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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 April 9, 2020

    5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

    5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

    It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

    The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

    With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common types of leadership and how you can determine which works best for you.

    5 Types of Leadership Styles

    I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

    The Democratic Style

    The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

    The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

      The Autocratic Style

      The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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      The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

      While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

        The Transformational Style

        Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

        Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

        Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

          The Transactional Style

          Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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          The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

          The Laissez-Faire Style

          The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

          In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

          Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

          You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

          Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

          The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

          Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

          I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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          In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

          What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

          Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

          1. Context Matters

          Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

          2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

          When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

          As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

          “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

          The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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          As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

          When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

          The Way Forward

          To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

          As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

          “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

          The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

          If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

          Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

          Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

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          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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