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23 April 2007 ~ 2 Comments                                       

Intellectual Property Rights Considered (This post: only for law freaks)

Threadless, Crowdspirit, Instructables, and Cambrian House
Given that I will be dealing with designs submitted to The Etch Connection site and any future product design/development , I’ll need to figure out the best way to handle intellectual property (IP) rights. Here then is a quick review of how a few sites handle IP. (I will follow up soon with my take on an IP statement for Etch Connection.)

Threadless (click on “Legal terms” at the bottom of the page.) deals with designs submitted for open online evaluation, so their policy is the closest to what I will be working with.

Threadless.com retains exclusive rights to the submitted design, if chosen, for printing and selling on clothing. Threadless.com also retains rights to the design itself for use on the Threadless.com website, and any Threadless.com promotional material. The participant will keep ownership of the submitted design. The participant may display or archive the design in a portfolio or personal collection, but may not sell or reproduce the design for commercial purposes for ninety (90) days after the design has completed scoring. In addition, during this period, the participant cannot submit the design to another company to be potentially produced.

It goes on to say that the work must be solely owned by and the original work of the submitter. Further, if applicable, Threadless will register the design with the US Copyright office with “the designer as the primary copyright owner with Threadless.com being listed as an additional copyright claimant.” (Hmm, one consideration for Etch Connection along these lines: One of the etchers is in London. Does that matter in terms of copyright considerations?)

A similar section follows describing the slogan submissions (Threadless deals in both text and graphic submissions), but the main difference is that Threadless owns all submissions regardless of whether they are printed or not.

Instructables provides a forum for anyone to post pictures, video, and text descriptions of how to make and do stuff. They start out with several pages that basically say: don’t lie to us, don’t do anything illegal, we can change anything on this site at any time, and this info is provided without warranty for your reading pleasure. Given that this is a purely informational/community site, “the author retains all patent, trademark, and copyright to all Content posted within available fields, and is responsible for protecting those rights, but is not entitled to the help of the Instructables staff in protecting such Content.” So submitters must both own all of their own content and didn’t steal it from anyone else, but if something is used without the author’s permission due to their posting it to Instructables, Instructables is not at fault.

But at the same time:

You grant Instructables the world-wide, royalty free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, publicly perform and publicly display such Content solely for the purposes of providing and promoting Instructables.

I suppose that means they can write a book based on Instructables content without paying the author.

This could be useful:

If you believe that your work has been copied and is accessible on this site in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, you may notify us by providing our copyright agent with the following information in writing.

(Yikes, they even protect themselves from the possibility of users experiencing siezures as a result of certain light patterns viewed on the screen.)

Although Crowdspirit hasn’t launched, they do give an overview of how they will handle rights.

The simplest way for CrowdSpirit to manage this is to hold the IP and to have standard terms and conditions based on a person’s contribution – e.g. a certain value associated with the original idea, another value for the refinements, another for the distribution etc.

Apparently all IP will be the property of Crowdspirit, which makes sense. Will be interesting to see the exact legal language of this when it comes out.

Cambrian House
Hmmm… IP rights don’t seem to be spelled out in their terms and conditions… curious.

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2 Responses to “Intellectual Property Rights Considered (This post: only for law freaks)”

  1. Christy 26 April 2007 at 2:40 pm Permalink

    Hi Tom,

    I’m glad to see someone is reading through our IP boilerplate! You’ve inspired us to give it another look-over when we’ve got the time.

    I suppose that means they can write a book based on Instructables content without paying the author.

    Well, perhaps, but more practically it means we can use the content when giving presentations and otherwise advertising/showing off the site.

    I presume you’ve searched our site for some of the other weird things one can do with a laser cutter- we play with ours entirely too much.

    We’re also running a Win a Laser Cutter contest right now, so you’ve got the chance to drastically lower your Etch Connection startup costs!

    Feel free to drop me a note if you’ve got any questions.


  2. james ryley 9 August 2007 at 1:15 am Permalink

    I saw your information at http://coinnovative.com/?p=20. Have you seen http://www.FreePatentsOnline.com ? The site might be a good resource to add. This site allows free patent searching, free PDF downloading, free alerts, and more. It is a good resource for intellectual property attorneys, patent searchers, scientists, and students.

Leave a Reply to Christy