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Protecting Intellectual Property as a Web Publisher and Freelance Writer

Learn about protecting intellectual property as a web publisher or freelance writer. Find out about the types of intellectual property (IP) and how to protect them.

Disclaimer: This article on protecting intellectual property rights as a web publisher and freelance writer is for informational purposes only. Don’t use it in place of legal advice. If you have concerns about intellectual property rights, consult an attorney.

If you’re not already taking steps to protect your intellectual property (IP) rights as a web publisher and freelance writer, then there’s no time like the present. 

By safeguarding your content, you’re reducing the risk of potential financial and legal issues. Putting in the effort now could help prevent lost revenue and legal complications in the long run. 

Find out what web publishers and freelance writers need to know about protecting intellectual property:

  • The different types of intellectual property (IP).
  • What you can do to protect different kinds of IP.
  • Some of the most common ways to enforce your IP rights against infringers.

Common Types of Intellectual Property for Freelance Writers and Web Publishers

Intellectual property refers to what you create with your mind. So, as a content writer, the articles and blog posts you create often fall under the broad category of intellectual property.

The most important subcategories of IP for freelancers and publishers include:

  1. Trademarks: Protect logos, phrases, and symbols that you use to differentiate your content from the competition.
  2. Patents: Cover any new inventions or discoveries that you’ve made and use in your work, like writing software.
  3. Copyright: Grants exclusive rights to reproduce, perform, distribute, and adapt your original work. This is where your blog posts, articles, and eBooks fit in.

The trademark and patent types of intellectual property are typically less common for freelance writers and web publishers. So, unless you have these, copyright is often the main focus for IP among writers and web publishers.

When it comes to your original content, you automatically own the copyright (you don’t have to apply for it). The exception is if the freelance writing contract you sign gives the copyright to the clients. 

If you want to enforce copyright for your work, you’ll need to take things a step further.

How Can Freelance Writers and Web Publishers Protect Intellectual Property?

There are two main ways that freelance writers can formally protect their intellectual property — a freelance writing contract and registering with the proper authorities.

Freelance writing contract

This one is especially important for copyright. As previously mentioned, you receive automatic copyright protection for your original works. Unless, of course, your freelance writing contract states otherwise.

If a client has specifically asked you to create an article or blog post for them, then they’ll likely want the exclusive right to that content. The only way they can do this though, is if you sign this right away in your freelance writing agreement.

Without a written agreement, you are the copyright owner by default

If you want to hold onto the copyrights for your content, specify that you will not be giving a client copyright in your contract (discuss the contract with a lawyer for specific legal advice).

Note: Automatic copyright doesn’t offer complete protection. As with trademarks and patents, you’ll need to register it for full legal protection. To discuss automatic copyright in regard to your work, speak with an attorney.

Registering your intellectual property

If you want the most protection possible for your IP, including copyright, then the best thing to do is register it with the appropriate department. This would be either the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or the US Copyright Office

Registration is a little different for each type of IP. Generally speaking, the process looks something like this:

  1. Do your research. After identifying the type of IP for registration, you (or your lawyer) should make sure that it isn’t already registered to someone else. You don’t want to infringe on someone else’s IP rights.
  2. Get your documents in order. For example, to file a copyright application with the US Copyright Office, you need to submit an application form and a copy of the content you’d like to register (note that it won’t be returned).
  3. Pay any applicable fees. Of course, registration isn’t free. To get a better idea of how much you’ll need to spend, check out the US Copyright Office fees and the USPTO fees.
  4. Wait to hear back. Once you’ve filed the necessary documentation and paid the fees, you’ll need to receive confirmation from the proper authorities before you can officially claim the legal rights to your work.

The entire process can take some time, but receiving official legal protection for your work is often worth it. This is especially true if you need to enforce your intellectual property rights.

How to Enforce Your Intellectual Property Rights

Here are some strategies to prevent people from using your content.

1. Monitor your content with plagiarism detection tools

Don’t worry — you don’t need to keep an eye on the entire internet. You can use plagiarism detection tools to help you out. A plagiarism checker compares your original content to countless other articles and blog posts in its databases. If it finds a match, it can help narrow down potential IP infringement.

2. Contact infringers

Before taking formal action, you could reach out to the infringer. With so much content available online these days, maybe it was a complete accident on their part. If they take it down or get the appropriate license to use it, that’s great. If not, consider other options.

3. Send a cease and desist letter

A more formal way to let someone know they’re infringing on your intellectual property rights is to send a cease and desist letter. Basically, this letter asks them to stop using your IP and outlines what will happen if they refuse. For details on how to send a cease and desist letter, consult an attorney.

4. Submit a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice

In the case of digital copyright infringement, a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice may be the way to go. This way, you’re going through the service provider hosting your content, not the infringer themselves. Once the service provider hosting the infringing content receives a DMCA notice, it’s their job to remove it.

5. Take legal action

If none of the other options work, then it may be time to take legal action. Consult a local lawyer if you are considering this course of action.

Final Thoughts

Protecting intellectual property (IP) rights as a web publisher and freelance writer is essential for maintaining control over your work. Without it, people may be able to take and distribute your content however they like, resulting in financial losses and possibly even reputational damage to your brand. Review your IP, register it accordingly, and consult a lawyer for legal advice when necessary.

Jess Sawyer

Jess Sawyer is a seasoned writer and content marketing expert with a passion for crafting engaging and SEO-optimized content. With several years of experience in the digital marketing, Jess has honed her skills in creating content that not only captivates audiences but also ranks high on search engine results.

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