I’m often asked by clients, how you can share your intellectual property (IP), but also have some restrictions around what people can and can’t do with it. This question arises from clients who are looking to run courses – both online or physical but it can also apply to people who want to share some information for a joint venture, or that have quite an interactive website. For example, you might want to sell some resources from your website, but you don’t want to pass along every single right in the content.
Copyright attaches to the content within documents. What it doesn’t do, is attach to things such as procedures, methods, systems, or a style that you may also be communicating in. So for example, if you create online videos, the actual recording will be copyright, but the way you do it, or the thing that you are demonstrating, isn’t necessarily protected by copyright.
What’s an IP License?
One way to protect your IP is when you have your online course or you charge people for downloading something, that you have some clear terms that state what people can and can’t do with your IP. The term that we use for this is an intellectual property license – which means that you are keeping the ownership rights, but you are letting people use the intellectual property on specific terms.
The way that you charge people to access the intellectual property or your content, is up to you. This can be a one-off fee with the terms attached or you can attach some sort of ongoing license fee.
Important: What the terms must do is set out what people can and can’t do with your content. You’ll need to specify:
- If copies can be made of it, and if so, are there any extra conditions around making those copies.
- If the information or content can be shared with other people. For example if they are another business provider learning something from you, can they use that information to help their own clients. If someone is doing an online course with you, can they can share one of those modules with someone that’s not involved in the course.
- You can place restrictions on the content and specify that your client can use the information for their own reference forever, but they can’t use it for commercial use, meaning that they can’t sell it to other people.
- You might want to have some protection around your branding – so if you have your logo on a document or if you have your logo on a video, you might allow people to distribute your content free of charge, as long as they keep your logo on it.
- Importantly, the terms of an intellectual property license needs to address what happens if there is a breach. Depending on the nature of what the person is doing and what stage the breach occurs, you might have some options including the fact thay they might have to be removed from the course but still have to pay the full amount. You will also have the ability to take legal action, or you might block their access to their website.
Although complex, there is flexibility around how to set up an intellectual property license and we can review and implement the right terms to protect you and your business. The most important thing is that your users or customers are aware of what they can and can’t do and what will happen if a breach occurs. *see note below
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There is a lot of flexibility around how an intellectual property license can work and we would make it work to suit your situation. The license could have a period or not, depending on your needs. Or you can create an event that is linked to when it would terminate, for example if your business closes down, people are free to use it as they like.
So intellectual property licenses are pretty complicated, but they are flexible and they can be drawn up in a way to suit your needs so that you can share you content but also, you can protect yourself and ensure that you ownership rights are clear.