How Releasing Your Copyright = Free Marketing

08 Oct 2009


Every time we write, draw, paint, photograph, sketch, etc. something, we want to claim it as ours. Shout it from the rooftops, let everyone know: This is mine. I did this.

Copyright has always been the legal protection for writers, artists, thinkers, developers, photographers, etc., to protect their ideas from being stolen and reproduced. Now introduce the Internet. Suddenly, the established rules of copyright are flying out the window.

Why copyright doesn’t work on the Internet:

Blogs. Social Media. Wikipedia. Do these things ring a bell? The Internet brings together a bunch of different people, and they’re all there to do one thing: share information. (Ok, you can order a pizza and pay your electricity bill online too, but just humor me). And they can’t share that information if you have a big fat copyright on your work.

The fact of the matter is, even with a copyright, someone’s probably going to try to reproduce your ideas anyway: they might post an article to their blog, send it in an email, or share it on their Facebook page. That’s just what people do. Then you have to decide if it’s worth your time to hire a lawyer and start sending out cease and desist letters.

Why releasing copyright could help you:

In a blog post on the Write to Done site, Leo Babauta makes a very good point: by releasing copyright, you could get other people to do your marketing for you – FOR FREE. He also makes a lot of good points about how releasing copyright won’t make you lose money – you can still generate revenue from uncopyrighted material.

Think about it: You write an ebook and release the copyright. Someone likes it, so they share it on their blog. Suddenly, your ebook has a lot of new eyeballs looking at it: that blogger’s readers are all reading your information, and then they’re going to go straight to the source (your blog, website, etc) to check it out additional information. Maybe someone else prints an excerpt in an eblast. Either way, they’re sharing information for you, and you don’t have to do any of the work.

But with copyrighted material, none of that is possible.

Likewise, David Meerman Scott is a big fan of uncopyrighted material: having lots of people consuming and spreading your content is how you create value, he says. He talks about this point in his e-book (NB: it’s FREE), the New Rules of Viral Marketing.

You can visit the Creative Commons website to learn more about licensing your work for public use. This site gives free licenses, so you can choose exactly how much freedom you want to give other people with your work. Read more about the different types of licenses here.

When you should consider copyrighting:

If you fill out the right paperwork and pay a fee you can apply to have the U.S. Copyright Office issue a copyright for your original work. A copyright will protect you from infringers – people that out and out steal your work. It will also prevent others from sharing your work on the Internet.

Note: all original works are protected by an automatic copyright when it is created. You don’t need to register your work with the Copyright Office. But automatic copyright isn’t foolproof. Anyone can contest your rights – and the legitimacy of when and if you created the music/article/poem/etc. in question. Formal copyright registration is the only way to prove that you are the creator, and when you created it.
If the content you created is for sale and profit by you only (read: not free content), then you definitely need a copyright.

Or, if your intellectual property is potentially very valuable to you– say, your original symphony or your fine art photography – it might be worth it to you to go ahead and copyright it. If you don’t want anyone performing your symphony without paying you, or printing out your photographs without compensation, then you need to get a copyright.

Or, if you’re already well established in your niche or field and you don’t need people passing on your ideas, then go ahead and copyright everything you produce. After all, opening up your copyright to the general public is only needed if you’d like to spread your ideas without doing any of the work yourself.

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