would love to hear about that.

I’m sorry to hear that that happened, but you know, as you can see by the examples I shared, and you know, this is the tip of the iceberg. I have many other examples that I’ve witnessed with myself as a creator and as somebody who’s publishing content online and clients that I worked with in the past.

So this is something that just comes with the territory. It’s a part of doing business. And so we’ve just got to be proactive, take those preventative measures, and then just be prepared to handle it with grace if and when the situation comes up. I hope to hear from y ‘all. I will see you on the internet. Peace.

Hey, friend. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Business of Doing Business podcast powered by coachesandcompany.com. If you enjoyed what you heard, please share it with a friend or to your social media and tag us @Coachesandcompany.

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Also, you can find more tips and resources for your business by visiting coachesandcompany.com and by following us on Instagram @Yasmine Salem Hamdan, and @Coachesandcompany if you have any questions or comments, any topic requests or future episodes, or maybe you want to be a guest on our show, you can reach me directly by emailing Hello@coachesandcompany.com.

Thanks again for listening and I’ll see you next time!

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