Internet intellectual property can be protected by encryption, use of watermarks, and use of legal notices. The global nature of internet communications makes the publishing of intellectual property easier. However, the internet also makes the stealing or abuse of intellectual property rights much easier compared to other means of communication.

The Internet and Intellectual Property

Intellectual property protection is an old concept that has existed for centuries. Modern legal attempts to protect intellectual property started in 17th-century England with the passing of the Licensing Act. Subsequently, the concept spread to the rest of the world and many countries had intellectual property protection laws before the advent of the internet.

The internet, however, revolutionized the way intellectual property is distributed and has necessitated a change of approach to intellectual property protection.

Benefits of Publishing Intellectual Property Over the Internet

There are a number of benefits people can get from publishing intellectual property using the internet:

  • Reduced Costs: Compared to other methods of communication, using the internet is relatively cheap. The rise of the internet has encouraged a new breed of publishers who have made a fortune without investing. For example, while publishing books and videos traditionally required the services of a company, there are a number of self-made YouTube stars and book authors who are self-publishing on the internet.
  • The Speed of Information Movement: The real-time nature with which news travels over the internet means intellectual property publishers who use the internet can get instant exposure. 
  • Global Reach: The fact that the internet reaches virtually every corner of the globe gives intellectual property publishers an opportunity to reach multitudes of people. For example, it is easy for an author to sell books over the internet to people all over the world. This was virtually impossible before the internet age. 

Dangers of Distributing Intellectual Property Over the Internet

  • Uneven Laws: Although people in various countries can generally access intellectual property over the internet from publishers from around the globe, intellectual property laws in various countries differ radically. This means many people can infringe on the rights of an intellectual property owner legally in their countries. For example, many people have duplicated software made by U.S. companies without the possibility of facing any penalty because such activities are legal in their countries. Although the intellectual property laws of some countries are in line with U.S. laws, some people in those countries can steal the intellectual property of U.S. entities without consequences because the U.S. has no extradition treaties with such countries.
  • The Ease of Duplication: Unlike other forms of media where duplication of intellectual property is hard and may require the services of an expert, digital copies of intellectual property can easily be duplicated by anyone. It only takes a few computer-mouse clicks to download copyrighted music, videos, or text.

How You Can Protect Your Intellectual Property on the Internet

Although there are challenges to the protection of intellectual property on the internet, there are some basic steps you can take to protect yourself. The ways you can protect your IP depend on your industry:

  • Use of Notices and Disclaimers: You should make sure visitors to your website are aware that any content on your website is copyrighted. You can do this by using prominent trademarks, disclaimers, and notices on your site. The disclaimers can let visitors know your property is copyrighted or trademarked and they can face prosecution for infringing on your rights.
  • Encryption: Some digital publishers are using encryption to protect their property from unauthorized duplication. This is widely practiced by software vendors, who will require a user's credentials before allowing them to download software from their site.
  • Use of Watermarks: These are widely used by websites that display images online. To discourage unauthorized downloading and use, all images on the website are labeled with a prominent watermark. Copies without a watermark can be provided to those who buy or who are otherwise given access to the images.
  • Use of Cease and Desist Notices: In case your intellectual property has been duplicated without permission, you can request that the other party take the stolen property down. Sometimes a formal “cease and desist” notice can be issued to the offending party.

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