sleep better with copyright protection

Last year, my creative studio (Engage Brandcraft) was accused of stealing the intellectual property of a bigger, much more aggressive company who had in fact clearly stolen ours.

They threatened us with legal action if we didn’t ‘cease and desist’ with the flagrant use of our own original work (in this particular case, our name and logo – a very nasty allegation indeed). Trademark issues ensued – we were being accused of passing-off and copyright violations.

Goliath eventually gave in but not without a very expensive counter-threat from the lawyers on our side. Taking it to court would probably have cost in the region of approximately 50 000 USD. We came off lightly. Yet we’d done nothing wrong to start with! In time and money alone the exercise cost us well over 2000 USD. And let me assure you, we didn’t have that kind of money lying around. Similar predicaments face creators from all walks of life, daily, across the globe. Other “writers” steal our articles, companies turn our Youtube® uploads into ads, bullies copy our logos and then accuse us of being the perpetrators.


But surely our original works are protected right? According to the law in most civilized nations, we all have inherent copyright[1] in our creations as long as they’re original and reduced to a physical form. Logos, website designs, paintings, books, songs, videos, poems, your childhood drawings, you name it – they’re all yours if you made them. You have automatic copyright for free and for nothing[2]. Congratulations! We even have the Berne Convention that regulates copyright laws between member countries (From the US to India, Brazil to the UK) so your copyright is global. So yes, that’s the spirit of the law.

The problem comes with implementation. The realization of justice tends to boil down to two things: time and money. Ironically, good creatives often have neither. Ergo: your copyright is essentially moot. You see, most of these cases are civil and many contestations will boil down to who was the author which, in-turn, will come down to the “burden of proof”. You’ll make claims, they’ll make claims, you’ll show them print-outs, they’ll claim you printed them yesterday, they’ll produce witnesses, you’ll try to get hold of a techie who can prove the date on your blog-post is accurate (which they won’t be able to do) and so it goes.

In fact you’ll be lucky if the judge even knows what a blog is. And you’ll do this all by yourself, or with your very expensive lawyer by your side. Not enough money, not enough time… waste of energy you reckon. So you leave it. Not exactly self-respecting. Hardly a just outcome. The obvious conclusion: the situation on the ground is totally unfair, imbalanced and something needs to change.

So – very much as a result of our unnerving experience – I joined forces with local designer, Frenchman and out-the-box thinker, Max Guedy along with technical genius Dave O. (in Singapore) and Scottish IT/IP lawyer Steve Ferguson to create Myows. That’s Myows (as in “my Original Works”)- a global network of smart creative’s who are looking to change the way our copyrights are upheld. At the heart of this growing community lies the Myows app – a site that helps members claim and manage their creations, protect their intellectual property and enforce their rights. It’s pretty, universally accessible, easy to use and secure. It’s available, free at www.myows.com.

Sites like this have the power to change the way we think about our rights and, in turn, reflect the pride we take in our creative works, whatever form they might take. The challenge is to start looking at copyright protection as a matter of simple, everyday discipline – like locking your car when you leave it parked in the street rather than waiting to have it stolen and then trying to track it down and suing the thief.

Logging, maintaining and managing your copyrights is smart. It’s also simple and free. I urge any creative who takes their creative work seriously to sign up. It is our hope that you’ll avoid ever going through the huge amount of BS, hassle, stress and unnecessary expenditure that we were forced to endure a year ago. It’s a waste. Trust me. Sign up any time and join smart creative’s from the world in saying enough is enough.

[1] From South Africa to France, India to the USA (17 U.S.C. §201)

[2] Except in the USA where you have to pay and then wait up to two years