Facebook, AOL and Your Intellectual Property

by Guest Contributor on April 18, 2012

The following article by Alton Drew originally appeared on Politic365.

Facebook was back in the news last week. Its purchase of Instagram, a social networking site where subscribers put up pictures, caused a bit of a stir given the purchase price of $ 1 billion.

It’s interesting because Instagram only has 12 employees.

But, the social media behemoth is known for buying and shutting down the companies it acquires. Raiding smaller companies for their talent, Zuckerberg’s animal kingdom devours and absorbs the talent into the social network’s version of the Borg collective.

Media reports have concluded that Facebook’s chief friend, Mark Zuckerberg is going to give Instagram friendlier treatment by keeping and growing it.  The company has been around since 2006, as an independent operation.

Meanwhile AOL continues with its makeover, attempting to re-imagine itself as a media company. It has entered a deal that would see some 800 patents sold to software giant Microsoft. AOL expects to make a cool $1.1 billion from the deal.

While these two deals are business as usual in the technology, social media, and social networking sectors, they send a reminder to minority communities that property, particularly intellectual property, is king.

At least it should send that signal. Historically, our communities have not navigated the royal courtyards of IP very well. Arguably we have been treated as the court jesters versus monarchs of our intellectual property domains. At times we have been duped by smiling princes offering a Cadillac instead of proper compensation for the equity in our art, music, and literature. As K.J. Greene notes in her article, “Intellectual Property at the Intersection of Race and Gender: Lady Sings the Blues”, Blacks and other minorities cannot participate as equals in a market economy if they cannot deploy the private power generated by ownership and control of substantial business assets.

As we can see, AOL and Facebook place a lot of value on intellectual property. It’s not like minorities don’t place any value on intellectual property, but we should be mindful of devoting too much time to content and not enough time to the business side of content protection. Unfortunately, although history has provided us with examples of how the failure to protect our intellectual property can lead to a lawsuit or being destitute, artists and entrepreneurs are still committing these errors today.

If the goal is to be the next Microsoft, Apple, or J.K. Rowling, we will have to invest in the basics. Learn what intellectual property is and obtain the services of good legal counsel. We can’t accumulate what we unwittingly let slip through our fingers.

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    Thanks for sharing this article with us. Regard.

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