How to Protect Your Intellectual Property

Having been in the publishing business and now writing for myself, I know there are many people in the world who do not respect intellectual property.  You own your ideas just as much as you own your computer, yet some people don’t seem to be able to grasp this.  But there are ways to protect yourself.

For example, if you publish something that is heavy on facts, a few bogus items planted in the work proves plagerism if reprinted by someone else.  This was an effective tactic when I was editing collector price guides.  Say a toy was announced, then cancelled at the last minute.  Include it in your list, and anyone who repeats it is proving they didn’t do their own research.  Actually, in the manuscripts I edited, it wasn’t my job to include them.  My boss added them later so even I didn’t know where they were.  And there couldn’t have been many because I never found them myself.

I was reminded of this while listening to a TED Talk by John Green on “The Nerd’s Guide to Learning Everything Online.”  He gave another example, but with an unexpected twist.

Have you ever heard of Agloe, New York?  In the 1930s, the General Drafting Company made a map of New York state.  They added Agloe as a fictional town at a road intersection in Delaware County as just such a “copyright trap.”  Anyone including Agloe on their map would be caught as a plagiarist.  The trouble is in the 1950s someone decided to take advantage of this imaginary landmark, and built the Agloe General Store at this intersection.  When a Rand McNally map showed Agloe, they were threatened with a lawsuit.  Except there was no longer any legal recourse because now there really was something at that intersection named Agloe.

Truth is always stranger than fiction anyway.


The complete story with a picture is at,_New_York.

The TED Talk is at



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