People talk about intellectual property rights all the time, but what exactly are intellectual property rights? More specifically, what rights do you have to your written materials, i.e. your books, manuals, blog articles, website content etc.?
“Intellectual property” is a broad term that refers to creations of the mind – these are things that you created, which have value and can be bought and sold, but they aren’t something that you can physically touch. The most common types of intellectual property are copyrights (for creative works, like books, movies and artwork), trademarks (for brands you use to sell products and services), and patents (for inventions, formulas, processes, and other creations of a more scientific nature). “Intellectual property rights” means the rights that you, the owner, have over your intellectual property.
So what intellectual property rights do you have over your written works?
The most obvious is copyright – this is the protection for the words that you use in your writing, so others can’t sell bootleg copies of your book or copy and paste your text into their book. Copyright law also prevents others from creating unauthorized sequels, translating your work into other languages, or making a movie from your work without your permission. Copyright law does not protect the ideas or facts contained in your work, but it does give strong protections for how you express those ideas or facts in your writing. You also have protection for any other creative works contained in your writing, such as artwork and pictures, as long as they were created specifically for your work. (If not, never fear, they’re protected under their own separate copyright.)
You may also have trademark rights to your writing, in certain contexts. A single book title cannot be trademarked (or copyrighted), but a series title can be trademarked (e.g. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” could not be trademarked by itself, but “Harry Potter and the…” could – and almost certainly is). It’s also possible to trademark your name – or pen name, if you’re using one – but this is a bit trickier, since you would need to prove that you’ve gained a certain amount of recognition in the marketplace. There may be other things in your writing that you could use as a trademark, but you would have to build a brand around it so that consumers will see it as a source identifier for the item or service you are selling.
There are other rights and laws that impact your writing, but these are what people are referring to when they talk about “intellectual property rights.” They can provide a lot of protection for your work, when used and implemented properly.
If you have questions about the above, or would like some help protecting your writing, please feel free to email me at email@example.com. Or, if you’re more of a visual person, you can watch my videos about intellectual property, copyrights and trademarks on YouTube:
What is Intellectual Property: https://youtu.be/VijhjVC59F4
What is Copyright: https://youtu.be/8QihVo_O2uY
What is Trademark: https://youtu.be/QvZIwdGYml0