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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Protecting Intellectual Property

Theft Is Too Easy Now

Property is property, whether it is real estate, cash or intellectual.  And getting ripped off is getting ripped off, whether you're being held up with a gun, are a victim of a financial scam artist or see your work copied or even sold on the Internet, without any payment to you.

In a very interesting article in last week's New York Times' Sunday Review, writer and cartoonist, Tim Kreider discusses the "special" way artists, whether writers, illustrators, composers or musicians, find their efforts viewed.  For some reason, while their work is valued, it's not valued enough to command payment.  Many people think that the artist will benefit from "exposure" or "eyeballs."  That's a serious problem because, as he correctly points out, exposure and eyeballs are not accepted currency at the grocery store.

He also argues that valuing intellectual property (IP) is a problem for many.  "People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing." 

So, whether you are wildly successful or struggling, you've got enough of a problem getting appreciated (and paid) for doing what you love and what you're good at.  Don't make it any easier for the thieves.  Protect your intellectual property and do all you can to keep it safe. 

Protect Your IP Like It's Cash

If you had a pile of hundred-dollar bills, you wouldn't keep it on the front seat of your car, windows opened and doors unlocked.  You wouldn't keep the money in the oven, thinking that nobody would look there for it. You wouldn't just hand it to an acquaintance, thinking that you'd get it back whenever you asked for it.

You would get most of that money out of your house.  You'd deposit it in a bank or keep it in a safe deposit box.  But you wouldn't get it out of your house by mailing it in a clear envelope to the bank for deposit.  You'd take it there yourself.

Though we understand that our Intellectual Property can be as valuable as cash, we often don't treat it like cash.  We email it unencrypted to our agents or publishers, trusting that no hacker will have put a sniffer on a server, intercepting the email as easily as picking up a pile of cash from the front seat of an unlocked car.  We store it on our computer, where a hard drive crash or a malicious virus can destroy the property as easily as an oven can incinerate cash.  And we often think we are putting it in a safe place by uploading it to a remote server, sending it out unencrypted like cash in a clear envelope, and trusting that dozens of people, from the letter sorter at the post office to the bank delivery person will never be tempted. 

What Do You Do?

There are services available that encrypt your documents, store them encrypted, keep them off of your computer and scan them for viruses.  Not all are right for everybody, but take a look at them.  You will want a service that enables encryption both in storage and in transmission, provides a virus check, and encourages you to not just back up the file, but actually take it off of your computer so spyware can't get to it.

You will want a service that demands strong passwords and that keeps an audit trail of every time a file was uploaded, downloaded, viewed or modified.  You'll want to use the service as a substitute for unsecured email, meaning that you can give secure access to certain individuals like your agent, editor or publisher.  

And you are justifiably wary of "free" sites but you don't want to pay too much.

There are a number of companies that offer some of the services that may work for you.  We are, of course, partial to what our own company, SafelyFiled offers.  Check it out out here.  But no matter who you use, we urge you to think about your work as if it were cash.  Stay alert for the bad guys who want to steal it, from the people who simply don't think they are doing any thing wrong by copying it without your permission and from computer crashes and viruses.

It's your property.  Protect it likes it's cash.

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