PSU Insight

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Unusual Things to Copyright

Speakers frequently think of copyrights as a way of protecting their recordings or their books. But there are other important applications of copyright protection.

Speakers frequently think of copyrights as a way of protecting their recordings or their books. But they sometimes forget that copyright protection also applies to all of their written materials. Even when they remember, many people automatically think only of books or articles when they think about copyright protection.

But copyright protection also applies to another important aspect of a speaker’s presentations – handouts or workbooks. Copyright protection can crop up in a variety of unanticipated ways. As you saw in the PSU course on speakers’ contracts, when you video record one of your programs, those aspects of your presentation that can be seen (such as flip charts or slides) are covered by the appropriate “video” agreement. But your workbook or handout is not normally visible to the camera, and so is not covered by the video recording agreement.

Before we continue, remember — you own the copyright to your written materials, whether or not you mark them as ‘copyrighted’. (However, placing a written statement of copyright, as in “ © 2015 ABC Corp.” on your handout’s cover page is a good idea.) Consequently, if your clients wish to use your copyrighted workbook or handout in conjunction with the recording of your presentation, you need to grant them permission to do this with a separate “permission to use copyrighted material” agreement (which you’ll examine in a moment).

But it doesn’t stop with your course materials. You hold a copyright to any original, permanent material that you create. That’s right! Theoretically you own the copyright on your brochures, business cards, and note cards – even your letterhead stationery.

In practice, it’s normally not practical to put a copyright notice on everything you produce, nor are you in any great danger that someone will steal your magnificently designed business card. But you should make it a practice to put a copyright notice on your major efforts – your newsletter, your workbooks and handouts, your web pages, and (especially!) your salable products. Some people copyright their advertisements. And, yes, I’ve even seen a sales letter copyrighted.