by Kelley Keller
Did you know that you might not own your content? The content on your business blog, in your ebook, in your presentations, and on your website might not be owned by you at all—even if you created it. If you don’t own your content, you can’t protect it or keep others from using it for their financial gain!
The key to make sure your content gives only you a competitive advantage in the marketplace is to copyright it, but you have to own it to copyright it. Following are five common situations where you might not own your content and how to fix them:
1. You paid for it but didn’t get a signed Work Made for Hire Agreement.
If you hired a freelance writer or contractor to create your content and didn’t have them sign a Work Made for Hire Agreement, then he or she owns the content, not you. Only the owner can get a federal copyright registration for the content. Therefore, anytime you pay someone to create content for you, make sure they sign an agreement so you get both the authorship and ownership rights to it.
2. You wrote it while employed for another company.
If you created your content while you were working for another company and you were paid for your work as part of your employment, then that other company owns the content and the copyright. To solve this problem, create new content rather than re-using old content that you created as part of a previous job.
3. You already sold the content ownership rights to someone else.
If you already sold (i.e., “assigned”) the ownership rights to the content to another person or entity, then you don’t own it anymore. For example, an author can assign the ownership rights of a manuscript to a publisher. Don’t assign your rights, so you retain the copyright and all of the competitive advantages that come with it.
4. You wrote it as part of a Work Made for Hire Agreement with a third party.
If you created your content as part of a Work Made for Hire Agreement with another person or entity, then that person or entity owns it. Bottom-line, you give up all of your ownership rights whenever you sign a Work Made for Hire Agreement, so be careful what you sign and when you sign it!
5. Your content isn’t original.
If your content is merely a regurgitation of facts, lacks a basic level of creativity, or is made up of bits and pieces from other people’s original work (i.e., it wasn’t independently created by you), then you might not own all or part of the work and you definitely can’t copyright it. When you create content, make sure it meets the criteria to be copyrighted or you’ll have little to no ability to protect it and keep others from profiting from it.
Finally, if you own your content, be sure to put others on notice that it’s yours by displaying the appropriate copyright notice!
Kelley Keller, Esq. is President of The Keller Law Firm and a 20-year veteran of the intellectual property law field. As an intellectual property attorney, she has deep experience helping businesses of all sizes identify, manage, and protect their trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets, including many household brands like Toyota, Disney, and Verizon, which she worked with during her tenure at two of the largest IP law firms in Washington, D.C. Kelley also offers education to small business owners, creative and coaching professionals, digital entrepreneurs, and established companies about starting, building, and growing a Rock Solid Business on an strong foundation through her website KelleyKeller.com.
Kelley’s personable nature and ability to explain complex legal issues in simple terms set her apart from most attorneys. She is relentless in helping businesses, their owners, and their families mitigate risks and open the doors to new opportunities.
You can find Kelley on Twitter, LinkedIn,Facebook, and Instagram.
2 Replies to “5 Reasons You Might Not Own Your Content and How to Fix Them”
Yes, Sara! Registering your federal copyrights is critically important as are Work Made for Hire agreements.
Copyright especially during this digital age is a big and sometimes heated debate.
Most know that you own a copyright the moment you create something but even I didn’t know about work for hire.
I do work for others – they’ve requested that I not publish it elsewhere which I agreed but nothing was put in writing.
Reading what you sign and officially copyrighting (with the cash to back it up) is really the best way to protect your work.