Protecting intellectual property
The internet has created a platform to generate revenue. But how does one protect creative and potentially monetising endeavours?
internet – a global content market and platform to create, distribute, consume and share. And along with that comes risk to intellectual property, risk to ideas and results of creative endeavours like designs, music and literary works.
The recent Moneyweb/Fin24 court case highlighted some of the copyright problems that could arise when publishing and repurposing online content.
For the creative industry, the internet has been both boon and curse. Bypassing traditional avenues that can be both a barrier to entry as well as costly, artists have relished the opportunity to take their creative content global through the online platform.
But being able to access content on the web has repercussions. Today almost anything can be downloaded and sampled, putting content at risk from all forms of piracy like plagiarism and copying.
“If you want to protect your work, you have to do it in the same way as protecting your privacy,” says Hugh Melamdowitz, a partner at Spoor & Fisher. “Understand that your ability to control the dissemination of uploaded works becomes very difficult. As soon as you push send it’s out there and you lose control.”
“Most people think because something is on the internet it’s in the public domain and therefore one can make copies and use the work. That is not correct. While there is nothing wrong with distribution over the net, the question is when effecting distribution whether you are rewarding the creators of the work,” says Melamdowitz.
Protection of artistic works is afforded globally by copyright legislation, but while creators are theoretically able to prevent infringement, it doesn’t mean that they do. “The major disincentive to litigating on copyright infringement is that the return is not going to be particularly high, normally a maximum royalty of 10% of the product. So you are not talking much money. When you do catch someone infringing, the cost and return has to be weighed up very carefully.”
Infringement can sometimes be settled quickly by issuing a Letter of Demand, at a cost of around R2 000. But should litigation be pursued this can easily cost R300 000, Melamdowitz tells finweek.
Copyright infringement is not the only factor that creators need to concern themselves with. There are ramifications to sharing and uploading content that could affect their rights.
“As soon as you start giving away your content, you limit your rights. The new rights holders will be those who control content,” says Melamdowitz.
Measures such as copyright deter the misuse of creative works. But if the intellectual property forms part of a commercial venture there is even more reason to mitigate risk. Aside from putting in place those steps necessary to minimise risk (see box), there are legal routes like trademarks and patents that afford added protection.
Hugh Melamdowitz Partner at Spoor & Fisher