An interview with Myows founder, Max Guedy

Myows Logo

Myows is a service for helping creatives to protect the copyright on their original works. It launches soon and I was lucky enough to get an interview with the founder, Max Guedy, about this valuable new service.

Interview

Frisk Design: So Max, tell me a bit about yourself and how you got involved in the Web?

Max Guedy: I grew up in Paris and moved to South Africa when I was 17. I’ve always been passionate about design, but studied business and marketing… after my studies, I worked in photography and graphic design for a while. When one of my clients started needing mini flash banners and websites, I learned Flash. Learning the basics of HTML and design for the web was the natural next step.

How long have you been running your business, AgencyZebra, and what made you do so?

I was freelancing under my name at first, but as my client list grew, I was having scaling issues. In 2005, it became necessary to use a registered business to invoice and market my services. It’s been very beneficial to seperate my business name and accounts from my personal ones. And as they say, you cant choose your name, but you can choose your business name!

What experiences led you to develop MyOws, your new online copyright protection service?

In 2007, I realized I had thousands of professional pictures and wanted to sell them through my own imagebank. I did a lot of research on imagebanks and copyrights. During this research, it became evident to me that :

  • Most freelancers don’t know their rights regarding intellectual property and
  • There was no easy way to register your work online.

Actually, one single flickr thread was the light bulb moment for myOws: http://www.flickr.com/photos/simplebitsdan/429265591/

So you saw a gap in the market and jumped right in!

Yeah, I saw a gap and started building upon it. I started working on Myows in July 2008. I was fortunate to find some good partners without which this would have been unfeasable. Because of the nature of the service, we couldn’t just “jump in” – a lot of planning and research was needed. I believe if you see a gap, before jumping in, do your research … as we were doing that, all our findings kept on reassuring us that we were onto something useful, unique and needed.

Did you already have a lot of knowledge of copyright law, or was that a big part of the research?

I’d say I had an average freelancer’s knowledge of copyright law, which means really not much! I hadn’t heard about the DMCA for instance. But I do have a very protective nature over my work. One of the founding partners, Chris Human from www.engage.co.za had some first hand experiencewith copyright infringement when a competitor copied his logo, then wanted to go to court to get Chris to stop using the logo he designed!

The problem Chris had was that he couldn’t prove he was in possession of the logo before his competitor had it. So it was basically impossible, and very costly, to battle it in court!

Wow, that’s pretty brazen and sounds a bit like the Jon Engle case. It shows the need to prove original authorship. Can you explain how MyOws works and how it would have helped in Chris’s case?

At the core, Myows is similar to posting a letter to yourself, and use the post-office’s datestamp to prove you had the work before anyone else. The problem with this method, referred to as “the poor man’s copyright”, is that it doesn’t provide irrefutable proof if presented in court for a simple reason: It’s fairly easy to “unglue” and “re-glue” a sealed envelope.

In the new millenium, I reckoned we could do something similar but online, so we built an application that allows you to upload your work, in any file format. The file then gets stored securely and datestamped. You also immediately get a certificate stating that you uploaded the file at a given date, down to the minute. So if someone copies your work after you’ve uploaded it to your Myows account, we can prove that you were in possession of it before them. But Myows doesnt stop at that.

It was also crucial to provide guidance on WHAT to do when you find copies of your Original Works.

So Myows guides its users, step by step, to have copies of their work removed according to the DMCA and Berne convention guidelines. While doing that, Myows builds a case history so that in the event that your case goes to court, you are fully prepared to win.

To come back to Chris’s case:

If Myows had existed, and if Chris had uploaded his logo before displaying it to the world on his website, it would have been a no-brainer to ascertain that Chris was in possession of the logo before his competitor, and Chris would have been in good position to win if the competitor wanted to battle it in court.

Thats’ excellent, it sounds like a very useful service for creative professionals. How much will it cost us to use?

I want to keep it free and easily accessible. We are currently planning on allowing 200MB of storage space for free which allows you to register 2000 pictures, logos or blog articles or about 100 songs.

I was only thinking of it for protecting design work, but if you can offer space for people to store songs and the like, it’s even more valuable. How can you offer all this for free?

Our only operating costs are our servers and back-ups; in time, Ad displays should cover these costs. We also offer premium plans if more storage space is needed, but we try to keep the price as low as possible, from 5$ per month for 1GB of storage, which should be more than any freelancer needs!

It’s also a copyright solution I need and will use, so develeping the app can be seen as the cost I have to bear to protect my own work! Once the app is completed, I’m just sharing my solutions with others!

I’m really looking forward to it! As you know, I had my own site ripped off, so I’m keen to protect my work. When will we see the service open?

Thanks Matt. We will open our Beta to registered users early July, we still need to sort out a few things, but the app is already functional. We are currently planning the official launch for August 2009.

I know you’ve promoted MyOws quite a lot, so what kind of response do you expect?

I believe Myows provides a long-needed sevice, and we have put a lot of work into designing the app with its users in mind, essentially making the legal aspect of protecting your work and enforcing your copyright accessible to the average freelancer like me. So for the response i’ve come to expect, I’d say massively positive. I’d like users to find the app useful, intuitive, responsive and pleasant to use.

It will then depend on bloggers and tech magazines that ultimately will make or break Myows. But I’m aiming for 100 000 users before Christmas.

I’m sure the service won’t have any problems meeting your target! OK, last question: As a designer I must ask about the Myows brand — how did you come up with the name and the design of the cute and memorable logo?

Getting the name right was not easy. At first I wanted to use datestampit.com and bought the domain. But Chris, who is one of the best branding consultant in Cape Town and one of the co-founders, noted that it was too generic. We then brainstormed, and made many hit and miss on domain names, cursing domain squatters and so on. Then suddenly, one of the 5 names on our list had the .com , .net , .org and all available. That was myOWs, for “my Original Works”. It’s like Kylie Minogue, short and sweet. But unlike Kylie, Google searches for Myows at the time did not yield any results, so we knew we had a winner.

Myows mascot initial concept sketch

As for the logo, I wanted to use a mascot, and the name Myows makes me think of cats. It was important to have a very original logo, unlike anything else out there, so I started playing around with putting a cat in different outfits, I was sketching to find what would express “claiming what’s yours” or “I was first” – and the first Moon landing with the American flag came to mind. And just for you Matt, here is my first Sketch [right]

I’m not a master Logo Illustrator, and I believe in getting the best people for the job. So I contacted Von Glitschka to see what he could come up with. Von is probably one of the most copied artists out there, and the logo he produced totally fitted the brand.

Thanks for your time Max. Good luck with Myows!

Thank you Matt ! Looking forwards to hearing what you think of the app !

Summary

Myows really looks like it could be a Holy Grail of Online Copyright Protection. With good promotion to creatives all over the globe, I think it will really help make a difference to the current problem of internet theft.

If you’d like to get the word out, please link to the Myows website and consider tweeting about it. You can also follow Myows on Twitter at www.twitter.com/myows.

14 thoughts on “An interview with Myows founder, Max Guedy

  1. What an incredibly simple, yet genius idea – Perfect! This is very exciting :-)

    Look forward to using it!

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  5. Myows is a project Max has being working hard on. I know this first hand since Max is also a good friend and has been talking to me lots about this new “son”.

    It´s indeed a great idea I look forward to testing very soon.

    Best of lucks with Myows, Max!! And great interview Matt! ;-)

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  8. I just uploaded the third draft of my screenplay. I have been working on it for a long time and when I uploaded the first draft it was a feeling I have never experienced before – a kin to knowing my kids are safe in their beds. My creation is safe, I can show it to someone and its safe. Max – you have done a wonderful thing!