Protecting Your Intellectual Property

I am a real nut about intellectual property. Especially in tough economic times, the one thing we can fall back on, that costs us nothing to develop, is our own thoughts.

The moment you put those thoughts on paper and they begin to take shape as a new way of thinking, a new theory or even a new product, you have created something of value that belongs to you and you alone. Right up to the point where you sell them or give them away.

It is easy to feel uncertain about your new thoughts and ideas. Are they worth anything? Do they have any value to others? And when you are unsure, you can begin to feel grateful to anyone who takes them seriously.

If you do not recognize the value your own work, even as it takes shape, you may be tempted to sell it cheap. My pet peeve right now is the number of people who take the work of others and monetize it, not for the benefit of the creator/author, but for themselves, under the pretext of helping the author market his or her books or other work.

Has anyone asked you, as an expert on your subject, to do a teleclass or a talk that he or she can then record and SELL, giving you little or nothing in return? Has anyone asked you to do a live talk that he or she can then record and SELL as his or her own? Has anyone asked you to write an article or a chapter that he or she can then use in a publication and SELL as his or her own?

And here is the scary part: If you sign away the rights to those audios or publications, you may no longer have the right to use the material. Be very careful when you submit an article to a magazine or newspaper that you sign a contract (yes, you always want to have a contract with anyone who records or publishes your work) that gives the publisher the non-exclusive right to publish your work. Be very careful when you give someone the right to record a talk or teleclass that you also have the right to sell that audio yourself and that you get a copy of it. You may also want to limit the time the other party can sell your audio since you do not want to sound like someone who has not kept up with new technology if they are still selling the audio made in 2006 in 2009.

Yes, it makes sense to give things away to create new relationships and make connections. But give them away yourself if you want to and do not allow someone else to profit from your work instead of you. Or partner with someone who will help you create something of value you could sell for what is closer to the real worth of the material, where you benefit and they benefit in a reasonable way.

How much is having access to you worth for an hour – $0, $5, $10, $20, $50, $99, $199? If you don’t have something that makes it a real bargain to hear you talk for at least $50, then go back to the drawing board and upgrade your handouts, bonuses, lecture until you have increased the value enough so that you do not want to give it away!

But if you do decide to make this deal with the devil, know what you are getting in return. Are you really getting access to a large market (the market you are looking to attract)? Are they really going to promote your other products and services in a significant way? Are you in good company with other experts they are selling or are you the cream of the crop? Is this really going to add to your resume (or maybe your book proposal)?

Your time and expertise are valuable. Protect them as the assets they are. The perception of their value will become their real value in the eyes of the buyer. If you undervalue them or allow others to profit when you do not you will never receive the rewards they may bring you. Invest in yourself and only work with others who value what you do, too.

I work with authors all the time who wanted to write books from a compilation of old articles and cannot do that because they sold (or worse gave away) the rights. Of course they can paraphrase and write something new, but the idea of not benefiting from their own work is very troubling. If you are too anxious to get published in any form, then you may be giving away your future to make yourself feel like you are accomplishing something now.

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