Ethics – Copyright Clearance Center http://www.copyright.com Rights Licensing Expert Mon, 24 Sep 2018 16:49:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://www.copyright.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-ccc-favicon-32x32.png Ethics – Copyright Clearance Center http://www.copyright.com 32 32 What Is Real Art? The VARA Debate Continues http://www.copyright.com/blog/what-is-real-art-the-debate-continues/ http://www.copyright.com/blog/what-is-real-art-the-debate-continues/#respond Tue, 13 Feb 2018 08:30:22 +0000 http://www.copyright.com/?post_type=blog_post&p=13481 Aerosol art is the center of a court case that's setting a precedent for what qualifies as “real art” protected under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA)

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Note: This piece was originally published on June 23, 2017. It’s been updated to reflect the latest court rulings.

On February 12, Judge Frederic Block ruled that the developer, Jerry Wolkoff, had indeed violated the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) and ordered that he pay $6.7 million dollars in damages to the 21 graffiti artists represented in the suit. Mr. Wolkoff may appeal this ruling.

If you ever took the 7 train through Queens before 2014, you probably rode right past 5Pointz. And depending on your artistic leanings, you might have been impressed by the splashes of color and paint, or you might have been upset by the graffiti plastered across a five-story, block-long industrial building. Ah, artistic interpretation!

5Pointz Aerosol Art Center was an outdoor exhibition space in New York City, founded by graffiti veteran Jonathan Cohen. For nearly two decades, it was a graffiti “museum” attracting visitors, artists, musicians, filmmakers, photographers and admirers of all sorts. Brands like Deutsche Bank and Heineken even collaborated with artists for specific advertising campaigns featuring 5Pointz work.

As gentrification swept the city and the housing market demand increased, owner Gerald Wolkoff, who initially gave permission to the artists to paint on his building, whitewashed the graffiti in 2013, upsetting the artists who had curated the mass collection of works. The building was torn down a year later to make way for condominiums.

Should aerosal art be covered under VARA?

While this institution of “aerosol art” no longer exists, it is at the center of a New York court case. The plaintiffs – 23 graffiti artists whose work was displayed at 5Pointz – claim their work deserved special protections under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), and, as such, are seeking damages from Wolkoff and his company, G&M Realty.

Initially, in 2013, the plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the destruction of their murals. After the murals had been painted over, the artists argued they were not given the proper 90-day notice of removal. These motions were ultimately denied. However, when the artists refiled the case in 2015, claiming that VARA was on their side, a judge ruled there was enough evidence to warrant a trial because G&M Realty’s argument discrediting the graffiti as not of “recognizable stature” wasn’t strong enough. The widespread awareness of 5Pointz and the visitors it attracted, coupled with the use of the graffiti in the Heineken and Deutsche Bank advertising campaigns, might have swayed him.

At the center of the current case lie the issues of whether graffiti can be considered visual art of “recognized stature” and whether THIS graffiti is “meritorious” and “recognized” by art experts and the artistic community; if so, then it qualifies for protection under VARA. Depending on whom you ask, the answer varies widely.

The court rulings could have implications moving forward that’d set a precedent for what qualifies as “real art.” Congress debated this precise issue during the passing of VARA but without resolution; if the plaintiffs prove successful in their lawsuit, those who initially opposed VARA will likely again argue that the statute is too far-reaching and broad.

 

Interested in topics like this? Check out:

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Managing Intellectual Property in the Era of the Socially Responsible Organization http://www.copyright.com/blog/managing-intellectual-property-socially-responsible-organization/ http://www.copyright.com/blog/managing-intellectual-property-socially-responsible-organization/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 14:49:56 +0000 http://www.copyright.com/?post_type=blog_post&p=15269 We're highlighting six core social responsibility practices for managing intellectual property and copyright in the era of CSR.

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Kraft Heinz released a 70-page document outlining its first-ever corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan, according to the Chicago Tribune. The plan includes the promise to use only eggs from cage-free hens by 2025, representing a significant shift for corporations to make a stronger commitment to socially sustainable initiatives. In fact, “sustainable, responsible and impact investing” in the U.S. totaled $8.72 trillion in 2016, a 33 percent increase from 2014 according to the US SIF Foundation: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.

This shift in spending is an indication that stakeholders now expect businesses to operate in ways that demonstrate their efforts to be good corporate citizens. Like Kraft Heinz, organizations should consider developing a strategy for corporate social responsibility. A CSR program consists of initiatives that support the three dimensions of economic, environmental and social responsibility. In particular, in the area of social responsibility organizations must integrate the respect for and protection of copyright and intellectual property into broader CSR initiatives.

Intellectual property and copyright compliance play an expanding role in CSR as well as broader governance, risk management and compliance strategies. Organizations need policies and processes to identify, capture, organize and protect their portfolio of intellectual property internally, such as copyrights, trademarks, patents, trade secrets and related intangible assets with inherent value. It also includes — with growing awareness and focus —respect for and protection of intellectual property and copyrighted materials produced by others that fall within the corporation’s scope of responsibility.

The core social responsibility practices for managing intellectual property and copyright in the era of CSR are:

1. Understand your risk

An organization should conduct a regular assessment of its policies and controls to see how well they protect the copyrighted material and intellectual property of others — particularly how the company protects the rights of others who create and publish the materials used by the organization. This starts with understanding and creating an inventory of how copyrighted and protected information of all media types — print, electronic, images, motion pictures, music, and more — is used throughout the organization, and identifying areas of the organization at increased risk of noncompliance.

2. Monitor risk and business change

There is a constant cycle of change in employees, business partners, relationships and processes. There is also change in the copyrighted information being used within the organization at any given time. The organization must make sure it is current in understanding where and how copyrighted information is used and then take steps to keep employees and business partners up-to-date on the policies and protection of the company’s property, as well as the intellectual property of others.

3. Set the tone at the top

The critical message of the socially responsible organization, including respect for copyright and other intellectual property rights, must be communicated from and demonstrated by executives who follow the same rules as everyone else.

4. Keep policies and training current

Written policies that are inaccessible are meaningless. Organizations need active training programs to educate and develop a culture of respect and protection with respect to copyrighted information. This goes beyond messaging about compliance with the law, and extends to establishing a culture that behaves in a socially responsible way when using and sharing the information of others inside and outside of an organization.

5. Make someone accountable

Someone needs to be in charge. The socially responsible organization will see there is a role focused on keeping policies and controls current for the protection of copyright and intellectual property. This role serves as an advocate for developing such a culture and making sure policies are understood and training is completed.

6. Keep it consistent

Every organization needs ongoing assessment of intellectual property and copyright protection policies and controls to assess the state of compliance across the organization. This involves surveys, self-assessments and automated assessments for regular compliance risk and control monitoring. Success requires that risk assessments not only be done on a periodic basis, but also when there is significant business change that could impact compliance policies.

The sharing of information company-wide puts organizations at risk

A CSR plan is an opportunity to help reinforce an organization’s values and boundaries.

When related practices — including policies, training and controls — are not centrally defined, managed and communicated, organizations risk violating the copyright and intellectual property rights of others. The socially responsible organization understands this and ensures that the organization uses the property of others in a way that complies with the law and is respectful of copyright.

Still, the ability to share timely information is paramount for businesses striving to build and maintain a competitive edge. While technology has made it easy to find and use content, obtaining copyright permissions can be time-consuming and potentially expensive. An enterprise-wide annual copyright license which covers common uses of materials across the organization may be an effective solution to mitigate risk and increase efficiencies.

Keep Reading:

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Copyright Perspectives: VidAngel – Devil or Angel? http://www.copyright.com/blog/vidangel-sneaky-devil-or-fallen-angel/ http://www.copyright.com/blog/vidangel-sneaky-devil-or-fallen-angel/#respond Tue, 10 Oct 2017 15:32:09 +0000 http://www.copyright.com/?post_type=blog_post&p=14399 Can a company edit a feature film into something new and sell it for financial gain?

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Can a company edit a feature film into something new and sell it for financial gain?

On August 24, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals left standing a lower court’s order barring the Utah-based company VidAngel from providing its customers with “filtered” versions of feature films. (Deseret News of Salt Lake City has covered this story extensively.) The filtering technology lets viewers remove potentially objectionable content, such as depictions of sex, violence, and strong language.

Is Goodfellas without the swearing and violence still Goodfellas?

Simply speaking, some movie viewers would rather have less of one aspect or another – e.g. less sex, less profanity, less violence – in the movies they opt to watch. Back in 2005, Congress helped these folks out through the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, and its companion, the 2005 Family Movie Act (FMA). This narrowly-written provision allows for the development of ‘skipping ahead ‘ and on-the-fly functionality for DVDs played in the home. This legislation arose out of legal questions concerning a company and technology known as ClearPlay, which enables content filtering through in-line hardware devices, layered between the DVD and the video display.

It’s important to understand that VidAngel’s current issues do not arise out of a vacuum.

VidAngel meets Deadpool

As recently as 2015, VidAngel simply ripped DVDs without licensing for commercial reuse, and provided their own filtered version of the films. (This implicated the First Sale Doctrine of copyright in an interesting way, but since this version of the service has been shuttered, it is now a moot point.) This procedure did not pass legal muster, and now VidAngel provides its filtered versions through a streaming technology, like Netflix or Amazon accounts. The legitimacy of this procedure is also disputed, and one could argue that the continued efforts of VidAngel are simply explained as “looking for loopholes” in the memorable phrasing often attributed to W.C. Fields.

Example: 20th Century Fox Films and Marvel Entertainment (a subsidiary of The Walt Disney company) were the studios responsible for 2016’s Deadpool, an R-rated superhero-genre film featuring an eponymous main character, i.e., a back-talking, vulgar mercenary assassin. The theatrical release included lots of violence, and a modicum of steamy scenes.(Common Sense Media: “All of that said, the story does ultimately promote teamwork, collaboration, and love.”)

The studio and the production company worked hard across several years to hit just the balance they sought between a bland, sanitized version of the character – which would surely disappoint fans – and one that went over-the-top with lewdness. But while the popularity of the film is evidence that Marvel and Fox found that balance, there is presumably a category of pre-teens who would also wish to view it, if only their parents would let them. If a filtered version were available, likely it would find an audience. But, should that audience be gained at the cost of the integrity of the film itself? Putting it another way, is Goodfellas without the swearing and violence still Goodfellas?

Filtering and the Film Industry

This ‘filtering’ process – another word for cutting or suppressing a movie’s content – is considered controversial, or even unacceptable by many studios and directors. ‘Filtering’ isn’t new – the literary word for this action is “Bowdlerizing,” a 19th-century process in which an author’s text was cut or emended by others to suit the presumed tastes of a pre-Victorian audience. (Thomas and Henrietta Bowdler published “The Family Shakespeare,” in 1807, making such substitutions as “Out crimson spot!” for Shakespear’s original, “Out, damned spot!” That stuff apparently got the audiences of Jane Austen’s time all worked up.) As it turns out, for decades many major studios have made “clean versions” available for showing during air travel, or over broadcast television, their rationale being that the potential sensitivities of the “passenger in the next seat” ought to be given some consideration. In the domain of recorded music, this is known as the “radio edit.”

So, is there a clear difference between content-filtering ClearPlay technology and VidAngel’s services? ClearPlay has been operating for more than a decade without much hindrance, while VidAngel just lost a round at the appeals court in the Ninth Circuit and has had to again adjust their technology and business model.

Essentially, courts have found that while ClearPlay “colors within the lines” of the FMA, creating no new copies of the films it filters, VidAngel continues to violate one or more sections of Title 17 (the U.S. copyright act), including sections of the DMCA,and therefore it doesn’t qualify for FMA exceptions. (The DMCA, which became law in 1998, is that part of Title 17 dealing with issues such as anti-circumvention and certain exemptions for internet service providers. Jim Burger and Mark Sableman, of Thomson Coburn LLP, have provided an excellent overview of the issue from their perspective.) In June, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah wrote to the studio’s trade association, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), suggesting that if an industry solution is not in the works, a legislative patch to the FMA, one which explicitly authorizes such filtering in the context of streaming, is a possibility he might ask Congress to consider. (Variety, June 21, 2017.)

The lingering question is: Is this legal?

As of August 31, 2017, VidAngel made motions requesting that courts in Utah and California provide rulings that their streaming and filtering approach is presumptively legitimate. On the side of the angels, one might say.

We’ll see. Assuming these issues can be successfully resolved, good luck to them.

View some of my commentary on other copyright issues here:

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How Does Publication Bias Affect Medical Literature? http://www.copyright.com/blog/publication-bias-affect-medical-literature/ http://www.copyright.com/blog/publication-bias-affect-medical-literature/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 14:03:29 +0000 http://www.copyright.com/?post_type=blog_post&p=14222 What measures are being taken to counter publication bias? A new study published in Trials shows the impact of the 2007 FDA Amendments Act (FDAAA).

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There’s a trend in medical literature that’s misleading both patients and practitioners: publication bias. The practice of positive trials having more chance of being published than negative ones, and negative trials painted in a more positive light than is warranted, means many important (albeit negative) results never reach the scientific community.

We assume (or hope, at least) doctors have access to the most up-to-date medical information. But, when key findings don’t appear in medical literature, doctors don’t have access to information that could affect the level of care patients receive. In worst-case scenarios, these biases have led to ineffective treatments, prolonged patient suffering, and wasted resources.

In an era of increased transparency and sharing, excluding negative trial results means scientific literature is unrepresentative, ultimately compromising scientific integrity.

The role of publication bias in science

Publication bias isn’t new. In his now infamous TED talk, Ben Goldacre described this longstanding issue as a “systematic flaw of the scientific basis of medicine.”

At the end of last year, an article in eLife examined how publication bias influences the way scientists present facts. The findings show that false claims can be canonized as fact, but also that this risk can be reduced through simple modifications to the publication process.

Carl Bergstrom, one of the authors, summarized: “The net effect of publication bias is that negative results are less likely to be seen, read and processed by scientific peers […] Our model showed that you need to publish more negative results – at least more than we probably are now.”

Much of the problem lies with an academic culture that supports ‘positive’ (or statistically favorable) results. Scientists want to build their status and advance their careers, which they achieve through the continual publication of high impact research outputs. And as humans, we respond well to incentives. Whether it’s an easier path to publication, a greater chance of citations, or faster career progression, there are several strong motivations swaying scientists today.

Everyone in the research-to-publication process has his or her own reasons for favoring the current system:

  • Researchers prefer not to publish unpredicted ‘negative’ results
  • Editors tend to discount ‘failures’ on the basis they are inconclusive and/or unimportant
  • Publishers recognize that ‘failures’ have less impact and generate less interest compared to positive findings

New study shows transparency is improving

A number of measures are being taken to counter this bias. The most widely cited is the 2007 FDA Amendments Act (FDAAA), which mandated clinical trial registration and result reporting on ClinicalTrials.gov with the aim to increase transparency, responsibility and public benefit. In a context of mounting drug trial scandals, retractions and funding issues, the Act was welcomed, but it was littered with ambiguities and loopholes. These were addressed earlier this year with complementary rules, but the challenges are still present.

In July, a study published in Trials looked at impact FDAAA has had. The study compared the trials for newly approved drugs in cardiovascular disease and diabetes to those trials completed before the FDAAA took effect. The result suggested that, post-FDAAA, trials were more likely to be registered and published with findings that agreed with the FDA’s interpretation.

“Put simply, FDAAA made the clinical research supporting approval of new drugs by the FDA more transparent and, when published, less biased,” the study’s authors, Adam T. Phillips & Joseph S. Ross wrote in BioMed Central.

There are also a growing number of tools designed to detect publication bias in medical literature. Funnel plots are popular, and an alternative is the ‘p-curve analysis’, devised by Uri Simonsohn, a multidisciplinary psychologist at University of Pennsylvania. This method does not depend on a collaborative effort by authors, editors and publishers – instead it can be carried out by individuals or by small groups.

But a statistical method can only go so far and there is still a long way to go. Publication bias can occur at any stage of the research-to-publication process, so a multi-pronged approach is the only way to reduce the risk.

Luckily, attitudes towards biases in medical literature are changing. From new statistical methods and the AllTrials campaign to journals dedicated to reviewing and publishing studies with negative results, the industry is showing its commitment to greater transparency in all its activities.

Read More:  

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Copyright Perspectives: “Appropriation Art” – Transformative Use, or Derivative Abuse? http://www.copyright.com/blog/appropriation-art-transformative-use-derivative-abuse/ http://www.copyright.com/blog/appropriation-art-transformative-use-derivative-abuse/#comments Tue, 29 Aug 2017 10:25:27 +0000 http://www.copyright.com/?post_type=blog_post&p=14028 Richard Prince is a visual artist, working in photography. His images are exhibited in galleries and sell for thousands of… Read more

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Richard Prince is a visual artist, working in photography. His images are exhibited in galleries and sell for thousands of dollars. There’s no ambiguity about that. For decades, his work has been celebrated and highly regarded by many in the art world.

Prince – not to be confused with the recently deceased musical artist known as Prince – often works in a style referred to as “appropriation art” in which images from an earlier, underlying source are re-used, re-purposed, and re-contextualized. Andy Warhol was famous for this, half-a-century ago, as are others since. Visual parody also works in this vein —parody draws from an underlying work to make a new, expressive point about it.

A few years ago Mr. Prince was sued for copyright infringement in a case which became famous, Cariou v. Prince (714 F. 3d 694; 2d Cir. 2013; case settled, March 2014). This also involved “appropriation art,” where Prince used an underlying image by Cariou as the basis for a different image.

“Transformative” Instagram images land Prince back in court

As it turns out, Mr. Prince has now been haled into court again due to another alleged misappropriation, in the “New Portraits” case. In this instance, Mr. Prince put up a gallery exhibition of images that had been posted to Instagram by other people, re-captioning them or otherwise changing them very slightly. He also sold prints from this exhibition. He – and the gallery owners – argued that his use was transformative (and, therefore, should be permitted). Donald Graham, who has brought the suit, is a working photographer who advertises his work on Instagram. Prince simply took Graham’s photograph and added a short, “cryptic comment,” as described by the court.

The Judge in the case, Sidney Stein of the Southern District of New York, has responded with an interim ruling that – given the facts and the law – he doesn’t buy this argument. He denied Prince’s initial motion to dismiss, and the case appears headed for a jury.

To what does this term “transformative” refer?

Good question. “Transformative use” is a recently developed concept, (Pierre Leval, “Toward a Fair Use Standard”, 103 Harv. L. Rev. 1105 (1990)) brought into copyright law as a refinement on the concept of fair use, especially of the first factor, “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes” (U.S. Code Title 17, Chapter 1, § 107).

Although the standard applied in the earlier Richard Prince case – a substantive change to the actual work, seems more in keeping with a traditional transformative use argument, the outcome there was arguably troubling, and took the relative fame of the photographers and the higher market value of the “transformed” work into account to favor the well-known “transformer” over the lesser known author of the original works. The current case has all these elements and more.

Transformative vs. Derivative

It seems to many commentators that there is a tension in copyright law (and copyright theory) between “transformative use” and the older concept of “derivative works.” A derivative work is defined as one:
…based on or derived from one or more already existing works.

Common derivative works include:

  • Translations
  • Musical arrangements
  • Motion picture versions of literary material or plays
  • Art reproductions,
  • Abridgments, and
  • Condensations of preexisting works.

(Source: Circular 14, “Copyright in Derivative Works and Compilations” U.S. Copyright Office.”)

The right of the original author of a work to authorize – or to restrict the creation of – derivative works is well-established under the Berne Copyright Convention and other relevant law, including the US Copyright Act, US Title 17.

Absent some special consideration such as fair use, or the work being in the public domain, the permission of that original author is required for the older work to be used as part of another (derivative) work.

But transformative use necessarily entails the creation of works which, at least, verge on the right to authorize/deny the creation of derivative works
In short, and contrary to some advocates, simply claiming “transformative use” is not a free pass to anything, and the guidance of various precedents should be helpful in this regard. Recent courts have expanded the span of valid applications of this legal construct. In no case should transformative use be a sufficient rationale for creating a derivative work which then may be utilized as a substitute for the original, without the permission of the rightsholder /author in the underlying work. To do so subverts one of the core purposes of copyright, which is to enable creators to commercially exploit the works of their creation. Another is to bring these works to public.

Ought Prince’s uses of the works of other photographers be seen as legitimate, under a traditional copyright analysis, using transformative use as the basis for the argument? At this point, why what Prince is has done here with other people’s images should not be recognized as creating a derivative work, and therefore infringing, is beyond me. We’ll see if, after due consideration and presentation of argument and evidence, the law agrees.

Related Reading:

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Practical Steps for Creating a Corporate Copyright Policy http://www.copyright.com/blog/practical-steps-for-creating-a-corporate-copyright-policy/ http://www.copyright.com/blog/practical-steps-for-creating-a-corporate-copyright-policy/#respond Wed, 12 Jul 2017 09:00:54 +0000 http://www.copyright.com/?post_type=blog_post&p=13628 Ordinary office exchanges can violate copyright rights and result in costly lawsuits or settlements. Here's how to respect copyright in the workplace.

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Any original work of expression written, recorded, or otherwise captured in some fashion is protected by copyright. That includes art, music, and literature, as well as research, news, blogs, and e-books.

Copyright is an essential tool in the spread of new ideas, and the workplace has become ground zero for violations of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder discussed above – otherwise known as copyright infringement. Ask employees up and down the corporate hierarchy, and they’ll tell you that sharing information electronically with co-workers is integral to their jobs. Their employers will emphatically agree.

But unauthorized swaps of information also carry enormous potential risk: Ordinary office exchanges, so natural to the digital world, can easily violate the copyright rights of others and result in costly lawsuits or settlements. So, any time employees share content, there’s not only risk—potentially substantial legal and financial exposure—but ethical aspects to consider as well.

So how does a company teach all its employees about copyright and protect itself against copyright infringement? An important first step is taking responsibility to educate employees about compliance and then putting protections in place, including a copyright policy.

The following five steps will help get you started in crafting a copyright policy that meets your company’s needs and decreases your risk of infringement. Please feel free to use these sample guidelines for your organization, but be sure to consult legal counsel, and understand that the following suggestions are not legal advice.

1) Tap your organization for input

Helpful suggestions for issues to address in your policy can come from a variety of departments. In addition to legal, compliance, and library/information services, expand the policy team to include IT, marketing, and corporate communications.

2) Establish your policy objective

Be clear on why your organization is implementing a copyright policy. Maybe the goal is for your company to fulfill its obligations under copyright law. Perhaps it is to provide employees with a uniform approach to addressing copyright issues. Whatever the reason, state it concisely.

3) Define copyright

Explanations of copyright law and what it covers don’t have to be complex. Be sure your policy includes concise definitions and examples of information that is and, equally important, is not copyright protected.

4) Demystify “fair use”

Fair use’s premise—to allow limited use of copyrighted material without permission—is often misunderstood. Be sure your policy includes details on the factors to be considered when deciding whether a particular use is a fair use and your organization’s policies for balancing fair use and copyright holders’ rights.

5) Address international copyright issues

Each country has its own copyright laws, and therefore there is no such thing as international copyright law. The differences in the national copyright laws present a challenge for global organizations with employees working in worldwide offices and sharing content across borders. Nevertheless, more than 160 countries have ratified a treaty—the Berne Convention, administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)—that aims to protect the rights of creators around the world by “harmonizing” the participating nations’ copyright laws to some degree.

If your organization employs workers in multiple countries, provide information to ensure they comply with the copyright laws of the country in which they are based.

For more information

We invite you to download CCC’s complimentary white paper, The Risky Business of Information Sharing, to learn more about corporate copyright compliance—including the five remaining steps for creating an effective copyright compliance policy.

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Do Your Employees Understand Your Company’s Copyright Policies? (Most Don’t) http://www.copyright.com/blog/employees-understand-companys-copyright-policies-dont/ http://www.copyright.com/blog/employees-understand-companys-copyright-policies-dont/#respond Tue, 04 Apr 2017 10:00:28 +0000 http://www.dev1.copyright.com/?post_type=blog_post&p=10998 Most employees agree copyright law is important – but understanding their company’s copyright policy is their main challenge.

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Think about your company’s intellectual property: the patents, the trademarks, the creative materials produced by your employees or contractors and protected by copyright. Ask any of your colleagues about the importance of protecting these assets, and you’re likely to hear a unanimous response: it’s important.

When you consider that 36% of the content that’s shared is externally sourced, that’s about 17 potential instances of unlicensed sharing by employees per week.

Now ask the same question regarding the protection of external information or someone else’s intellectual property. Research and advisory firm Outsell, Inc.’s 2016 Information Seeking, Consumption and Use Report suggests a large difference in both awareness and consideration of copyright for information coming from external sources.

Here’s a look at the stats:

  1. 94% of respondents believe it is important to protect their own organization’s intellectual property.
  2. 64% of respondents believe if they obtain free information on the web or in print, they are permitted to share it.
  3. 47% of individual contributors admit they don’t think about copyright issues before forwarding published information.

This isn’t to say that most people disregard the importance of copyright. In fact, 74% of respondents recognize there are serious risks and copyright implications associated with exchanging published information.

The problem, then, is in awareness. The study goes on to note that nearly a quarter of respondents report not knowing the specifics of their company’s copyright policy.

Remember the stat about respondents believing if they obtain free information on the web or in print, they are permitted to share? In most cases, they aren’t.  Without that awareness of the limitation on what they lawfully do, employees share content blindly, unaware they’re putting their organization in a potentially detrimental situation.

3 Quick Tips to Increase Copyright Awareness

  1. New employees need to be made aware of the company’s copyright policy and to receive ongoing reinforcement thereafter so information isn’t forgotten or outdated.
  2. Provide specific use cases. Training should include specific use cases, so employees understand the granular aspects of their company policy. Provide scenarios, such as: If your company has just been featured in an influential trade journal, can the article be copied and sent to a small group of coworkers? Or, if you have permission to use an entire article, can you extract one chart and put it in a presentation?
  3. Make it easy for employees to get answers. When employees don’t receive thorough training, they may not be sure who to turn to with copyright questions. Designate a copyright expert or department that can answer these questions, and make this service known to your entire organization.

Content sharing is vital for today’s R&D-intensive industries. In fact, survey respondents report sharing content an average 5.5 times per week with nine people. When you consider that 36% of the content that’s shared is externally sourced, that’s about 17 potential instances of unlicensed sharing by employees per week.

To educate yourself and your team about copyright, check out CCC’s copyright education resources.

For more information about the state of information sharing and consumption, check out our infographic: Content Sharing & Copyright in the Workplace

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