How to protect your digital assets

The digital economy is thriving, and with so much lucrative opportunity to leverage digital assets comes the risk of piracy, plagiarism and copyright infringement.  Before heading off to a media law firm it might be worth researching the basics.  Digital marketing can grow your small business exponentially yet there are risks with putting your content and digital assets out for all to access.

In this article, we’re going to look at copyright and what you are able to do in order to protect your digital intellectual property.

WHAT IS COPYRIGHT

The law of copyright is an automatic law.  It automatically protects the creator of a piece of original work – whether this is in words, art, or music.  The © symbol can be used to show that you are the owner of the piece of work, or you can include a declaration that something is copyright protected, but in reality both of these prophylactic symbolic measures are unnecessary, because in law, the owner of the original work is protected without having specify the copyright belongs to them.

Sometimes, adding a statement (such as “All rights are reserved. No part of this work may be reprinted, reproduced or used without the permission in writing of the publisher.”) is a wise measure – as a prevention, for the “cure” can be costly both in terms of lost revenue and legal proceedings.

OTHER PROTECTION AVAILABLE

Sometimes, digital assets can be digitally protected by encoding, watermarking or encryption.  This offers a further preventive measure against unauthorised use, and is often used in digital assets such as photographs, music, or films.  A simple example is a wedding photographer that watermarks the images and provides them in low resolution quality.  This prevents the client from printing out the preview images without paying for the actual images.

With regard to software, you can digitally protect an asset to be downloaded just once or on a time-limited basis, such as a one month trial.  Adobe and Netflix are both brilliant examples of how to protect content using a membership scheme.

WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE BREACHES YOUR COPYRIGHT?

If a digital asset is downloaded and used without permission, then the user is normally in breach of copyright.  Similarly, a breach of copyright has occurred when someone uses a piece of music they don’t own (e.g. using a clip as a background track in a video they subsequently publish onto YouTube), or if someone copies and pastes your text or image, without crediting you as the author – or without purchasing the content through a licence agreement.

Copyright infringement tends to be a criminal offence, and in certain circumstances, what can seem a minor and trivial matter (such as using a popular music clip as a background song in a promotional video) can land you in deep water with a record label.

The first step is usually a “cease and desist” application, meaning the copyright owner will get in touch to make you aware that you are infringing their copyright.  Usually, this letter will request you stop using the material and the matter ends there.  However, if you persist, or if you have made significant profit from work that has incorporated their intellectual property – they may pursue you for damages.

Similarly, if our digital asset or intellectual property has been infringed, you have the right to stop the infringer and potentially receive damages in compensation.

*This is a contributed post

 

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