The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the international forum for intellectual property services, policy, information and cooperation. I just learned that the 56th Series of Meetings of the Assemblies of the Member States of WIPO took place between October 3-11 in Geneva, Switzerland.
According to WIPO, ‘Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce….IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.’
It’s a flourishing field, and one of my good lawyer-luminary friends gets her feet damp in its waters.
She kindly shared with me one of her PowerPoint presentations on the topic, which outlines most of the essential points.
I’m part of the creative industries and constantly creating intellectual property. I create my own written content, most of which is available online, though some has been published in print. I’ve now moved into the world of visual and audio commentary. I’m frequently producing images, through my photography. I know these things have value, whether as assets in their own right, or as things from which to derive streams of income.
What rights and protections exist for me? If I wished to protect my creations, laws exist to give me some cover. I’ve sought to exercise those rights, once, then never needed to. Consistently, I’ve had others seek to protect themselves from my possible inappropriate use others’ IP. Just last week, when I completed a live chat, I was puzzled that I couldn’t post it. I got a message from Facebook warning me that a substantial music clip had been detected and the company sought confirmation that I had rights to use it or that it was not a substantive part of the video.
I’d been listening to music and it was playing in the background for moments before I started my chat. That was an eye opener. I wondered, however, if it were also possible to detect images that had already been posted or registered somewhere. A lot of technological developments are occurring that make visual detection much easier than it ever was. What if I could put a digital signature on my pictures; that would hold some purloiners at bay, maybe.
I’ve been dabbling with copyrighting some of my photography. I’ve not yet used it much, as I ponder when and where and how best to do it. But, I’m aware that some of my pictures are interesting and good enough for others to wish to claim them as theirs or to use them and not give due credit.
I use pictures a lot, always using things already in the public domain, and try to ensure that they are available for my use. I cite originators, regularly. But, is that enough?
I have not sought to extract monetary value from my work and my attitude towards IP may reflect that I do not feel deprived of my livelihood by the threat that my work may be used, without permission. But, that can change. However, I have copyrighted my blog, with a declaration on the site that appears on each page as a sidebar. Do I need to do more? Should I have alerts to tell me when searches are being made for my blog? Should I install software that prevents things like copying and pasting; WordPress has a plug-in to prevent that.
My mind is clear about creations and what the potential value is in investment in personal development, and I am not going to get too concerned with arguments that try to distinguish some works because of some notions about how creativity originates. What I have seen or read in that vein displays some basic misunderstanding about what ‘skills’ are and how they are acquired and improved. I know that any skills I have needed to be honed to be usable in any meaningful way, whether that is my basic understanding (through education at higher levels and in more specific fields), or other talents (such as developmental camps for players, or studying and certification to be a football coach and referee). Once those skills are usuable, then I have to negotiate a rate for sharing them, whether as player, official, worker, teacher, commentator, or whatever. The rates for those tasks are not the same. Pay me the equivalent of US$200,000 (call the US$650/day) to work as an economist; I will charge US$50-100 an hour to coach football; referee pay scales are set dependent on ‘proficiency’ level of both players and officials, etc. I will do things voluntarily or pro bono, but that is my choice, and I may ask for a small contribution for something like travel.
One of the aspects I need to consider is how much time and effort needs to be used to protect what I do and the underlying skills that I have. With my professional status, I have my certifcates or other forms of verification. However, they do not stop others plagiarizing my ideas in part or all. But, the profession tends to be an area of good practice with regards to attribution and claims of ownership.
With my writing or photography, I now have some copyrights in place. I’ve had a few instances where what I have written seems remarkably close to something produced in a newspaper. I have certain phrases that I’ve rarely or ever seen used elsewhere either alone or in combinations I have used.
Of course, creativity has few bounds 🙂 But, that doesn’t mean you can live off the back of someone else’s creativity and enjoy a free ride.