Blog Post
August 24, 2020

Own Your Masters

Own boss, own your masters, slaves

The mentality I carry with me to this very day

F*ck rich, let's get wealthy, who else gon feed we?

If I need it, I'mma get it however, God help me 

-“No Hook”, Jay Z

Small business and entrepreneurship is overrated. Why? Because many people get into it for all the wrong reasons, often without an accurate appreciation of the depth and breadth of their decision. There’s more to entrepreneurship than just being your own boss, signing your own checks and making your own hours. There’s legal company formation, tax and accounting issues, licensing and certifications, intellectual property protection, so on and so forth. It’s not nearly as easy as it looks on “Shark Tank” and your favorite CNBC show. Actually, it’s not easy at all. 

Many small business owners find themselves in very precarious financial situations before they realize success, if they realize success. Many have leveraged property holdings, exhausted savings and risked their families for the opportunity to live out their dreams. And no matter how groundbreaking the idea, how revolutionary the concept and how many investors may sign on, many will fail within the first 3 years. 

But for those startups that do get funded, those companies that are on the brink of a breakthrough and those small businesses that go from bust to boom, how do you not only maintain the trajectory towards the top, but also make sure you remain profitable when you get there. For creatives, the answers lie in Jay Z’s, “No Hook” quoted above: “Own boss, own your masters, slaves.” While negotiating to become Def Jam’s CEO in 2005 (and, therefore, his own boss), Jay-Z also negotiated the return of his master recordings. A master recording is the first recording of a song or other sound, from which all the later copies are made. Jay Z’s masters, along with his publishing rights, are estimated by Forbes to be worth upwards of $50 million. 

What if you aren’t an artist, musician, or producer, how does this masters analogy apply to you? Well if you’re a creative, your “masters” are your original work(s) and the intellectual property protection afforded them. For instance, let’s say you come up with a great idea and share it on the timeline, newsfeed, or whatever Pinterest/snapchat calls their version. Your post gains traction and a few hundred or thousand likes and retweets later, congratulations you’re a viral sensation. Now what? Well what usually follows is that if it’s a bankable idea, someone will appropriate (steal) it to make said bank. You notice the thievery and argue that it’s your idea and that your Twitter handle was on the tweet with the ideas that were pilfered, pirated and profited on. And? So. What.  Unfortunately, if you didn’t seek intellectual property protection for this idea or have the timeline sign a non-disclosure agreement as they shared, liked and retweeted your idea or work (which for the record is nonsensical and implausible), you’re likely out of luck. 

What’s the solution? Don’t put out what you aren’t willing to risk have co-opted, misappropriated and scavenged. Also, protect your work. Working on a beautiful design for some new artwork, go get that copyright. New design or improvement upon an old one, go seek a patent. Got a great idea for t-shirts, hoodies and other apparel, go get a trademark. We understand how difficult it can be sorting between what’s gold and just shiny pieces of crap in the sand as it pertains to our social media posts, ideas and creations. And we know that it’s not always practical to KNOW what you have before the world confirms it. As such, while you’re riding the wave of being internet famous, go get help in protecting your work, read the fine print, and secure the bag! Of course if you need help with any of this, the intellectual property, branding and legal experts at Diplomatic Enterprises are more than willing and able to help you. The consultation is free and we’re always willing to help. Good luck! 

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