How to avoid breaching copyright laws

Websites are hungry creatures, bottomless pits that scream and holler 24/7 for good content.

Here’s a thing. Is it really true that there’s more stuff on the web that’s been ‘lifted’ than there is original content?

Digital technology has made ‘lifting’ (read ‘borrow’ or ‘steal’!) easy-as-pie, hasn’t it?  In  the age of content piracy and illegal downloading, ‘lifting’ is often seen as the quick and simple answer.

Most people who ‘lift’  content to their own websites have the grace to re-write it. But some don’t bother and others may not be aware that copyright exists.  So, it might be as well to know your way around the IP laws – what you can and can’t do. It might keep your wallet, your job and your reputation in tact.

Here’s some practical, top-line advice:

  1. Copyright protects intellectual property (IP);
  2. IP is  original work created with someone’s skill, labour and time; without copyright, ‘creators’ would find it hard to make money from their work;
  3. Original works – words, music, drama, art, sound recordings, films, broadcasts, photographs and graphics – are all  protected by copyright;
  4. Creators of original work do not have register copyright – they simply have to prove that a) work went into making it b) it’s original and c) it’s been made public;
  5. You may not use work that is protected by copyright in any way without first obtaining the agreement of the owner of the copyright;
  6. Copyright protection starts as soon as a work is ‘recorded’ (in its broad sense) and remains in effect for 70 years after the death of its creator;
  7. While copyright protects work that’s original, there is NO copyright of facts, news or information;
  8. But there is copyright in the way that facts, news and information are presented because presentation – for example, the selection of words used to covey the information – requires skill and labour;
  9. In certain circumstances, a limited amount of ‘quoting’ from other publishers is acceptable under an arrangement called Fair Dealing, provided that the source of the material and its author are credited, and that the work has been made public;
  10. But persistent ‘lifting’ of news and information from another provider, even if it’s re-written, may be viewed as an infringement of copyright; ‘lifting’ news exclusive or news that has been especially commissioned is risky and unfair;
  11. Information such as listings, sports fixtures and results is the IP of the organisation whose employee compiled the list;
  12. Except when reporting news, there is copyright of spoken words – whether ad libbed or read from a script; there is no copyright to words spoken in Parliament or in judicial affairs
Copyright National Broadcasting School 20111

NBS provides one-day training courses in IP and copyright

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