Everything You Didn’t Know About Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (or IP) is one of the most confusing arenas of law — and many of us violate those laws on an almost daily basis without even realizing it! This is because the simple sharing of a file online can be considered IP theft. How many times have you sent a purchased song or video to a friend or family member? How often have you received one? How often have you downloaded one? These are all examples of IP theft. Here are some other tidbits you might not know.

Here’s some bad news: even if you didn’t know you were violating IP law, you can still be prosecuted for it. This phenomenon is called “innocent” infringement and invites legal action the same as intentional infringement.

IP laws vary country by country, but IP rights are dependent on where the IP was established. For example, U.S. laws will only protect properties in the United States. If you own a specific IP and plan to sell it in more than one country, you need to know the laws in every single one! There are some politicians trying to create a worldwide standard to make it simpler to regulate and prosecute individuals accused of violating IP law.

Do you know the difference between an owner and an author? An owner is the one who legally owns and has the right to sell a specific IP. The author is the one who created it, so he or she usually owns it — but sometimes when an IP is worth millions, an author will be quick to sell it to a different owner.

Copyright protection expires 70 years after the original author passes away, even if there is a new owner. Patents are only valid for twenty years — which is why we generic versions of drugs, but only after two decades have passed. The only trademarks that live in perpetuity are those used commercially.

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