As technology continues to improve, thieves are finding new and more creative ways to steal data and digital property from others.
Instead of waiting around for the next SOPA to be debated (and potentially passed), I choose to be proactive and learn how to protect myself. I've done some research and unearth five useful tips to help all of us protect our intellectual property.
First things first.
What is Intellectual Property?
According to Stopfakes.gov, intellectual property is any innovation, commercial or artistic, or any unique name, symbol, logo or design used commercially. Intellectual property is protected by:
- patents on inventions;
- trademarks on branding devices;
- copyrights on music, videos, patterns and other forms of expression;
- trade secrets for methods or formulas having economic value and used commercially
Be Smart about Publication
Do not publish sensitive or secret materials online where search engines and the entire world can easily find and copy it. Digital materials that are published online should, at a minimum, contain your unique watermark or other identifying markings. A watermark can be extremely useful if ownership of an item is later disputed.
- Watermarks should be placed on anything you don't want being used without credit. That includes samples, photos, etc.
- Watermark software (many are free and can be accessed with a Google search) easily creates watermarks that are nearly invisible to the user and are critical for resolving any infringement disputes.
- I suggest establishing company policies and requiring all employees to sign confidentiality agreements to prohibit them from disclosing or publishing your intellectual property without permission (or watermark).
Computer and Network Security
Not publishing sensitive documents online doesn't necessarily mean you're out of the woods. Security holes in any network (hard wired or wireless) can be a hacker's dream -- and Anonymous has been on a roll lately. Secure your wireless network, password protect your computer(s) and sensitive documents, and install anti-virus software and firewalls.
- It's always a good idea to password protect any documents that contain sensitive material.
- Do not allow unknown users to connect to your network.
- Keep your anti-virus software updated and run checks regularly. (Or you could buy a Mac, which doesn't seem to have that pesky virus problem.)
Apply for Protection
Make the first move to protect your intellectual property by applying for protection. First and foremost, research the difference between trademarks, patents, and copyrights. Each will have different requirements and require specific documentation.
- Clearly display any patent, copyright, or trademark notices on your website and any other legally protected documents. Make it clear that your material is not free for use, duplication, or redistribution without permission.
- Be sure to enforce any violations. There is no point in buying a copyright if you aren't going to enforce it!
- Copyscape is a great free tool that searches the web for duplicate content. Use it!
Be Clear about Licensing Permissions
- Your website should also clearly state attribution and linking requirements in all licensing agreements.
- Check out the Digital Millenimum Copyright Act for more information.