Cultivate your ideas and keep developing fresh skills: that’s one of the key recommendations in The Career Lattice. But how do you know which of your ideas is yours, and which actually belongs to your employer?
It’s not as clear-cut as it seems, according to presenters at February 11’s Pen to Digital Press: DIY Publishing in the Digital Age, hosted by Lawyers for the Creative Arts. (I spoke too, with the irrepressible Shari Stauch of Shark Marketing, which helps authors build their audiences.)
Tips from the conference:
- You can’t copyright or trademark an idea. You CAN copyright or trademark the specific expression of that idea. Thus: the idea of chocolate chip cookies? Uncopyrightable. My amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe with a Secret Ingredient? Copyrightable. Just because it occurs to you doesn’t mean you own it. But if you develop the expression of that idea on your own time, and you want to protect it, then publish it and register the copyright.
- If you develop it at your day job, they own it. If you want to build your own portfolio of work, develop it on your own time and document it as such.
This is especially relevant if you are cultivating career skills through a side job or freelancing. Be sure to draw a bright, thick line between the material you produce for your day job employer, and that which you develop, produce and copyright on your own.