The 26th of April is World Intellectual Property Day. The World Intellectual Property Organisation, or WIPO, established this official International Day with “the aim of increasing general understanding of IP”₁ – patents, copyright, trademarks, and proprietary designs. This year’s theme is “Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined”.

It’s the perfect opportunity to start delving in to some of the intellectual property issues facing financial advisers who write blogs, create custom articles, and produce other types of informative content from scratch.

Over the past few years we’ve found that, aside from time and resource constraints, intellectual property is one of the main barriers preventing financial advisers from creating meaningful content. They’re hesitant to write information-rich blogs, custom articles, Facebook/YouTube videos, etc.

It’s because they’re scared of giving their ideas away. Of investing lots of time in making something interesting, useful and well-presented, only to have someone take it for free and not spend money on services in return. Or worse, of having someone else steal their ideas and market them as their own.

The truth is, these are all valid concerns. Yes, if you post a blog, someone could rip it off, change a few words, and pass it off as their own. Yes, it takes time and resources to write your own blogs and custom articles – and you may not be able to trace the results directly through to a sale. Yes, content marketing means giving away something for free.

But more importantly, there are dozens of ways to protect your intellectual property. Plus, if you’re doing it right, content marketing is not giving away something you’d otherwise be paid for.

Here are few important principles to keep in mind when you’re thinking about the IP of your blogs and custom articles:

Giving away small pieces of information will not ruin your business

It’s tempting for many advisers to try and put a ‘price’ on what they’re giving away. To think of an article as worth X amount because it took Y hours to prepare. Or X amount because it contains similar information (on a smaller scale) to what a client would receive in Y product.

The truth is that there is no value relationship between the information you give away, and what clients pay you for.

Partly because your blog, article or other piece isn’t something you would sell as a standalone item, next to your other products and services. But also because providing information for free is not the same as providing services for free.

Think of it like this: you could get a recipe² from a world-renowned molecular gastronomy chef with a flair for drama. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to actually cook the meal. Or present it impeccably. Or serve it with the same precision. Or make your guests feel the way they would if the chef had cooked it for them. In fact, having that recipe might make you appreciate just how special that chef’s skill and expertise really is.

Producing free content will not detract from your practice’s income.

What it will do is:

  • Help you demonstrate your expertise
  • Help establish you as a thought leader
  • Establish and reinforce your brand
  • Express your personality
  • Give you an outlet to talk about a niche issue that’s important to your clients
  • Give potential clients more detail on the range of services you offer
  • Help potential clients see the depth of value of what you offer

Most importantly, the content you create will help your clients be well prepared for meetings. They’ll be able to get straight to the point and ask the right questions. For them, it means getting the most out of their time with you. And for you, it means not having to go over the same old basic stuff with every client you see.

In other words, content is like an entrée or appetiser for the ‘meal’ that is your services.

Your written and visual content is intellectual property

Your content might not be equivalent to your services, but it’s important to remember that it’s still intellectual property. And you have a right to protect it. Just like a book author, filmmaker or musician, you have certain rights over the original written material you produce₄.

The Arts Law Centre of Australia explains that “When you create your own blog you are creating copyright protected material […] In Australia, under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), copyright protection is automatic.” This is important because it means that as soon as you publish the work, you can assert your rights. These rights include, but are not limited to, publication, reproduction (reblogging or changing to print version), economic benefit from the work, and communication (publishing online, or sending direct to select readers). There are a few exceptions; for example, if someone is doing a genuine critique of your work, they can use quotes insofar as it’s necessary to produce the critique.

It’s also important to note that “Copyright law only protects the material form of an idea, fact, style or technique, not the actual idea, fact, style or technique itself.” (Protected ideas are patented – but that’s a discussion for another time). This means other people can take the concepts, statistics etc. contained in your blogs and articles. But it also means you’re free to include statistics and ideas from elsewhere. This may open up a whole world of new ways for you to express your personality and expertise. For example, you could write a critique of a common portfolio construction method. Or, you could write a response to a company’s annual report. Or take share price statistics and write a short update around them.

That said, there are a number of ways you can prevent would-be plagiarists from copying your written work in the first place:

  • Make sure your documents and publications are well branded. The Advant Plus platform makes this easy. Colours, logos and other branding elements act like a watermark.
  • Change your website settings so that text cannot be copied by highlighting with the cursor. You may need technical assistance for this.
  • Add a copyright mark (©) and the word ‘copyright’ to your work. This is not strictly legally necessary, but it helps viewers understand that you assert your copyright and you are likely to take action if they breach it. You may also wish to add a written copyright notice, like the ones you see in the front of books or before movies. If you’re stuck for what to include, make sure you’ve at least got the copyright mark or the word itself, plus your name, and the date it was first published.
  • Consider whether you’re O.K. with people re-posting your work, so long as they credit you appropriately. If you are, create a detailed ‘permission to re-post’ policy for your website. Make sure you include details about how to contact you to ask for permission, and in what sorts of circumstances you would give permission.
  • Weave personal details, such as your practice name or info about your location, in to your post. The less generic your post is, the less likely it is to be a target for a plagiarist who’s just looking for basic information to re-post.

We could continue to discuss copyright for hours, but hopefully by this point, you’ve read enough to re-spark your enthusiasm for blogging and article writing. If you have any questions about the information in this blog, please feel free to contact our Melbourne office by email or on (03 9416 0655).

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  1. http://www.wipo.int/ip-outreach/en/ipday/
  2. For example, Heston Blumenthal released his recipe for medieval meat fruit, but few have tried it as it takes several days to prepare – and those that have still long to experience the real deal at one of his restaurants.