Using Copyrights To Protect Your Ideas

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protecting your ideas

I had the pleasure of hearing Dennis Kimbro speak during MentorMonday with Paul Brunson. He dropped gem after gem during that one-hour session, however the one thing that really stood out was this: the power to change our financial situation lies within us. Our minds produce idea after idea that if acted upon could tremendously change our lives. It was this statement that motivated me to write 30 Days ‘Til Launch: A Checklist of Legal and Business Basics Every New Business Owner Should Know Before They Open Their Doors. It was a book that I had thought about writing for years but never acted on until I heard Mr. Kimbro. He was right you know. Acting on that one idea has changed my life. It proved that my ideas were not just lofty dreams waiting for someone else to create. I could do it.  Publishing my first book opened the floodgates of ideas ready to be created. For example, I recently published 30 Days ‘Til Launch: The Business Plan Workbook, my digital course will be completed before the summer and several other products are in the works. I promise you, once you start creating you won’t be able to stop. The question is how can you protect your ideas while you’re waiting to breathe life into them?

I am asked almost daily if a person can register a copyright to protect their ideas. No they can’t. Copyrights protect original works of authorship that are in a fixed tangible form. This means that at some point the idea had to leave your mind to be drawn, recorded (audio/video), written, etc… to be afforded copyright protection. The expression of the idea is what copyrights protect, not the idea itself.

For example, you have an idea to create a movie. Once you write the story you will own the copyrights to it. If instead of writing a story you draw a picture of what the characters would look like, you would own the copyrights to the graphic not the story that has yet to be expressed. Follow me?

Speaking of movies, I read that James Franco was due to direct a movie based of the Aziah Well’s epic Twitter saga about Zola the Stripper. There are a lot of people calling foul. We all know that Wells wrote the Zola story. Many waited patiently to learn what happen to Zola as Wells typed out the entertaining drama using only 140 characters. As entertaining as the story was, it was also an eye opener to just how easy it is to end up as a victim of human trafficking. A Rolling Stone interview reveals that Wells published the story a few times. Removing earlier versions when they failed to generate enough attention. To gather the traction she wanted, Wells published the story one last time but embellishing on the events to increase the chances of interest. With each tweet she pulled the story out of her head and created a tangible medium for her Zola to exist. That is how copyrights work.

Idea + Tangible expression + Original works = Copyright

The best way to protect an idea is to keep it to yourself until you are able to express the idea in tangible form.

LaConya “Connie” Murray, Esq.
The Small Business Attorney


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