What about my IP?

The last major question to ask is about being the producer of IP rather than the consumer thereof. Producers of IP have the legal rights discussed earlier regarding copyright, trademark and patent. Below I will briefly outline a few considerations regarding the defense of one's IP.

Any work you produce is automatically copyrighted by you. So, for example, you retain the rights to reproduce and distribute such a work. However, given fair use, you cannot limit many uses of your work.

If you have developed a site with a distinctive look and feel that goes by a specific name, you might wish to consider applying for a trademark. This is especially necessary if you wish to then start a business of the same name. In Madison, WI (USA) our local Linux Users Group (LUG) organized itself and registered the mark MadLUG, which is representative of our group. We felt this was necessary in case another person or entity decided to do something similar; we wanted to say "hey, we were already here, and we have a right to use this name".

Patents are beyond the scope of this discussion.

As a small-time web publisher, your greatest IP issue will be with regard to people who plagiarize your material. I have, for example, had whole sites essentially "lifted"; no credit was given and my layout and code -- and even my content -- was reused with little alteration. This was not some irresponsible fly-by-night but rather a reputable academic department at a well-known university. Salon.com had a recent article on a similar issue: writers of certain types of fiction online, particularly erotic fiction, have to deal with their works showing up on adult-oriented sites to which they have not given permission, etc. Legal recourse, however, would be at most symbolic. First, little if any economic damage is being done, although one could argue that one's reputation is being harmed. Hence, one is unlikely to "win" much; indeed, given legal costs, it does not seem practical. Second, due to the nature of the Internet, it is impossible to stop individuals from copying your work once it (your work) is "out there".

Once you make a decision to publish anything online, remember to take into consideration IP concerns and the technical and legal possibilities that frame them.


Appendix 1



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