Understanding Copyrights and Servicemarks

16 Jan 2018


Websites, blogs, the internet, and social media have created an ever growing demand for photos, drawn art, and written content. The trends for 2018 and beyond are adding an increased use of self-produced video and audio as well. For those of us using the internet as a primary marketing platform -- and really if you aren't, you need to be -- the need to understand the protections of intellectual property has exploded.


Let me hasten to add that I am not an attorney, but nonetheless as a writer of one sort or another for most of my life, and as a website designer, I have been immersed in the world of copyrights in a way that most clinicians, life coaches, psychics, and healers have not been. Most of my website clients are unaware that their website is one type of intellectual property, as are blog and social media posts. So this topic is one to be well aware of.


The term intellectual property covers all the things I mentioned above, and more. Under the law, intellectual property is similar to tangible property (things like household furniture) and real property (aka, real estate -- the land your house sits on). Intellectual property is any product of the mind that cannot be held in the hand.


Copyright is proof of ownership of the intellectual property that your mind has produced. According to US law, and in the laws of most English speaking countries that I know about, inherent copyright is automatically granted at the moment you write a blog or publish your website, or take a selfie. That means that every time you create or write something, it immediately is covered by copyright law.


You don't have to register your intellectual property with the government. But it will give you a bit of extra protection if you do. There is a fee to do so, and last I checked it was $35 for the most simple copyright. The process is easy and can be done online. 


I have registered the copyrights for two of the books I sell on Amazon. I don't bother registering blogs and minor special report downloads, or learning guides that I've produced, but they are still covered by inherent copyright.


You can use the c inside a circle symbol to mark any work of intellectual property you have created. If you type parenthesis + c+ parenthesis in Word and then press the space bar, Word will automatically convert that to the copyright symbol.


(c) becomes © 2018 Deah Curry


It is redundant to use the symbol and the word -- choose one or the other, followed by the year, followed by your name to complete a proper copyright notice. Most people also add the line All Rights Reserved as a second line under the copyright notice to further reinforce the protection.


Titles alone are not copyrightable. When you display the copyright notice in the footer of a special report, for example, the content is protected, but the title of the report is not. A hundred people could write something titled "Alternative Remedies for Anxiety" and that would be permitted. 


The title of your website may be in a slightly different category, in terms of using an intellectual property mark. If the title of your website is the same as the legal name of your business -- and usually this is the case -- then you can probably use the symbol SM, which stands for Servicemark. 


The Servicemark is the symbol that indicate intellectual property protection of a logo, phrase, or design that designates intangible services. A trademark -- symbolized as TM -- is the indicator for a logo, phrase or design that designates a tangible product.


Most of my clients would use the SM symbol with your website name in the header of the site because most of your services are delivered through a conversational mode. I use the TM symbol because most of my services are delivered in written form, which if printed out become tangible products.


Consult with an attorney well versed in intellectual property law for advice about your specific situation.


The R inside a circle is the symbol for registered trademark or registered service mark. It would be illegal to use this symbol if the status has not been issued to you by the US Patent and Trademark Office.


Filing with the government for this status is a more complex process than it is for registering a copyright. Lawyers will research whether the logo, phrase, or design is already in use by some other business before you are granted registered trademark status. And that costs more and takes longer.


Final word to the wise -- if you are or are becoming a prolific blogger, make sure your post are marked as copyright protected. Someday in the future you might want to repurpose your posts into a book, or confront someone who has violated the law and reprinted your work without your permission. It costs nothing to add the copyright mark to your work, and if you are especially worried about it, add the whole date instead of just the year.



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It's possible this will come as a surprise to you -- it certainly has snuck on me that I'm well past retirement age. Over the last year or so, my heart has been pulled in other directions, and while I still love the creative aspects of website design, I want to use my time making a life rather than devoting my energies to making a living. So I plan to travel, attend writers' retreats, work on learning to take good iPhone photos, and just be open to where my spirit guides take me. I have also stepped back from my esoteric work for 2020, and who knows what the future holds for that.

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