108. Should You Copyright That?

Should You Copyright That

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In this episode, you’ll hear… 

  • The difference between copyright and trademark
  • How to register a copyright
  • What’s actually worth copyrighting

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The difference between copyright and trademark

First, let’s break down what falls under “copyright” and then what falls under “trademark” (for what we do):

Copyright = literary works, things like books, blog posts, social posts, course content, PDFs, eBooks, videos, webinars, etc.

Trademark = business names, logos, taglines, program names, and product names.

So if you have a piece of content that properly qualifies for copyright protection (ie, it’s original AND it’s fixed in a tangible medium of expression, aka you’ve gotten it out of your brain and actually created the thing) then you can submit it to the US Copyright Office for official registration.

So what do I copyright?

But what to copyright is a whole other animal.

If we went around copyrighting every single piece of content we created… well, here at Sam Vander Wielen LLC, I’d need an entire wing of an office building overflowing with full-time staff working around the clock, submitting copyright apps 😂 (#🙋🏽‍♀️pumpsoutlotsofcontent)

So I’ll say the same thing to you I always say to our customers…

💼 Lawyer Sam Says:

Copyright everything! It’s the only way to enforce protection in Federal court or damages if someone steals it from you!

🎉 Normal everyday Sam (the more fun one, to be honest):

That’s crazy and not practical. My motto? Register the key stuff. Your money makers. The stuff that would hurt your business if someone stole it.

Do you have protection even without registering? Absolutely! In fact, you’re entitled to something called “common law” protection from the moment you create something and “fix it in a tangible medium”.

But you won’t get very much enforcement rights out of your common law right to your work – you can’t sue them in Federal court, which means you don’t get very much moolah or damages for what they did. And also a bunch of other missed benefits.

To sum it up…

Registration is absolutely the best option, but it’s also not practical to register everything you create.

Keep in mind: if someone steals your social content, most platforms have their own enforcement division where they’ll take it down (but you still won’t get money). If someone puts something on their website that’s yours, you can try to do a DMCA takedown or contact Google and their host.

You have options. They’re not all created equal, that’s all.

If you’re not sure whether you should register something or not, consult a local-to-you intellectual property attorney. I’m not telling you whether or not to register. As always, this isn’t legal advice.

This is the first of a 2-part episode on copyrights. For part 2, tune into episode 110, “Can I Get Paid If Someone Steals My Content?” to hear all about whether or not you can get money from copyright infringement.

Episode Transcript

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Sam Vander Wielen: Hey there. And welcome back to On Your Terms, where, on Thursdays, I tackle your legal questions about starting and growing a legally protected online business in ten minutes or less. This week, we’re talking all about copyrights.

And I hope you don’t mind my little dog son, Hudson. He is aka my best friend and my sidekick. He’s sitting next to me. He’s eating his breakfast right now because the only way I could get him to chill out was to bring his breakfast up to my room, where I podcast, and let him eat in here. So, I hope you’re okay with that. Dog moms, you know. Okay.

So, this week’s question was from Lara. Lara asks, “Can you explain how to copyright stuff and what to copyright?” So, first, let’s break down what falls under copyright and what falls under trademark, because I feel like this is where people tend to get a little stuck.

So, in terms of what gets copyrighted, we’re talking about things like literary works, things like books, blog posts, social posts, course content, PDFs, ebooks, videos, webinars, et cetera, at least in terms of our industry. There are lots and lots of things that can be copywritten, but I’m just talking more about in our industry.

When we’re talking about trademarks, the things that we trademark are things like business names, logos, taglines, program names, product names, stuff like that. So, we’re talking more about protecting names, taglines, logos, stuff like that.

So, if you have a piece of content that properly qualifies for copyright protection, in other words, it’s original to you, you didn’t copy it from someone else, and it’s what we call fixed in a tangible medium of expression, aka in English, you’ve gotten it out of your brain and onto paper, or you’ve actually created the thing, you can then submit it to the U.S. Copyright Office for official copyright registration.

Copyright registration is much faster and cheaper and easier to do on your own than trademark registration is to do. But we’re not choosing between one or the other. I’m just letting you know that is a big difference.

So, what to copyright is a whole different question. So, if we run around copywriting, you know, sending off a registration, every single thing, every single piece of content that we create if you have an online business, well, at least here at my business, I would need an entire wing of an office building overflowing with full time staff working around the clock submitting copyright applications, like, all the time. I produce a lot of content.

Oh, Hudson’s done his breakfast. Good news. Okay. I hope it was enjoyable.

So, I would say the same thing to you that I always say to our customers. So, lawyer me, which you can picture wearing a suit and being super uptight and wearing glasses or something, says, “Copyright everything. It’s the only way to enforce protection in Federal Court or get damages if somebody steals your stuff.” But normal me, who’s probably wearing a hoodie and is probably more fun, or at least more fun than the lawyer part of me, says, “That is crazy. That is not practical.” That is just not practical for the reason I said, I’d have to have a full time staff and it would be super expensive, it would be time consuming, and it’s just unnecessary for all of your content.

My motto, register your key stuff, register your moneymakers, the stuff that you would be really upset about if somebody stole it, the stuff that would financially hurt your business if someone stole it or copied it.

If you are wondering do you even have protection, though, if you don’t register, so if you don’t register something with the U.S. Copyright Office and somebody steals it, isn’t that still bad? Yes. Absolutely. It’s not okay for people to steal. Period. You are entitled to something called common law protection from the moment that you create something and fix it in a tangible medium. Remember, that’s getting it out of your brain and into real life.

You just won’t get very many enforcement rights out of your common law right to your copywritten work. You can’t sue them in Federal Court, which essentially means you just don’t get a whole lot of dough or damages for whatever they did. You miss a lot of benefits. But you do have some action, it’s just going to be very hard.

What I really like is the one-two punch for protecting your moneymakers, your course content, your stuff you send to clients, stuff like that, your webinars, whatever. What I really like is that you have it copyright and you send it off and get it registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. And you also have a terms of use or terms and conditions, it depends what kind of product we’re talking about here, that has the language in it that protects your content and that says that it’s illegal for people to share, because you also want to get people in breach of contract just as much as you want to get them on this copyright violation.

So, that’s built into all of my contract templates for whatever you need. They’re all in my template shop. If you have any questions about this, feel free to send me a DM on Instagram, @samvanderwielen. I love hearing all of your questions, so I am so excited to hear what you think about this episode.

And I also hope that I will see you soon. I have an upcoming training. You’re going to want to keep your eyes peeled if you want to learn more about what to do if people steal your content. Keep your eyes peeled here on the podcast, on my emails, on Instagram. I’ve got something coming up for you in, like, two weeks. It’s going to be huge for you if you want to learn how to protect your content.

So, with that, thank you so much for listening. Send me a DM on Instagram, @samvanderwielen, if you have any questions. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks so much for listening to the On Your Terms Podcast. Make sure to follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. You can also check out all of our podcast episodes, show notes, links, and more at samvanderwielen.com/podcast. You can learn more about legally protecting your business and take my free legal workshop, Five Steps to Legally Protect and Grow Your Online Business, at samvanderwielen.com. And to stay connected and follow along, follow me on Instagram, @samvanderwielen, and send me a DM to say hi.

Just remember that although I am a attorney, I am not your attorney and I am not offering you legal advice in today’s episode. This episode and all of my episodes are informational and educational only. It is not a substitute for seeking out your own advice from your own lawyer. And please keep in mind that I can’t offer you legal advice. I don’t ever offer any legal services. But I think I offer some pretty good information.




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