Protecting Your Creative Work

Protecting Your Creative Work

When a recent U-M grad asked about how to launch her creative career, U-M alumna Barbara Murphy, ‘85, MS‘87, from Murphy Intellectual Property Law, explained why the business of protecting intellectual property is as important as creating it. Read what she had to say below.

Know as much as you can about copyrights. I’m an IP attorney and used to volunteer for Lawyers for the Creative Arts in Chicago. I met a lot of artistic people who lost out on the benefit of their work (one way or another) by signing agreements that they didn’t understand or by failing to protect their rights. Here are some tips:

Learn to register your work. It’s easy, not that expensive, you don’t need a lawyer, and it can be done online (which also saves you money).

If you’re asked to sign a contract, don’t do it until you find someone (maybe a professor at the law school if you’re short on funds) to give you some information on what you’re signing. Be able to explain the meaning of every term of the contract if possible. It’s definitely not the most fun part of the business, but if it’s going to be your business, learn how to protect yourself. 

If you’re interested, I can point you to a bunch of websites that you can read to bring yourself up to speed on copyright issues. One that I’ll mention right now is Stanford Library’s Copyright and Fair Use websitea treasure trove. One ‘of the moment’ things to touch on is the Hague Agreement for the International Registration of Industrial Designs. It will go into effect in the U.S. in about a month and is designed to provide a relatively economical way to protect innovative designs in the international marketit’s a very current topic in our field. 

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