When we talk about copyrights and the legal maze that surrounds the concept of intellectual property ownership, most of the time we’re referring to copyright on a macro level — think record companies, movie studios, or hardware patent disputes. And unless you’ve been sued for online piracy or some other kind of every-day copyright infringement, this tier of copyright likely has absolutely zero bearing on your life.
But for a large swath of the population, from freelance writers and designers to small business owners, copyrights and IP ownership is a very real, very complicated problem. One new startup seeks to make the headache caused by IP ownership and ownership transfer disappear faster than two Excedrin and a nice, juicy nap.
Meet Kunvay. Launched in the middle of July, Kunvay provides just one service: The transfer of intellectual property ownership, specifically intellectual property with a value of $10,000 or less, through a cloud-based system. No expensive lawyers. No sloppy legal mess. No headaches.
For anyone who relies upon intellectual property for a living, or commissions the creation of intellectual property as part of their business, Kunvay wants to be there to help you out.
“We like to think of Kunvay as the PayPal of intellectual property transfers,” Reggie Solomon, founder of Kunvay, told me over the phone today. And the compairsion makes sense: Buyers and sellers on eBay agree to the price of an item, then use PayPal to complete the transaction, for which PayPal charges a small fee. The same goes for Kunvay: Intellectual property creators and buyers work out a deal, then use Kunvay to transfer ownership of the commissioned creation.
Kunvay is free to use for content creators (like writers, graphic designers, photographers). And buyers are charged a relatively small fee — $19 for a single file transfer, up to $199 for 50 files — to obtain ownership of the work. That’s nothing compared to the cost of intellectual property lawyers who regularly charge $150 per hour for their time.
Here’s an example of how one might use Kunvay: Say you’re a freelance graphic designer. A new local coffee shop owner hires you to create a logo for her business. You agree on a payment, make some designs, and the owner picks one she likes. This is where Kunvay comes in; you, the designer, upload the chosen logo to Kunvay’s servers, and enter in the email address of the coffee shop owner. Kunvay then sends an email to the owner asking her to confirm that she wants to own the rights to the logo. She clicks “agree,” and is taken to a page where she pays Kunvay to process the necessary documents to transfer ownership. She downloads the logo, and voila, the logo is hers. Transaction complete.
The benefits of such a service are two-fold (at least). First, the issue of who owns a creative work — an issue that often goes unmentioned or unresolved in the freelance world — is solved, which benefits those on both sides of the transaction. Potential lawsuit averted. Second, says Solomon, transferring a creative work through Kunvay provides a clear record that a commissioned work was completed and delivered — no room for bickering or disagreement. Potential lawsuit number two averted.
“I deliver all of my work with Kunvay,” said Solomon. “It actually gives you the ability to prove that you delivered.”
While Solomon says that he believes freelancers will be the primary force driving growth for his new company, as well as small business owners, independent publishers, and other startups, Kunvay could have benefits for you, even if you don’t fit in any of those categories.
For example: “Most people spend money on wedding photos, and yet those are photos that most people don’t actually own the rights to,” said Solomon. “Those are owned by the photographers.”
That’s right — you probably don’t own your wedding photos. And here, Kunvay can help by providing a simple, inexpensive solution for the transfer of the rights to those photos. Solomon points out that you would have to first work out a deal with your wedding photographer for the transfer of ownership. But once that’s done, Kunvay will make the process fast and lawyer-free.
“We’re in the business of solving a problem,” said Solomon, “which is: you have something you want to own, how do you get it?”
At the moment, Kunvay limits the types of works it processes to written pieces, designs, and photographs. Videos, says Solomon, are far more complicated, as they often contain bits and pieces of other copyrighted works, like clips and music. But the possibilities are almost endless.
“Presumably, I could sell my homework to somebody,” quipped Solomon. “We want to put the tools out there and see how people use the service.”
While other companies, like LegalZoom, provide online legal service documents, Kunvay is the only company I could find that focuses solely on individual-level intellectual property transfers. (Solomon confirms as much.)
I have to admit that, while I currently have no practical reason to use Kunvay, the fact that it exists inspires me to make something, just so I can use the service. And having been a freelancer myself, the idea of not worrying about who owns what I write gives me an odd sense of pleasure. Like, “Hey, I actually did something in a legitimate way!”
That said, only time will tell if Kunvay is as simple and straightforward as it seems. Perhaps users will find it just as much of a headache as any other type of legal-related process — but from my limited tests, I highly doubt it.
Signing-up for Kunvay is free, and open to the public. If you give it a try, let me know what you think in the comments.
Lead image via Pavel Ignatov/Shutterstock