What You Should Be Working On–Copyright

Build value in your company by creating a marketable library of content that is copyrighted.

This post is the fourth in a five-part series on what you—the entrepreneur—should be working on right now. (Read Part I, Part II, and Part III). The premise of the series is straightforward: You should be increasing the value of your company by treating the company as a product that you want someone to buy. And creating/owning intellectual property can have a major impact in the value of your company.

A potential buyer of your company would likely want it to be known in the marketplace. Making yourself known requires marketing by, among other things, creating advertising materials, having and promoting your website, generating social media output, writing articles, presenting speeches, commenting on industry news, etc. What if all of those creative works you generate could be used by your competitors just by copying and replacing your name with their own? That would create chaos! Fortunately, copyright law makes unauthorized copying and use of creative works illegal.

What Is Copyrighted Works?

Copyright is a body of law that protects authors of creative works. For businesses those creative works include marketing materials, content of a website (both words and images), and if you have an interactive website or an app, it includes the code that goes into the website or app.

A copyrighted work is a type of property known as Intellectual Property because it starts out as an idea before it is converted into property. And like all kinds of property, the rights of a copyright owner are defined by law. The protection provided by law is that only the owner of the copyrighted works may authorize who is allowed to copy or distribute copies, display or prepare derivative works.

Unlike trademarks and patents, you don’t have to register with the government in order to have a national copyright on the works you create. Most Copyright rights attach to a creative work at the moment it is recorded on a fixed medium; and a “fixed medium” may be paper or camera film of course, but a hard disk is also a fixed medium. So as soon as you or one of your employees creates a new work (web page, online ad, printed marketing collaterals, photo/drawing) on their computer or on their digital camera, the work has a copyright attached to it. You can place the © symbol next to it. There is one right for which you need registration in order to exercise it: You must register the works with the Copyright Office in order to defend that works from infringement. That is a topic for a different blog post, but suffice it to be said here that when you register you copyrighted works, you are telling the world that you value that content.

What You Should Be Working On Now

You should spend some time each week devoted to making your company a place where creative expression can flourish, with the expressly stated goal of developing a large and growing body of creative works that can be copyrighted. This is true for every company!

First, the body of creative works produced by your company defines the nature, mission, and vision of your company and establishes credibility among prospective customers. Lack of creative works also makes a statement about your company, one you probably don’t want!

Second consider that a common refrain from marketing people is that you should be developing content for your website; content is king; content helps you get noticed, found.

But there is more to a body of creative works than the marketing advantage it provides. A body of publically available copyrighted works is property. Think of your company’s body of creative works as a fenced in piece of land that you can improve, build on, expand. The compendium of articles you have written, speeches you have given, ads you have commissioned, Tweets, blog posts, comments on other people’s content, videos, etc., all of that creates a body of work that a buyer of your company would not have to create from scratch. It creates value in your company.

So your company needs to be working on articles, speeches, ads, Tweets, comments, videos, etc. If you are not particularly good as writing yourself, then you should write down ideas and give them to employees who do write well. This is a great way to engage the creative people on your staff to produce property for your company.

Even if you have no creative people on staff, or if the creative project you have in mind is too technical (such as creating a corporate video) you can hire a freelancer writer as an independent contractor. (In that case, be sure to get a work-made-for-hire contract with the independent contractor. More on that in a separate post.)

Next you should catalog all of your creative works. Place a copy of each creative work in a special place, your own corporate library. Exploit your library to create derivative works from time to time by, for example, creating a video from a blog entry on a specific topic. Republish creative works by adding comments or updating original data. As your library grows, you will find it increasingly easier to generate new content from works you already have done.

Intellectual property in the form of a growing library of creative works is within reach of every business. Engage your creative side and your creative employees to develop your own corporate library, protect its content with copyright registration, and watch the value of your business grow.
Argent Place Law, PLLC focuses in the legal needs of businesses and business owners in matters of business and contract law, intellectual property law, and succession planning, including estate planning with wills and trusts. By integrating these fields of law, Argent Place Law intends to the law firm For The Life Of Business.TM

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