Imagine discovering crude oil at your backyard and leaving your gates wide open for strangers to move in freely and fetch. You would most likely find yourself thrown out of your home in 24 hours, with new occupants sitting in and profiting from what would have been your oil well.
Intellectual property is the oil of the 21st century. It could be a source of wealth for you as a creative, depending on how you protect it.
What is Intellectual Property?
If you did not already know, intellectual property refers to creations of the human intellect (for example pictures, novels, paintings, films etc. created by you). It is mainly classified into – Copyrights, Patents and Trademarks.
While it appears visual and literary artists are particularly concerned with copyrights and designers with patents, all forms of intellectual property rights protection may be relevant to you as an artist.
Why should you protect it?
The benefits of protecting your intellectual property are abundant but most importantly, it gives you absolute unqualified rights to your work. It gives you the right to; take legal action against anyone who trespasses on your work, profit from your work, grant licenses to others who want to use your work, receive royalties, convert your work into other artistic forms such as films and books and even the absolute right to destroy your work.
Did you know that Marvin Gaye’s Estate was awarded over $5million in damages for copyrights infringement of Marvin Gaye’s work? Your successors also stand to benefit when you effectively protect your intellectual property.
How can you protect your Intellectual Property?
You don’t need hundreds of thousands in cash to protect your work. Simply putting a mark on your pictures for example with your name, provides notice to the world that the marked piece is your creation. This is because copyright arises upon fixation and does not necessarily need to be registered.
You must however register other forms of Intellectual property at the Trademarks Patent and Design Registry with the help of a lawyer. You should also register your copyright to create public record of your ownership, but you can start by placing distinctive marks on your copyrightable items, if you are unable to afford the costs of registration.
To find out how you can lose your copyright, how long your copyright lasts and what constitutes copyright infringement, check out our Understanding Nigerian Copyright Law series, created specifically for photographers, musicians and filmmakers.
Disclaimer – Even though we consulted with reputable lawyers on this piece, this article is for informational purpose only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice.
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