Thursday, May 17, 2012

Don't get ripped off - Understanding copyright

With the rise of the internet it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of original material. It's very important to understand intellectual property and copyrighting so that we can protect our ideas and make a living from our work. We had a lecture and seminar introducing us to understanding our rights.

All works are automatically covered by the Copyright, Design and UK Patents act of 1998. This means that the author, creator or publisher has the right to control how their material is used, including copying, adaptation, renting, distribution and public performance (such as busking).

The sorts of materials that are copyrighted include films, games, animation, music, applications and drawings/illustrations, and also literary works, lyrics and scripts. Anything that is the product of independent or collaborative intellectual effort can be copyrighted.

Content that is shown on the internet is automatically covered in the UK, no registration is required. If the work is shown internationally, you should mark it with ©, your name and the year of publication.

Who owns the copyright?
Music, literary work, scripts: The author or creator
Film: the main director and/or producer. However, if the film was created for a company, then they would own it.
Illustration: The creator or company/employer
Game: Company/employer, or the creator if it is an "Indie" game.

Copyright can be transferred or sold. Just because you own something, for example a painting or a game, doesn't mean you own the copyright. It must be legally transferred.

How long does copyright last?
This depends on the type of publication.
Artistic (literary, dramatic, photographic) work is copyrighted until 70 years after the creator's death.
Film, similarly, is copyrighted until 70 years after the death of the last principal director/producer.
Sound recording was previously 50 years, but was extended to 70 years following complaints from Cliff Richard.

How do I get permission to use copyrighted materials?
Either through contacting the copyright owner directly, or through an organisation that represents them, e.g. PRS for Music.

Permission is only really needed if you are using the materials for commercial purposes. Educational, research and private use doesn't always require contacting the creator.

How do I prove I made the work?
You can deposit it to a bank or solicitor, or send a copy to yourself so that the unopened envelope has a clear postmark on it, showing that it existed in that point in time.

What if someone is pretending my work is theirs?
Simply talking to the person in question might save time and money. If this doesn't change anything, seeking legal advice and taking the matter to court might be necessary. If copyright misuse occurs outside the UK, action would need to be taken using the other country's laws.

Copyleft is the practice of using existing copyright laws to allow the redistribution of work as long as it remains free.

An example of this is the non-profit organisation Creative Commons, which provides a legal framework that allows people to "Share, Remix, Reuse - Legally" work, providing that it is subscribed to CC.

Unlike "all rights reserved", CC allows the owner to apply different layers of license to their work, at varying levels of accommodation. These are:

Attribution - CC BY
This allows others to alter and redistribute your work, even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you for the original creation.

Attribution - ShareAlike CC BY-SA
This also allows remixing and redistributing of your work for commercial purposes, as long as you are credited and the new creation is under the same license, so any further derivatives will also be allowed for commercial use.

Attribution - NoDerivatives CC BY-ND
This license is for commercial and non-commercial redistribution, as long as it remains unchanged and you are credited.

Attribution - NonCommercial CC BY-NC
This allows others to build upon your work for non-commercial reasons, providing you are acknowledged, however they don't have to license any derivative works on the same terms.

Attribution - NonCommercial - ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA
Thís lets others change your work non-commercially, as long as you are credited and they license the new work under the same terms.

Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives CC BY-NC-ND
The most restricting license, this allows others to download and share your work, as long as they remain unchanged, you are credited and it is for non-commercial purposes.

Keeping track of your work and managing how it is distributed ensures that nobody "steals" it for their own gain, and you receive the credit you deserve for the publication. In the case of CC, it also ensures you are completely in control of how others view and share your work.

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