Entrepreneurs who start new businesses online are notorious for saying things like,
“I’m not ready for that; my business isn’t big enough.”
“I’ll do it when I start making money.”
“That stuff’s too complicated.”
“I’ll just copy what So-and-So did on her website.”
As counterintuitive as it may seem, we tend to put off doing the most important, albeit much less sexy “legal stuff’” when it comes to setting up shop online.
And for some entrepreneurs, the less sexy stuff sometimes gets put off indefinitely, or at least until they hear the words, “You’ve been served.”
No ostrich impersonations please.
Failing to mitigate your risk of liability is not a very “big girl” move. In fact, it’s an ostrich move, and sticking your head in the sand is just not a good look. Agreed?
If you’re going to be in business for the long haul you simply must start showing up like the fierce business owner that you are and that includes gettin’ legal with it. After all, your business is your baby—you need to protect it.
So, what exactly does it mean to “cover your assets” online and, what are assets, anyway?
IF YOU CREATED IT YOU ARE THE BOSS OF IT
An asset is something of value that is rightfully (i.e. legally) owned by you. This includes your website content, blog posts, your photos, design elements, not to mention your products and services. In short, all of your original work belongs to you, which means you are the only one who gets to decide where it is displayed or who gets to use it.
The more valuable the asset, the more precautions you must take to protect it. Or, you just might lose it.
Have you heard about what happens to entrepreneurs who leave their assets exposed to online scallawags and kleptomaniacs? Their assets get ripped off.
Just like that.
I know, it’s sad to think that happens, but it does. I see it every day.
And the smaller the business, the bigger the target, because those unscrupulous types are smart; they know that most small business owners don’t have the money to fight it out in court. That’s why they figure they can so easily get away with stealing your stuff.
Creating a bulletproof business starts with becoming familiar with the laws that are there to protect you.
Here’s where to start:
1. Be sure to post a copyright notice on your website and prominently display the notice on every page of your website, as well as on all your products and services. Prominent display of your copyright notice means the bad guys can’t claim “innocent infringement” if they steal your stuff.
2. If you’ve got a business name you love, and/or a tagline that’s ideal, display a trademark notice by displaying the “™” symbol beside the mark. Also, consider a federal trademark registration.
3. Protect your copyright and your trademarks by making sure no one is ripping you off. Conduct regular searches using the Internet’s top search engines. There are even companies you can pay to do this for you. Failure to take action against possible copyright and trademark infringement weakens your right to claim that you have exclusive rights, especially if someone’s been using your content for a while. It may be seen as tacit agreement to allow others to use your content without the threat of repercussions from you.
I know. You wish you didn’t have to deal with all this “legal stuff.” The creative stuff is way more fun. But the joy of having your own business could very quickly become a nightmare if you don’t cover your assets online. As entrepreneurs we just can’t afford to take the risk of not lining up our legal ducks and docs. It could save you a lot of headache and heartache, not to mention legal fees, in the future.
Lin Eleoff is a lawyer who happens to be a life coach who happens to be an online entrepreneur whose mission is to help her fellow entrepreneurs launch, grow, and protect their online businesses.
Connect with Lin at www.LinEleoff.com!