Protect Your Intellectual Property with Vigilance and Software Help

Melanie Gross
Jun 18, 2011
Updated • Jun 18, 2011

Uploading your property onto the internet can be scary. Intellectual property can be just as, if not more, valuable than the cars we drive and homes we live in, yet we often treat it as if it’s nothing of value – as if we have no vested interest in protecting it. When we post photos to Facebook or poems to a blog, we often fail to understand the implications of our actions.

The truth is that in casually posting your intellectual property to the web, you may be throwing away the rights you once held over that property. While you may have taken a picture, if you agree to terms that surrender those rights, others may be free to manipulate and profit from that image in whatever way they see fit. You likeness could wind up on a website, a flyer, or even a billboard in New York City, all because you failed to understand the importance of intellectual property rights and the internet.

Protecting yourself requires different measures for different property and purposes. For example, most people have little interest in profiting off of the things they post on Facebook further down the road. As such, simply reading user agreements when signing up for web services and uploading content to them can ensure that your property is safe. There was a great deal of suspicion around Facebook’s user agreements a few years ago that caused many people to fear their intellectual property rights to things posted to the could disappear. Users responded, and the agreement was changed. This kind of consciousness is absolutely necessary to protect yourself from theft.

When you have something of value, however, things are more complicated. You have to decide how close you are going to hold your rights, file for protection, and prepare to fight for your intellectual property should an attempt be made to steal it. For most people this can seem like a pretty difficult set of tasks to tackle, but it doesn’t need to be.

First, decide how you want to protect your property, or if you even want to at all. You may choose to deliberately open something up to the public domain, providing it to those on the internet to use at their discretion. However, most people require at least some level of protection. For such people, “copylefting” or creative commons licenses may be best. These grant permission for your property to be used under certain circumstances, and with restrictions you set.

Finally, copyrighting may be necessary if your intellectual property has significant value and you want to upload it to the internet. Copyrighting requires you to submit documentation about your property to the government, which will validate that you have sole rights to the property and will then offer it protection. Most people have no idea how to submit this information. A quick visit to the U.S. government’s site here can provide most of the information you need to know. Of course, if you really feel you need help, paid programs like are available that can help you out. For most people, however, software is not necessary to understand the filing process.

Protecting yourself is no simple task. Yet with a little knowledge, a lot of thought, and maybe even a little help from software, you can protect your intellectual property from theft.

Martin's Addendum:

Webmasters may want to look specifically at the document Copyright Registration for Online Works. While it is not possible to copyright a domain name, it is possible to copyright contents on a website. Then again, you will have to pay a fee and, from what I can gather, copy all contents of your website that you want to copyright on CD, DVD or in paper form, which is not really practicable for large sites.

To many open questions for my taking: Can foreign nationals register copyrights in the US? How much are the fees, and how much is the deposit the document is referring to? Lastly, is there a way to copyright a website's contents without making it available on CD or DVD?


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