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Shattering A Few Myths About Copyright

Shattering A Few Myths About Copyright

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    It is unfortunate that people don’t know as much as they should about intellectual property rights. One day recently I briefly checked in to Twitter to see a discussion on the matter — a discussion that was propagating misinformed ideas. You might see copyright as a topic that’s only relevant to artists and engineers, but the truth is that this isn’t called the information age for nothing and intellectual property laws affect everybody.

    Here’s a quick and dirty primer to your copyrights. It is by no means extensive or legal advice and is merely the result of some rigorous study I applied myself to a few years ago as an individual who trades in intellectual property. As with anything, the right thing to do is check the facts by reading the acts so that you’re certain of your rights.

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    Fixed Tangible Expressions

    How do you know when something you’ve created has become copyrighted? The prevailing answer that most people will provide is, upon creation. That’s right and wrong depending on how you define creation. Does creation include conception? That’s the popular view and that’s not correct.

    Something is copyrighted when it is a fixed tangible expression. That means it is out of your head and written on paper, painted on canvas, recorded in your home studio or otherwise made tangible.

    So when are your conceptions and creations not copyrighted? That brings me to…

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    You Can’t Copyright Ideas and Names

    You cannot copyright ideas. While you can copyright a fixed tangible expression of an idea, you can’t copyright the idea itself even once it has been expressed. Others are able to take that idea and express it themselves, and as long as that expression isn’t too similar to yours, it can’t be contested. Obviously we’re talking about copyright here — trade secrets and patents are different things entirely.

    You also can’t copyright a name. Copyright law covers works, trademarks cover names. Trademarks are expensive and there are pretty stringent requirements on registering them. In other words, the names of the characters in your story are not yours, unless you take the unlikely step of trademarking them.

    A story, a picture, and a letter to a friend are all fixed tangible expressions. Even a list and the order of the items on the list (but not the names themselves) can be copyrighted. But if you send an idea for an episode to the producer of your favorite show, it is theirs to create a script (which is, you guessed it, a fixed tangible expression of the general idea, though the description of the idea itself as you worded it would remain yours).

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    Poor Man’s Copyright is a Poor Man’s Myth

    There is an idea floating around that mailing something you created to yourself is an alternative to registering copyright for the item. The truth is that you have the copyrights to your work once you’ve created the work, but if there’s ever legal trouble having the work registered will be helpful. This poor man’s copyright trick is a myth and does not provide the legal backup that registration does; you may as well save the money you would spend on envelopes and postage stamps.

    Work-for-Hire

    f you intend to do business as someone who creates intellectual property, you should be careful. Some people are more than happy to sell the copyright to works they create and some will expect it from you. In some industries, this is the norm, such as with web design. In other industries — for example, if a song is commissioned from a band — a license is typically sold, whether it’s an exclusive commercial license or some form of limited license that gives the buyer certain rights to the intellectual property.

    Clever sellers of intellectual property will retain the rights. Clever purchasers of intellectual property will only buy the rights. It gets a little tense when a clever seller meets a clever purchaser!

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    Here’s the important thing to remember:

    In many jurisdictions, unless you specifically stipulate in a contract between yourself and the client or employer, all intellectual property you create for a client or for your employer is their intellectual property. In most places this is called work-for-hire.

    The Six Exclusive Copyrights

    My mentor in intellectual property forced me to memorize the six copyrights that are granted exclusively to the creator (or creators) of a work. It is wise to do so if you deal in IP yourself. You have the right to:

    • Produce copies and reproductions of the work and sell them,
    • Import or export the work,
    • Create derivative works,
    • Perform or display the work publicly,
    • Sell or assign these rights to others,
    • Transmit or display by radio or video

    Nobody else can do these things with your work. Memorize them so that you can easily tell if someone is an admirer or an offender disenfranchising you of your legal rights.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

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