roman-joe-448850-unsplashTechnology has given us more access to available information and an incredible ability to disseminate our own messages. The internet allows us to see stories and pictures and videos from all over the world from the comfort of our devices, and the phone in our pocket can capture our experiences with high quality pictures and videos. And while the ability to find and share content on a global level is definitely a net positive, it can present its own challenges for creators and entrepreneurs.

When you operate your own business or venture, you are relying on the uniqueness of what you do to earn your living. You count on people seeing your name and logo and knowing what you do and what you provide. Even if you aren’t the only person or company in a particular space, you bring your own know-how, connections and reputation. That’s why it’s important to maintain control of your creations, products and marks to avoid others exploiting what you’ve built. But protecting the integrity of your brand has become more challenging than ever.

We are all familiar with the concept of something “going viral”. An image or video clip of some kind catches the collective interest of the internet, and before you know it every outlet has posted and shared it until we all get bored with it. While most respectable blogs and news sites are good about attribution when it comes to source material, the average person tends not to give much thought to where something originated when posting to their Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. More than just the latest viral craze, the internet acts as the Wild West when it comes to ownership rights. It can be easy for many entrepreneurs and artists to write it off as just a bunch of people with torrent streams of the latest Game of Thrones episode, but it should be a real concern for anyone who posts their creative work online.

When you’re making your work available for the world to see, it’s important to take steps to ensure that it is reasonably protected from theft. Having a copyright on your website and the material you have on it is a good first step in safeguarding your intellectual property. While this isn’t a magic bullet that stops everyone from stealing words or images from your site, having your work registered allows you to take legal action against thieves.

Even if you haven’t registered your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you still have copyright once you’ve expressed your work into a tangible medium, and you should still make every effort to protect it and stop thieves. Placing a copyright symbol on your work can show others that you hold the rights and possibly deter those who might try to copy it thoughtlessly. Many artists will also place watermarks on images and videos that prevent others from trying to pass it off as their own.

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