I’m Emily Danchuk, an intellectual property attorney. From dealing with various clients, I can tell you that if you don’t have a healthy understanding of what a copyright is, what a trademark is, or what a patent is, then you will find it quite difficult to enforce and protect your intellectual property. I believe that a solid understanding of intellectual property rights is the bedrock of any good business venture, and as an attorney, I’ve strived to explain the concepts and rights related to intellectual property to my clients. I developed the concept of Copyright Collaborative as a result of several factors: my entrepreneurial spirit, my anger at the growing infringement culture around me, and my passion to protect the livelihood and spirit of the artistic community.
My Anger at Infringement
I’ve spent most of my legal career representing small businesses and artists. Once I began to handle infringement matters for my clients, I realized two things: there is no better way to get my blood pressure up and the trend of infringement by businesses – both large and small – is bigger than I had previously thought.
When I receive client emails with comparisons of original and knock-off designs, I can’t keep my anger, shock or my rising blood pressure out of the mix. “How dare Company XYZ steal so blatantly and openly!” I exclaim internally. My clients, artists and small businesses, are hardworking individuals who put their blood, sweat, tears and passion into their works. For another company to come along and act like the design or work is theirs for the taking is simply inexcusable. Their acts of infringement are an injustice that needs to be stopped.
My Entrepreneurial Spirit
My first entrepreneurial endeavor took place when I was just eight years old. For my birthday, my Uncle Dave had given me a tiny roulette wheel and slot machine, about the size of a cell phone. Without much deliberation, I got two shoeboxes, filled one box with candy, and took my roulette and slot machine to school. It was in the cloakroom of Carlow College Elementary School, a Catholic school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that I started a sort of gambling ring. Kids would gather and pay to play my game, and if they were lucky, they won a piece of candy. Of course, once my empty shoe box became filled with nickels and dimes, I got caught. My parents were called into the school, and while my dad tried to look stern, he couldn’t hide his smile at my early attempt as an entrepreneur.
My Passion for the Artistic Community
While I learned about rights and laws in law school, I became acutely aware that most people – the people who needed them – do not understand them. I remember thinking, “What good are the rights of the people if people don’t know they are theirs?” This is a failing of the legal community. The legal community fails the general public when they refuse to educated people about these rights until after they are paid and paid a lot.
As I handled infringement cases during my career, I worked to the best of my
legal ability and often achieved the desired outcomes. However, after each case, I felt powerless and guilty over the fact that I was making money off the misfortune of an artist who I could only help by fighting one instance of infringement at a time. While doing the work for free might have soothed my uneasy feelings, it would not keep food on my table. So, instead I drew upon my entrepreneurial spirit, my anger at infringement, and my passion to educate artists and protect their hard work, and I developed Copyright Collaborative – an organization that educates people about their intellectual property rights and allows them to fight infringement together.