James Mahoney, Razor’s Edge Communications

Somebody might steal my ideas.

I’ve heard this consistently over the years, including in a few conversations this past month.

One was with a woman who wants to market her art as greeting cards, but is certain that the “big” card companies would copy her ideas and elbow her out.

The other was with a carpenter who’s afraid somebody will copy his unique designs and import cheap, mass-produced knock-offs from China.

So neither is doing anything to establish a market for their work.

Their fear and loathing aren’t entirely unfounded. To wit:

Not long ago, I received an emailed school photo with a cheery “Just passing along [child’s] handsome school photo. Feel free to print!”

And when a columnist for The Wall Street Journal asked business leaders about their favorite apps, one answered, “Pinterest. I’m a visual person and … We just bought a ski house in Utah that needed bunk beds. I found 185 different bunk bed photos, emailed my favorite to the contractor, and he’s building a knock-off.”

Now individually neither of these is going to break the bank for the school photographer or the creator of the original bunk bed (though in the photographer’s case, at least, the loss of income is real and could be fatal if enough people violate the copyright). But both are prime examples of the blithe indifference most people have to the copyrights and other protections of artists and artisans.

Yet is that really enough reason to never do anything with one’s creations? Does it really make sense to settle for zero market because of vague fears that someone somewhere might do you wrong?

I don’t think so.

The better course is to get educated on how to protect your work through copyright registration, trademark, etc. Then lawyer-up to take action if and when you need to, and let those puppies out of the box.

And yes, I stole the idea for the title of this DuetsBlog from Hunter S. Thompson. The irony is not lost on me.