Entertainment lawyer Jeff Young explained the complicated nature of the law related to social media at Third Tuesday, held at the Network Hub in downtown Vancouver on February 19th. Young explained how patents, trademarks and copyright differ and how that affects the internet. Patents, he said, expire after 20 years and cannot be renewed, so it’s absolutely necessary to make your money off your invention before that time runs out. He also explained the difference between rights of privacy and rights of publicity. Rights of publicity mean that some famous people can’t be used in media, and others can. That has a direct impact on social media because often famous images are used and rights are infringed on, often without the knowledge of those infringing those rights. Young pointed out that while ideas cannot be patented, once that idea turns into a product or a piece of media, they can be trademarked, patented or copyrighted.
Code, Young said, is an original literary work by law, which means that if the code isn’t actually source code, there isn’t any infringement. For example, the idea of a GUI isn’t protected, and the reason deleting on the Mac is called “trash” and referred to as the “recycle bin” in Windows, specifically in order to avoid trademark violation.
Of particular importance to startups is the idea that an idea you work on at work is owned by your boss. In order to work on your own idea, for maximum legal protection don’t use one iota of your employer’s equipment, and develop your idea at home or at least away from the office.