How to: Stop people pinching your IP

Who remembers that great ad from NZI about people always stealing your stuff (it was in 2005 so if I’m showing my age you can watch it on YouTube here).

The problem with having nice things is that there are some people out there who would rather steal from others than put in the hard yards – and it’s no different with intellectual property.  If you come up with a great new concept, unless you take steps to protect your rights, people may steal your ideas.   

There was a good segment on this on 9 September 2019 on Fair Go (here).  In short, Shane Hansen is an amazing artist whose artwork was used by Escape Campervans without his consent.  So he took them to court and they backed down – not only this they made a public apology and paid him compensation.  As he said in an article on Idealog last year:

“If people don’t stand up for themselves and say you’ve done the wrong thing, then it keeps perpetuating and getting taken advantage of. The more people buy into the same ‘It’s only a hobby, can’t make a living, it’s hard’ idea, the more that becomes part of the vernacular and everyone thinks like that, even the artists themselves.”

It’s, therefore, crucial to defend your IP against any misuse, as otherwise not only are you missing out, but the problem will only get worse.  I’ve set out below some basic things you should do / not do to protect your IP and enforce your rights.  Do you have any more good tips for others?

DOPut people on notice of your rights by using watermarks and or statements of your rights e.g. © Rachel Triplow,, 2019
DON’TJust sit back and let people use your IP without your consent – you’re then helping to perpetuate the problem like Shane Hansen said.
DOContact anyone using your IP without your consent – a simple email can be sufficient e.g. “You may not realise that I own © in the artwork on your vans”. This type of email resolves the majority of issues.
DON’TGo in straight in with a threat to go to court – often people aren’t aware about IP rights, so give them a chance to do the right thing without being backed into a corner or lawyering up.
DOBe clear about how people can use your IP e.g. use Creative Commons to allow licensed use