3 Legal Terms You Need to Know as a Creative Business Owner

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Being a creative, we’re more well-versed in the language of weddings, photoshop and online marketing. We can throw around terms like “JPEG,” “serif,” and “stem count” like nobody’s business, but when it comes to the side of our business that, well, actually keeps us in business, we get a little shy.

Here are three legal terms you need to know as a creative entrepreneur:

1. Royalty Rate.

If you watch Shark Tank at all, you've probably heard Daymond John talking about royalty rates, but you may not have totally understood it. (That's why I'm here!)

Royalty rates is a term that is used in licensing agreements. A licensing agreement is the way you can memorialize your intention to allow another person or company to use your intellectual property, like a copyright, trademark or package design.

Royalty rates vary depending on your industry, but typically range from 2-6% of the wholesale price of an item that’s sold with your design on it.

So, for example, if you license your pretty ‘lil design to a phone case company, and that company sells their phone cases to Target, Best Buy or Anthro for $10 a pop, you get $2 per phone case sold if your royalty rate is 20%.

To be transparent, that’s not exactly how cleanly it works, but it’s close enough so you get the idea of how you could make a good bit of money off your designs without doing any of the heavy lifting.

2. Intellectual property.

Intellectual property, or ‘IP,’ refers to trademarks, copyrights, patents, trade dress and trade secrets as a collective family.

If you're struggling with content thieves... click here for a free checklist to FINALLY (legally!) confronting that copycat.

Your IP is your life blood if you create a digital product or have a brand of any kind. You know you have a brand if you have a logo, or if you could say your name and others would recognize you.

You can use your intellectual property to form licensing deals with manufacturers. They will license anything from your name, to your logo, to your designs.

3. Infringement.

Infringement is what it's called when someone takes your intellectual property, like your blog posts or photos.

The only way to know with 100% accuracy that someone else is infringing your work is to have a court say so. But, most issues don’t escalate to that level.


>> CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF... DOWNLOAD THIS FREE GUIDE TO STOPPING THOSE COPYCATS IN THEIR TRACKS. <<


Typically, if there’s a matter of infringement, it’s worthwhile to get an attorney involved because an attorney can (1) shut down the infringer’s activity, so they’re not taking any more of your sales, and (2) re-coup the lost profits or other money available to you as a result of the infringer’s illegal activities.

By learning these little bits of legal knowledge, you give yourself power to negotiate, and learn how to build your business in a sustainable, profitable way. Ignorance is definitely not bliss when it comes to the law!

Legal things you need to know when you start a business. #legal #creative #businessowner #startup #entrepreneur

Want to Start a Business but Afraid of Someone Stealing Your Idea?

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She stood up there sobbing, the first of 62 of us to share who she is, why she came to this conference, and how she wanted to build her photography business.

“This is going to be a long two days,” I thought. If the first gal was brought to tears, and we still had 61 more lovely ladies waiting to share their stories... was the room just going to be a mushy puddle of estrogen and tears by the end of the hour?

But Stephanie*, the crying woman, said something next that hit a nerve. The reason she was crying was because her former business partner had stolen her business idea, her clients... and entire livelihood. She was there to start over. Wow.

Don't let the fear of someone stealing your idea stop you from getting started

Since then, it’s a story I’ve heard over and over and over again. Each time it’s the same with a different mask:

“I’m afraid to publish my blog content because someone could steal it.”
“Should I put my products up for sale yet if they’re not all the way perfect? What if someone who’s more established sees them and copies them? What would I do?”
“If I start working with clients who have a big following, what’s stopping them from just taking my work and selling it as a product to their own audience?”

>> Check Yourself Before you Wreck Yourself... download this free guide to stopping those copycats in their tracks. <<


The truth is that, in each of these scenarios, there’s three things to remember:

1. There are things you can do to legally prevent someone from stealing your idea.

While it may feel like you’re the first and only person to have these feelings, you’re not. Millions of other entrepreneurs and creatives have felt and experienced loss through content theft before, and there’s an entire legal system put in place to help you.

Like the myth of the starving artist (which I don’t believe in), there’s the myth that legal stuff has to be hard; complicated; carried out by only the finest of minds.


>> Confront those copycats (and get paid!) with THIS free guide. <<


This is simply not true, and it’s a myth that my professors actively encouraged us to perpetuate during law school! One even went as far to say, “Make things confusing for your clients, that way they’ll always depend on you for answers.”

This bull honky is exactly why I do what I do, and why I’m hosting a free workshop on the 3 Secrets to Busting Copycats, which you will get access to when you download my free copy cat checklist here.

2. It’s really hard to get noticed online, let alone get your idea copied.

I remember the first website I made. I paid way too much for a custom site (I didn’t know there was such a thing as templates) and eagerly awaited our launch date. I had zero following, zero list and a dog + two brothers who knew about me.

The day finally came, and I crossed my fingers the servers wouldn’t crash with the flood of traffic my site was about to experience.

Spoiler alert: In the first YEAR of that website, I got a little over 600 pageviews. Womp womp.

Since then, it’s been an uphill battle to get eyeballs on ANYTHING I create, and I’ve actually been fairly successful at it (we now have about 20k pageviews per month, yay!).

The battle is won, but the war is not over yet. Even with all those people looking at my stuff, only a handful are actually consuming it.

(You probably skipped over everything right to this sentence! And there’s a 99.7% chance you won’t leave a comment below. Le sigh.)

If you're struggling with content thieves... click here for a free checklist to FINALLY (legally!) confronting that copycat.


Moral of the story: no one is looking at you, so do your dance.

If you’re getting copied, yeah it sucks but the upside is that people are noticing you.

3. The benefit you bring to your world far exceeds whatever lame copycats will be ripping you off.

I saved the best for last. You may not believe it yet, but the people that are eager to learn about you, from you, and with you are out there.

You are denying them your wisdom and company by staying small.

There’s no magical switch where you will suddenly feel like bursting out onto the online scene because everyone now loves you. You have to love on other people first to build a tribe of people who love you too.

So what if you put yourself out there and people copy you? Grab this guide to learn how to nix would-be copycats once and for all: Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself Guide.

To review why you should stop worrying about someone else copying your work...

On one side of the fence, you have:

  • fear
  • staying small
  • not helping anyone, including yourself
  • never living in the home of your dreams
  • never living the life of your dreams

On the other side of the fence, you have:

  • helping others out of debt,
  • saving marriages
  • finding success in business with your services,
  • taking the most meaningful pictures of your clients’ lives

* Name changed out of respect for this wonderful gal.

Download the free guide to stopping (and preventing) copycats.

3 Practical Steps to Take When Your Work is Copied

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I remember the first time I saw my store on someone else’s website... that’s right, as an attorney and founder of The Contract Shop™, my stuff was blatantly stolen and ripped off (it’s since happened twice more).

It’s a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if’ your stuff will get stolen. 

When it happens, it feels violating. It feels crappy. And worst of all are the ‘fringe’ situations where the end product looks pretty dang close to what you put out into this world.

What to do when your work is stolen

From personal experience, you have two options:

Option 1: Send off a nasty message/email and fight fire with fire; watch as things quickly escalate into the feud of the century with enemies, litigation threats and mean words scattered haphazardly about your inbox.

Option 2: Keep reading this blog post.

Oh good, you’re still here!

It can be tempting to tell someone off and give them a piece of the frustration you’re feeling. It doesn’t feel fair that they get to just take your stuff and run, while you have to be the one to initiate a confrontation—which most of us hate!

So how do you deal with these copycats without losing your cool?


>> Confront those copycats (and get paid!) with THIS free guide. <<


Step #1: Take some deep breaths and go for a walk.

Whaaaattt? I promise this is the fluffiest one—the other two are actually actionable.

But for real, nothing good happens when you deal with these people from an angry place. It may feel impossible to cool off now, so go do something to burn off that negative energy. Punch a couch. Scream into a pillow. Go shop at Anthro. Do things you’re not proud of (but that no one will know about).

Step #2: Remind yourself what’s actually at stake here.

So often, when someone copies me, my first reaction is one of panic. I fear they’re taking away people that would have been my customers or clients.

This quickly spirals into thoughts that my friends will all like this new person better than myself, and I will quickly fade into oblivion. Like a bad cartoon, I really need someone to smack me out of this unproductive freefall.

It took a conversation with Beth Kirby last week to remind me that no matter who you think the ‘industry leaders’ or these copycats are, there are still people who have no clue they exist.


If you're struggling with content thieves... click here for a free checklist to FINALLY (legally!) confronting that copycat.


You and I both know how hard it is to get our ideas, blog posts and products/services out in front of anyone—it’s not likely that this copycat’s stuff was out long enough to be seen by exactly the demographic you’re attempting to target, since you (or your kind friend who pointed it out) is hypersensitive to your market. You are probably keeping a closer eye on your competition than your fans are.

But there are instances where copycats can cause a large loss in income (or customer following), and they typically fall under one of these two scenarios:

1. A Chinese manufacturer or an online reseller does something like take a screenshot of your design and put it on a competing (often inferior) product, like a cell phone case or t-shirt.

This is harmful because these groups are often very savvy about running ads in Amazon or on Google, so people are finding their copycat product instead of yours.

2. A big company (read: online search site) retailer (read: the kind of stores you’d find in a mall) rips off us little guys, hoping we just give up because it’s a modern day David + Goliath tale.

Fortunately, myself and others have seen good outcomes result from challenging these retailers who are often quick to respond or at least compensate the injured creative once they realize it’s our original design or work that they’ve featured without credit.


>> Check Yourself Before you Wreck Yourself... download this free guide to stopping those copycats in their tracks. <<


Step #3: Take kind action.

Once you’ve calmed down and taken a step back to assess the situation, it’s time to do something about it.

If someone has directly copied you—like, photocopied or screenshotted your work onto their site or product, it’s much easier to allege copyright infringement and get the work removed, credited or its use paid for.

However, and probably what’s more common for us to experience, is when someone is clearly “inspired” by our work but it’s slightly different. In these instances, it can be negligent or even downright dangerous (from a financial point of view) to point a finger and demand money and/or credit.

These kinds of copycats are the really frustrating ones, but there’s still something that can be done about them.

In instances like these, I personally like to reach out and (in the nicest way possible) let them know I see what they’re doing. It may not be the iron hammer the TV lawyers advertise, but it’s enough to deter most people from stealing your stuff on the reg.

Using these steps you can cure a lot of heartache! But if you want more, click here to get my guide to dealing with copycats

Did you skip to the bottom?

No worries, in review, here's what you need to do when you come across someone blatantly stealing your work:

  1. Deep breathing is underrated.
  2. Ask: what’s actually at stake here right now in this moment?
  3. Take kind action.
  4. Download the Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself guide to dealing with copycats.
My work was stolen! What do I do? Start here. #legal #creativebusiness #business