Protect your IP and survive

Defending intellectual property (IP) is not given as much emphasis as using the IP of others or creating IP. It should have equal weight in the policies and practices of every journalist, editor and publisher.

We all know who defends IP: Walt Disney does and others don’t mess with their content as a result. Publishers need to build a reputation as strong as Disney if they want to defend their property

There are six simple and quite inexpensive steps to take to defend IP in publishing.

First, develop a culture of defending IP within the company. Everybody has their role. Journalists looking at the competition’s paper publications and Web sites play a key role. Every member of staff should be on the look out. Possible infringements should be flagged up right away.

Second, register the trade mark of the titles of magazines. It’s quite cheap, only £200. And it can be done in a few months. The UK Government’s Intellectual Property Office has some clear guidance on this.

Third, make clear the terms and conditions of use in paper publications and on Web sites. Write these in English, not the normal legalese which people cannot understand. Put them in the flannel panel of paper publications and in a small but visible slot on the home page. Say, clearly, what is in the public domain and what is not.

Fourth, keep an eye out for passing off. If you have established a presence in the market and others come to copy it, then you can act. VNU did over Computer Active and so did Red over Real.

Fifth, when you get the big interview, when you publish anything you think others will be particularly interested in, mark it clearly as your copyright. You don’t have to under current copyright law, but it does give a clear warning to others that you consider it yours alone.

Finally, act to defend your IP. Send out clear and prompt emails and letters to anybody using you IP without permission. Send clear notices even to the small fry. If the individual user puts it in the public domain without your permission, you may get to the appoint where you cannot defend your property because it has been copied too much.

If you don’t want to protect your IP, that’s OK. Clearly mark material with the creative commons sign at whatever level you choose if you are happy that it is used by others.

In other words: Protect and survive.

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