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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Law Lecture - Copyright

Although I learnt some of the basics about copyright law in a special lecture a few weeks ago, we spent this week’s law lecture covering other areas of copyright, exploring how important it is to us for both protecting our work and protecting others.

Copyright has existed in the UK and US in common law since the early 18th century – ‘turning information into money’.
You need copyright to prevent others from using your creations. In the 18th Century it was compared to theft, their intellectual property is given legal protection. However, there is no copyright for ideas as there is no work gone into it.
Copyright means that as a journalist you cannot take anything from the internet (such as YouTube (unless it’s fair dealing which I will discuss later in this blog). You must make everything you use yourself. The copyright act is a crime as well as a civil complaint.

Any work you do belongs to you until you sell the results of that work to somebody else(this includes journalism, literary work and photography).
You can charge a user a fee (licensing agreement) every time they use it (eg- every time someone uses your shed you could charge £1). This would mean that you still own the item, but would be effectively renting it out to other people.

Intellectual property is just as concrete in law as any work made by hand. You are more likely to licence the use of your work in return for payment, especially if you are a freelance journalist. If you have received wages (contract of employment) then you don’t own you work, but instead your employer does. That means despite whatever value your piece may have, you are given a set amount of pay (wages) no matter what, and your employer could make a significant amount of money from it.
This is why many journalists are no freelance as you can licence you work. You don’t take wages but instead licence papers and other forms of media to use it and can maintain ownership.
When selling you work you can receive a ‘one off licence fee’ which is one solid payment that doesn’t change no matter how much the new owner of you work makes from it.
The other option is ‘Royalty’ which is an advanced payment you are given for your work (such as book producing companies), then if it produces more than expected your pay could increase. On the other hand, if it sells poorly, your future business with them could have a lower advanced payment.

He ‘rip-off’ contract originates in the 1960’s music industry when music publishers would have a pad of total buy-out contracts in recording studios. This would give an artist a small amount of wages whilst their record would make a lot of money. The ‘rip off’ was literally the action of tearing one of the standard contracts off a pad.

Lifting (fair dealing) enable you to show parts of someone’s work (song, film, writing etc) if you are reviewing or commenting on it. There is also no copyright in the facts of a news story.


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