If you have an innovative idea, you might be worried that someone will steal it and claim it as their own. It’s understandable to want to protect your intellectual property, but it’s also important to know what will actually work and what won’t work in that effort.
Here are the five most common myths about intellectual property and why you should stop believing them.
1) Myth: If it’s on the internet, it’s free for everyone
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Online content, like written work, videos, music, photographs, and code, belongs to someone. If you publish it on a website or share it with a friend over email without permission, you are breaking federal law. In fact, even if you’re using something that isn’t copyrighted (e.g., an idea), you can still get in trouble for sharing it without first asking for permission. This is called unauthorized use of a copyrighted work under Section 107 of US Copyright Law and carries serious penalties.
2) Myth: If it’s online, I don’t need to protect it
When it comes to infringements online, some myths need to be put to rest. To start, here are a few falsehoods you should believe less. If you fail to register your copyright for your content, people might end up using it without paying for it, or use it for reasons other than what you meant for it. Take these warnings at your own risk.
Copyright protects published, but not unpublished, works. Copyrights exist as soon as an idea or work is created. This means that unpublished work is protected, too. Even if someone never copies your ideas and you never publish them, they can still be held accountable for copyright infringement.
3) Myth: I can use others’ content as long as I give credit.
No, you can’t. The internet has created many opportunities for people to use your work without permission, which is why it is imperative that you follow copyright laws and always give credit when you use someone else’s content. Simply put, don’t steal from others, it may seem harmless but it isn’t. If a company sees that their content is being used on your website or business plan and they haven’t given permission, they could take legal action against you.
4) Myth: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects me.
A lot of people are afraid that sharing content in any way could lead to legal repercussions. Luckily, you don’t have to worry: The DMCA protects you from getting in trouble if there are illegal copies of your work on someone else’s site. However, it doesn’t protect you if a user uploads your work and leaves it up. So make sure you take down copyrighted works as soon as possible when they appear on your site.
Also, be careful not to post anything that might be considered a violation of someone else’s copyright, for example, posting an image with text over it or using music without permission. The Truth: The DMCA does not protect you from getting sued for copyright infringement. It only prevents companies like Google or Yahoo! from being punished for hosting copyrighted material posted by users.
5) Myth: The Internet makes IP irrelevant.
Sorry to break it to you, but digital piracy is alive and well online. The Internet has made it easier for people to share content (which is great), but it’s also made it easier for people to share content illegally, and that’s not so great. When an IP owner discovers their work has been used without permission, they can take legal action against those who are infringing on their rights. However, before they do anything, they should make sure they understand how IP laws apply in their situation.
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