The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) have stalled – because of widespread opposition from internet companies – including Google, Wikipedia, etc.
It’s a complex debate: http://www.pcworld.com/article/248298/sopa_and_pipa_just_the_facts.html
Laws change slowly and lag behind technology advances. Using laws to block technology advances that build on the state of the art of the internet is not a good idea.
Intellectual property creators need to be compensated for their works. Allowing copycats to freely use intellectual property created by others, without compensation, is also not a good idea.
So, what can you do to protect your business and intellectual property from copycats?
I recommend a combination of legal and business strategies.
Legal strategies include registering copyrights and using contracts to protect your “rights.” Under current copyright law, you can recover statutory damages and attorney fees for unauthorized use. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statutory_damages_for_copyright_infringement
Registering your copyright is a good business practice, and a prerequisite to enforcement. For smaller companies, enforcing your rights through the legal system is, unfortunately, very slow, time consuming and expensive – and favors the deep pockets of big corporations.
Smaller businesses need to be creative and combine business and legal strategies.
So, in addition to taking advantage of legal protections by registering copyrights and using contracts, it is important to anticipate copying. Who is likely to use your work? Will your clients bring your training program in-house and not pay you? Will other professionals in your field find your work a useful building block for their work? Is there a way to use contractual terms to compensate for unauthorized uses? You can use Web tools, online forums and feedback loops and provide terms for people to use your work.
I am always interested in learning from others — Please post a comment to let me know what you’ve done to protect your work/intellectual property from copycats?