Many years ago, in the early 1980's, I worked as a music licensing field representative for ASCAP. It was a dificult but great job, as I offered ASCAP's copyright clearance license to all types of businesses who offered music to their customers. An unusual job in a unique business. Very few people did what I did for a living. I became friends with a fellow ASCAP representative named Brent Steiner, who worked out of the Spokane, Washington area in his home office. He handled the northeast quadrant of Washingon state, while I covered most of the northwest section of the state out of my Seattle based home. Brent and I somehow discovered a mutual affinity for maps. Maps of all types interested both of us. It could be a map of a small city, or a state, or of a region, such as the western United States. We could spend hours looking at maps, analyzing and dissceting them. Brent was a generous guy, and one day in the mail I received from him an envelope full of vintage maps. Older maps, in mint condition, of several states. I still have them, nearly 30 years later. But what I remember most about Brent's kind gesture was something he'd handwritten on the outside of the envelope containing the maps: "Invest in Copyrights!" Those three words hit me, even before I opened the envelope to find the maps. There was somthing about his humorous advice that resonated with me. Recently, I happened upon a financial advice column from one of the many fianancial gurus out there. The columnist listed a few ways to accumulate wealth, which included some of the traditional methods of buying real estate and stocks. Of course these days, those may not be such good investments. Which makes the financial guru's next suggestion all the more interesting. He listed investing in Intellectual Property as a wise and safe investment. It made me think of my old friend Brent's advice to invest in copyrights. When you think about it, investing in intellectual property makes sense. Particularly if it's your own patent or copyright to begin with. Fees for obtaining patents and copyrights are relatively nominal. If you copyright or patent something that you yourself have invented or created, your "investment" is essentially in the sweat labor required to make or build your product. For the investor who wants to take investing in copyrights or intellectual property to the next level, there are always "products" available for sale or at least for license. Especially in today's high tech world. Patents and copyrights for video games, computer software, movies, books, songs, and other intellectual property are for sale, if you care to track them down. One of my favorite examples of this has to do with the copyright for the well known song "Happy Birthday," which was listed for sale in the Wall Street Journal several years ago. Roughly, the terms were a one million dollar purchase price for the copyright of the song, which had seven years left on the term of its copyright. The song generates roughly a million dollars a year in royalties (after all, we all hear that song played or sung publicly many times each year), which means that if you bought the song for a million dollars, seven years later your investment would have generated approximately seven million dollars. A 700% return on your investment over a seven year period. Not bad. The other attractive thing about investing in copyrights is that any payments or royalties they generate is for work that's already been completed. Once a song is composed or a book is written, that's it. Any income derived from future sales or uses is passive income, also known as residual income. Nothing quite like getting paid for work that's already been done. Of course, it's a competitive world out there. There's no guarantee that the intellectual property you own the rights to will generate any income whatsoever. That's the risk. But if you happen upon the chance to get your hands on the rights to a hit song or a hot selling book, investing in copyrights can be a good way to go.

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Jim Hudak

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