How to Protect Your Intellectual Property From Theft

Having worked in studios as a beat maker in the past, I know the effort artists and producers put into their craft, one thing that cuts across amongst all creatives is passion, we put all our soul into our various crafts, from the fashion designer to the fine artists to the musicians, to the interior designer, to the hair stylist, Graphic artists, animators, software developers, forgive me if I omitted your areas of speciality just that creativity is expressed through varying channels. We are all suckers for perfection and we pay attention to the slightest details, this explains the frustration and anger when one’s intellectual property has been utilised without due consent. The question comes to mind, “what if my work has been imitated, without my consent what steps do I take”? The best answer to that can be given to us by a lawyer. A better approach would be to protect our intellectual work from theft in the first place.

Before thinking of legal action one must understand that coincidences are real and sometimes intellectual property can bear close semblances to each other. Having put that out there, let’s look at simple steps to prevent intellectual property theft.

Utilise Watermarks: If your work is visual in nature be it [graphic design, video design/editing, animation, fashion design e.t.c] utilise watermarks to render sample images to customers and ensure to collect an upfront payment from the very start of the project. All the above should be included in an initial contract.

Formal and Informal Contracts for Intellectual Property Protection

Informal Contract: Without a formal document, an agreement via e-mail still holds a lot of weight as long as it’s stated clearly that  “I retain full ownership of content till payment is completed” and IP (intellectual property) rights remain untransferable prior to acceptance of work, posting online e.t.c. and a follow-up email of acceptance of terms is sent to you.

Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA): Many instances before the commencement of a project an exchange of ideas occur between creative and client. Having an (NDA) is very crucial because many times after all the back and forth, due to disagreements or cost, certain clients have a change of mind. Only for the creative to find out all his suggested ideas have been executed by a replacement. All contents sent to clients should be labelled as confidential. Something as basic as leaving a confidential clause in the e-mail can go a long way. After a formal agreement is established all confidential clauses can be relaxed.

Formal Contract: Formal contracts are particularly essential when dealing with big projects. This can be a tedious exercise but the hours spent on contract negotiations can be rationalised with the amount of money involved. Be it formal or informal, ensure that the basics are well considered these include

  • project revisions (how many changes before additional payment is due)
  • Client Approval (how approval process will work)
  • Contract termination (Should in case the business relationship cannot continue due to irreconcilable differences, should all sent paraphernalia be returned or the project can be ended cold turkey e.t.c.)
  • A signature (this represents agreeing to the terms of service or an e-mail of acceptance of terms and condition)

Have you had any experiences we all can learn from concerning IP theft? Please share in the comment section so we can take a cue from it and should in case you notice I omitted something, please feel free to indicate in the comment section. Also be reminded that I am not a lawyer and in no way should the above be considered as legal advice, it’s just a pertinent reminder of actionable steps to prevent intellectual property theft.

Talking about IP theft, a trending case comes to mind, Phyno a Nigerian rap/Afrobeat artist just had his fingers burnt or so it appears as American Singers Pia Mia and Jeremih just entirely ripped an entire song literarily from Phynos Album. If an agreement was reached before this copy and paste was done is yet to be verified, as phynos management is yet to respond to our queries on the subject.  listen to the tracks bellow and be awed by the unquestionable similarities.


Phyno I’m a Fan feat Decarlo and Mr Eazi released in November 2016


pia Mia feat Jeremih, released may 2017