Any original written work, whether a short poem or an epic novel, is an intellectual property asset. Like every other asset we own, we should take steps to protect it. We can use various legal tools to serve this purpose.
The hardest part is often figuring out which is the right option to achieve your goals.
What types of intellectual property protection are available to protect written work?
The first step is often copyright protections. This allows you the ability to stop anyone from taking your work without permission — an illegal act referred to as copyright infringement. This protection generally lasts 50 to 70 years after the death of the original author. The exact time frame depends on where the work is copyrighted.
You can then contract with others to distribute the work, often done through the use of licensing. Licensing can allow you to delegate the sale and distribution of certain parts of this asset to others. A common example is to delegate foreign language editions to others while keeping full control of English language publications.
What else should I know about protecting my work?
It is important to carefully review any contract before signing. A well-meaning agent or potential publisher could produce a contract with provisions that take away your rights to your work. Review the entire contract and know the implications of each provision.
If you are unsure, reach out to legal counsel experienced in this area to discuss the impact of the contract on your work and whether you should negotiate better terms.