Author: Jessica Nichols

Don’t Be A Fool-Protect Your IP April 1st!

Tomorrow, it’s both April Fools Day and “Don’t Be a Fool!” Day. While everyone else is horsing around playing pranks on each other, we are going to tend to business. Are you ready?
Don't Be A Fool Day-Sweet Eventide Creative IP Day of Action
Right click to save your Don’t Be A Fool badge designed by Abigail Page

Step 1: Register at least one copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.

If you did not have time to prep for a batch registration, hopefully you know what your best-selling or most popular work is without even thinking. If you have not previously registered that work, this is the one to tackle today. Put on some music, open up a Firefox tab (the recommended browser for this task) and launch the tutorial.

It will cost $35 for one registration and it should take 1-2 hours, max. Let’s do this!

If you do nothing else today, you are already ahead of 99% of professional photographers in the U.S., according to the American Society of Media Photographers. (pg. 3,

Step 2: Prepare a template for a cease and desist letter.

First, review Lela’s post about how and when to use a cease and desist letter. 

Remember, there is no one size fits all template. Here is one from Tech Republic that you can start with but the point of a template is to customize it as much as you can.

The point of this action item today is to have a document ready to go with your business information edited while leaving room for the specific infringement details if and when you need to use the letter. Draft it on your letterhead, and if you don’t have letterhead yet, make it today. (I just rebranded so I will be doing this step today myself).

3. Create or update the copyright policies on your website.

Place your policies as a notice in a visible place on your website. Most people put it in their sidebar. Beware of the risks of relying only on Creative Commons licenses. 

Here are three levels of achievement for this step.

Good: If you don’t have a copyright notice on your website and/or shop, today is the day. If nothing else, start with an All Rights Reserved notice with the current year.

Better: Add on what permissions/restrictions you give people regarding blogging and pinning your work. State how you want to be credited if that is a requirement for your work.

Best: Kim Niles has one of the most comprehensive legal sections I have ever seen on an artist’s website because it clarifies the difference between purchasing her work and purchasing the rights to USE her work anywhere.

Whether you do one, two or three steps today, tomorrow, this week (or when you can carve out the time), you can sleep better knowing you have incorporated sound business practices to protect the beautiful things you work so hard to create all year.

Did the work? Then grab the badge because you are not a fool!

Don't Be A Fool Day-Sweet Eventide Creative IP Day of Action
Right click to save your I’m Not A Fool badge designed by Abigail Page
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Editor’s note: Inspired by the response to her recent OMHG post Jessica created this campaign to help us all protect our IP-thank you for watching our backs! If you have information on how creatives who live outside the US can take part & the steps required to register a copyright in your country please share with us in the comments below!

Sweet Eventide’s Infringement Casestudy & Resources to Protect Yourself

Loads of Ranunculus by Jessica Nichols of Sweet Eventide PhotographySweet Eventide’s Loads of Ranunculus photograph shared with permission

Editor’s note: The lovely Jessica of Sweet Eventide started coming to our #OMHG chats recently and like always I visited her website to learn about the story behind the tweets. When I got there I immediately wanted her to visit us this month to share her struggle to get accountability from the big names profiting from her work. Jessica is a talented creative producing beautiful new work, a mother/wife, and a four times survivor of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She deserves (as we all do) to be respected as an artist and supported not stolen from-I hope our community can play a role in getting her the support she needs.

In the summer of 2012, I found out about a large-scale infringement of my Loads of Ranunculus photograph by three major companies: fashion designer Chris Benz, Lancôme and Saks Fifth Avenue. The fashion calendar is always ahead of real time, which means I discovered the infringement almost one year after Benz premiered the fashion line at New York Fashion Week and several months after the line was available in stores.

I worked privately with my attorneys for four months to get information from all three companies in the hopes of settling the matter without going to litigation. Unfortunately, we did not get substantial responses and in November, I finally decided to go public with my story with a blog post containing photographic evidence of the infringing items.

Chris Benz used my photograph to make fabric from which he created several pieces for his Spring 2012 fashion line. He collaborated with other companies with the fabric as well, including a tote bag promotion with Lancôme that was sold exclusively at Saks, and sneakers designed with Alejandro Ingelmo. In addition to all of these products, Chris Benz, Saks and Lancôme used my photograph in advertisements on their Facebook pages, which reach anywhere from 11,000 to 3.7 million people. The infringement extends all the way to a glossy print advertising campaign that was sent out by Lancôme to promote the tote bag collaboration.

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