04 June 2008

14.0 Miscellaneous Copyright Issues

Please post any questions that do not fall into other categories, or please suggest new categories.


12.0 Canadian Copyright Issues

Added July 15 2009:
12.1 Question: What is happening with the amendment of the copyright law in Canada?
Answer: The Federal Government is starting a series of copyright consultations across Canada. The first two consultations are in Vancouver on July 20 and Calgary on July 21 2009.


11.0 International Copyright Issues

11.1 Question: If I live in a country where the duration of copyright is life+50 (as in Canada), rather than life+70 (as in the U.S. and EU countries), for what duration do I need to obtain permission for works being posted on my Web site?
Answer: Since works on a Web site are accessible from around the world, it is best to clear permission for life+70 years for all works. If you are accessing any of the works in Canada, let’s say, permission is only necessary for life+50 (even for U.S. or EU works), however if those same works are accessed from a U.S. Web site, then permission for life-70 may be necessary (assuming the works will be available for that length of time.) (2007-1)

11.2 Question: What is the role of the WIPO treaties on copyright law (www.wipo.org) and how do they govern copyright in each country?
Answer: WIPO administers a number of copyright treaties however these treaties do not govern the copyright law in any country. Rather, the countries who adhere to these treaties must include the minimum standard of copyright protection in these treaties. For instance, the Berne Convention specifies 50 years after an author’s death as the minimum duration of copyright protection. Each Berne member country must protect copyright works for at least 50 years, but may do so for longer, as in the U.S., for 70 years. (2007-2)

11.3 Question: Do I need to register copyright in each country where I want to claim copyright protection?
Answer: No. If a work is protected by copyright in your own country (assuming the country is signatory to the Berne Convention), then the work is protected in all Berne Convention countries. No additional steps including registration are necessary to obtain protection. Note that registration is not mandatory in Berne Convention countries. A list of Berne Convention countries is at: www.wipo.int. (2007-3)

9.0 Copyright Permissions

9.1 Question: My organization is developing a course on work habits to be used for internal purposes only for all of our employees. We are gathering articles from various academic and non-academic publications. Is it necessary to obtain permission to use these articles in our course materials?
Answer: You will need permission to use the articles in your course materials, even if the materials will only be distributed internally. You may be able to obtain permission from the authors or publishers of the articles, or from a photocopying copyright collective such as the Copyright Clearance Center (in the U.S.) or Access Copyright (in Canada). (2007-1)

9.2 Question: I am translating a book from French into English. Do I approach the publisher or author of the French book for permission to do so? And who owns the rights in the English translation?
Answer: Good assumption that you need to obtain permission to translate a book. Contact either the publisher or author – whoever is easier to reach. Then ask them who owns the rights in the French book (as this would be subject to a publishing agreement.) The translator of a work owns the copyright in the translation, in this case, the English version. (2007-4)

9.3 Question: My enterprise organizes an annual essay writing contest. We post the winning entries on our Web site and distribute a DVD with all entries. Do we need permission to do this?
Answer: Yes, copyright in an essay belongs to the author of that essay. This is true even in a contest situation. Your contest entry form could include permission from the author to you for any uses you need to make of the entry. For winning entries, you may want to go further and obtain permission to use the name of the author, and perhaps a photo of him. (2007-4)

9.4 Question: I have a slogan I would like to protect. How do I go about doing that?
Answer: Generally, slogans are not protected by copyright. The U.S. Copyright Office states that “titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents” are not protected by copyright. If a slogan is associated with a product or service, it may be eligible for trademark protection. (2008-3)

9.5 Question: My company writes textbooks. We obtain permissions to use existing copyright-protected materials owned by others in our textbooks. Now we would like to license our content/textbooks to another party. Do we have the right to do that?
Answer: When you license content owned by others, you can ask for the permission to relicense that content to third parties. Or if you prefer not to do so (as it may cost you additional money), you may want to inform third parties that they may need to get permissions/licenses prior to reproducing your content/textbooks. (2008-3)

9.6 Question: My organization has purchased a journal article from a document supplier. May I send this article to a third party for translation into another language or does this infringe the "further reproduction, electronic storage or electronic transmission" which was expressly prohibited in the invoice from the document supplier?
Answer: Unless you own the copyright in a work, whenever you translate a work or have someone translate it on your behalf, you need permission from the copyright owner of that work. Translation is a right of every copyright holder. It is an adaptation of a work that requires advance permission.

9.7 Question: Do you need permission to include a painting or sculpture which appears in the background of a photograph of a person?
Answer: Some countries have exceptions from copyright law for the incidental inclusion of copyright-protected works in other copyright protected material. Generally, for the exception to apply, the use must be incidental and not deliberate. For example, the exception may allow a journalist to photograph a person with a painting in the background. (2009-2)

9.8 Question: If I find an image on "Google Images" can I use it in a book published by a non-profit organization?
Answer: Google images answers this with the following: "The images identified by the Google Image Search service may be protected by copyrights. Although you can locate and access the images through our service, we cannot grant you any rights to use them for any purpose other than viewing them on the web. Accordingly, if you would like to use any images you have found through our service, we advise you to contact the site owner to obtain the requisite permissions." (2009-4)

8.0 Copyright Infringement

8.1 Question: My organization’s Web site has several photographs on it. We were recently asked to remove a photograph with the claim that we did not have permission to post it. However, we have a written agreement with the photographer and this second alleged owner of the photographer claims that he owns it (rather than the photographer with whom we have an agreement.) Should we remove the photograph?
Answer: You need to determine who in fact is the owner of the photograph and whether you have permission from this owner. Does your permission/license with the photographer state that he is in fact the owner of the photograph, and that it is an original work, and that he has permission to enter into this agreement? How about the alleged owner who has recently contacted you? Is he able to prove that he owns the photograph? Some investigation should reveal the owner of the photograph. (2006-2)

8.2 Question: I recently purchased a DVD movie on Ebay and when I received the DVD the label on it seems homemade and there is no box/cover for it. I assume it is a pirated copy. To whom shall I report this?
Answer: Contact Ebay, and the Motion Picture Association of America at: www.mpaa.org. You should also contact the seller and ask for your money back. (2006-2)

8.3 Question: What is the role of the WIPO treaties on copyright law (www.wipo.org) and how do they govern copyright in each country?
Answer: WIPO administers a number of copyright treaties however these treaties do not govern the copyright law in any country. Rather, the countries who adhere to these treaties must include the minimum standard of copyright protection in these treaties. For instance, the Berne Convention specifies 50 years after an author’s death as the minimum duration of copyright protection. Each Berne member country must protect copyright works for at least 50 years, but may do so for longer, as in the U.S., for 70 years. (2007-2)

8.4 Question: Can you go to jail for copyright infringement?
Answer: Most countries’ copyright statutes provide for some criminal liability for copyright infringement. It is unlikely that there would be criminal liability for photocopying a single article in a library. Criminal liability would be for large-scale piracy and likely willful copying where the user knew or had reason to know that his actions were illegal. (2007-2)

8.5 Question: Will our company’s copyright compliance policy exempt us from copyright liability by our employees?
Answer: Although certain legislation or case law provides some advantages for your copyright policy limiting your liability in specified circumstances, for the most part your policy will not exempt you from your employees’ copyright liability. However, your policy will help educate those in your enterprise about copyright and in doing so, may lower the occurrences when copyright-protected material is used without permission. (2007-3)

8.6 Question: If I want to do a "Where's Waldo" type of book, using a "Where's ___________?" (someone else), what copyright issues need I be concerned about?
Answer: There is no copyright protection in ideas, so you can create a similar idea to the Where's Waldo books. Your content should be original and not copied from anywhere else, unless you have permission to include that content in your book. (2009-1)

6.0 Limitations on Rights

Limitations on copyright may mean an exception for a non-profit library in which the library may use specific copyright material in a specific way without asking permission or making a payment.

If you have questions about exceptions for libraries, archives, museums, educational institutions or others, please ask here. This may include questions about fair use or fair dealing.


5.0 Rights Protected by Copyright

5.1 Question: My organization publishes a print newsletter for circulation to our clients. We have been publishing this newsletter for 10 years. The articles are written by freelance writers. Five years ago, we instituted our first written agreements with these writers to ensure that we had electronic rights in the articles in addition to print rights. We are now posting the entire newsletter, every issue since its inception, on our Web site. Do we have the right to do this?
Answer: You have the print and electronic rights in all newsletters published in the past five years. However, without any written or oral agreements (written is always better) for the first five years of publication, you should return to the freelance authors to obtain electronic rights for posting those earlier newsletters on your Web site. For any articles in which you are unable to obtain electronic rights, omit those articles from Web site publication. (2006-3)

2.0 Types of Works Protected by Copyright

2.1 Question: I am writing a book on copyright law for laypeople. I am not a lawyer and am getting much of my research is from other books on copyright, rather than giving my opinion on the Copyright Act and court cases. Is this legal?
Answer: There is no copyright in ideas, facts or information. Therefore, you may use the ideas, facts or information in the books you are using for research purposes. However, you may not reproduce the exact wording from these books. (2006-4)

2.2 Question: How do you know if content in a Web site is protected by copyright?
Answer: It is best to assume that all content in a Web site is protected by copyright unless and until you investigate otherwise. Treat Web site content as you would any other content. Check for any copyright notices, and any statements stating whether you may use the content in specified circumstances without first obtaining permission, for example, in a nonprofit setting. Be careful in using any older works that appear to be in the public domain, as adapted portions of these works may be protected by copyright. (2007-3)

2.3 Question: What types of U.S. government works are protected by copyright?
Answer: An example is a work prepared by a consultant (non-federal government employee). In this situation, the government may get an assignment of copyright from the consultant and therefore there would be a government copyright in that consultant's work. If a federal government employee prepares a document, then there is no copyright protection in that document and anyone may freely use it. (Freely use is and fair use and two different concepts, not to be confused.)

3.0 Ownership of Copyright Materials

3.1 Question: Who owns the copyright to the text and illustrations/photographs in a published book?
Answer: There is no straightforward answer. Ownership depends upon the publishing agreement signed by the publisher and author/illustrator/photographer. If you want to reproduce a portion of a book, it is often easiest to locate and contact the publisher. If the publisher cannot provide you with reproduction rights, they can refer you to the author/illustrator/photographer, or their representative, who may provide you with the appropriate rights. (2006-3)

1.0 Copyright Protection and Formalities

1.1 Question: Do I need a lawyer to register a copyright?
Answer: No, registration in Canada or the U.S. is fairly straightforward. Visit the Canadian Copyright Office (cipo.gc.ca) or the U.S. Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov) for registration information, forms and fees. Note that registration is not required in most countries, including Canada and the U.S., however it can provide additional copyright protection than that in unregistered works, and advantages should you ever have to initiate a legal action for copyright infringement. (2006-2)

1.2 Question: I have an idea for a television show which I would like to submit to a TV producer. If they like my idea, are they obligated to hire me to write the show or may they hire a different writer?
Answer: Generally, a TV producer will only accept your idea submission from an agent or lawyer, and the producer will ask you to sign a release form. The release will state that you are submitting your idea with no obligation and that it is possible that ideas similar to yours are already in the works by the producer and that the producer is under no obligation to you. So, yes, the producer may create and develop a show similar to your idea, using a different writer. (2006-4)

1.3 Question: On December 1, 1975, I composed a song on my piano with lyrics. On December 1, 2007, I put the lyrics and music on paper. From what date do I have copyright protection?
Answer: Automatic copyright protection begins in most countries from the time the work is first “fixed” in some manner. This would include recording a song in analogue or digital form, and writing it down on paper. In this situation, the copyright protection began on December 1, 2007. (2007-4)