Posts Tagged ‘licensing’

Is it really OK to continue?

Posted on May 18, 2011 by

How toNo one, not even an off-duty lawyer, enjoys wading through onerous, boring, never-ending fine print. Especially not when all that stands between them and sharing their favorite music, art, or other media with friends and fans is clicking on one little “ok” button!

But if you care about what other people can do with what you upload, you really need to understand those terms of service. This is especially important if you are a professional with a business interest in your data – a photographer posting photos to Twitter where his followers can give real-time feedback, or a musician sharing a new music video with her Facebook fans. An example of why reading the terms is so important came up on May 10 when Twitpic changed their terms of service, helping themselves to a lot more of your rights.

The new terms require that users let Twitpic give “affiliates” the rights to use, distribute, make derivative works, and reproduce an uploaded item, for free, forever, without asking the users. Now, a musician might be okay with letting Twitpic use her song in an ad for the service without paying her – could be great PR and a fair exchange for the benefit the musician gets from the service. But what’s this affiliate business? There’s no definition of affiliate so it could be anybody. Is it Twitpic’s employees, vendors, favorite news organizations? A company they do business with – perhaps a big search engine, social network, or computer company? A competitor of mine who also uses the service? Is it anyone I think ought to be paying me for the right to play that song? Doesn’t matter – by uploading the song, I’ve given Twitpic the right to decide for me who else gets free access to my song. Of course, I’m still the copyright holder, and I can still offer a license to the song to other people I approve of – but why should they pay me when they could just ask Twitpic for a free license?

These terms are not unusual – and courts have held that these kinds of click-ok-to-agree contracts are actually binding. If you create media and consider yourself a professional with any level of business interest in what you create, it’s really important to evaluate what media you share on-line and what the terms of service mean for you professionally. Decide what you’re ok with *before* continuing!


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Top Three Reasons to File a Patent

Keyboard button with the word "learn" on itThere are typically three good reasons to apply for a patent: 1) you want to signal to potential investors/partners that you are serious about your efforts and have something unique enough to protect via patent; 2) your business model depends on licensing technology, know-how and IP; and 3) you will need defensive patents to even the playing field against your competitors. Before filing for a patent, you should consider each of these in determining what you intend to do with the patent application now and in the future.
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