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Copyright is Sexy

June 23, 2015 0 Comments

For reasons which will remain obscure, I attended a two day training program at the Music Publishers Association in London this week.  One of the main subjects, unsurprisingly, was copyright.

With the digital age causing a complete revolution in the copying of music, how do writers retain their intellectual property and get paid for the hard work they did in writing and creating a song or music? 

Almost every presentation, from the MPA, MusicUK and from international publishers, focused on this issue of copyright.  And the issues that face the music industry surely face other industries too (including training) as books turn into ebooks, models and resources become easily available on websites and can be shared amongst people very easily.  There has been a huge issue in the US with a major search engine scanning books and making them available on line – with no payment to the authors!  (Oh yes, and MySpace are not interested in paying any royalties whatsoever…)

‘Copyright is sexy’ said Florian, from UK Music (the lobbying body which brings together all the disparate parts of the music business to present a single voice to Government. Feargal Sharkey’s mostly).  Sexy?  How is copyright sexy?  Well, I guess it’s whatever turns you on as they say, but copyright is certainly intriguing.

Richard Taylor, a copyright lawyer with Michael Simkins LLP, explained the first time copyright law appeared – in 1709.  Printers were copying other people’s books and works, paying no royalty to the original authors or to the first printers.  So, a law was passed regarding the ‘right to copy’. 

Unauthorised copying has been an issue for centuries.  But one speaker at our conference was our Devil’s advocate.  He described how music customers (he didn’t like the word users, said it made music listeners and consumers sound like druggies) have a completely different attitude.  They believe music should be easily accessible, free and that paying additionally for using something more than once is wrong.

If you pay for a CD of a band, you have in fact just paid a single licence to use that CD.  You have not paid to have any copies made, so loading it on to your computer, MP3 player or phone is illegal.  Now, if you uploaded that material on to the internet and made it available to others – that is in fact criminal. 

As more and more material becomes available in digital format, then this problem of unauthorized copying (which is turning the music industry on its head) is going to spread.  Whether it’s an audio CD of sales training, or the downloadable materials of a training program – if you have received them in digital format, then copying and distributing them (even for your own use) is easy! And abuse of copyright equally so.

Asserting copyright is not difficult.  As soon as you have completed an original work (music, writing, etc) you own it.  Proving ownership is slightly more complex. They still recommend that you post something to yourself in a registered envelope; by so doing you establish a date of creation (and in the rare cases where copyright is contested, the date can be a crucial factor). 

Needless to say the issues of copyright are a minefield but something you must consider in your professional capacity.  Is the material you are using yours to use freely?  Are you infringing anyone’s copyright?  Have you sought appropriate permissions for materials? 

Have you scanned something out of a book?  Copied something verbatim from the internet to include in your programme?  Have you used a questionnaire or assessment tool that you don’t know where it came from?  Remember, ignorance is often used as an excuse, but legally it is no defense. 

And what about protecting your own intellectual property?  Have you written a book, program or article that is your copyright and is in digital format?  If so, think carefully about how you can protect your rights. 

As I think I have mentioned, copyright is a complex issue. If you have any doubts about what you are using, then check it – especially if you are going into a large organization.  They will want to know that anything you are providing has appropriate copyright licenses or they too may be liable for any prosecutions arising from copyright infringement.

The immediate concern is that this would add costs to your training and potentially lose you business.  But those concerns must be balanced with the implications of you getting prosecuted for breaching copyright.

Copyright is sexy?  I say copyright is scary! But as a composer of original works (literary and musical) I darn well want my rights protected!  Wouldn’t you?

The Complete Trainer
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