6 Tips for Creating an Effective Copyright Policy

Demonstrate respect for the copyrights of others and reduce the risk of infringement

Each day employees share copyrighted content with one another in emails, in sales presentations, in response to clients and business partners and in many other ways — it’s just the normal course of doing business. But in the rush to get things done, even well-intentioned employees may unknowingly share copyrighted material without permission to do so, exposing your organization to the risk of copyright infringement.

By developing a corporate copyright policy, you can provide clear guidelines to employees around the use of published materials and demonstrate your company’s commitment to respecting the copyrights of others. Here are six steps to help you craft a policy that meets your company’s needs and decreases your infringement risk.

SOLICIT INPUT FROM COPYRIGHT EXPERTS…

…in your organization who may have suggestions for issues to address in your policy. Outside of library/information services, legal and compliance staff,
you might expand the group to include Marketing and Corporate Communications. For example, should you address the subject of clients’ or business partners’ requests for information? And what about guidance for Marketing and Sales teams on the use of images or video content in sales materials?

PROVIDE INFORMATION ON COPYRIGHT LAW

Your colleagues may lack even a basic understanding of copyright law and how it affects them. Provide foundational information on copyright law in your policy. Refer to the Copyright Basics section on copyright.com to get started. You can also make it easy for employees to get up-to-speed by including a link to the informative and fun Copyright Basics video from Copyright Clearance Center.

ADDRESS GLOBAL COPYRIGHT ISSUES

If your organization employs workers in multiple countries, provide information to ensure that employees share content responsibly both domestically and across borders. Copyright laws can vary from one country to the next; thus, it is vitally important that you acknowledge the differences in the laws no matter where your staff members are located.

SPELL OUT COMPLIANCE PROCEDURES…

…including whom employees should contact within your organization with copyright questions. Explain how employees can determine if they need copyright permission and how to obtain permissions from rightsholders (publishers and authors).

INFORM EMPLOYEES ABOUT THE USE OF YOUR ORGANIZATION’S OWN COPYRIGHTED MATERIALS

For example: How should employees handle the issue of works for hire with contractors and other non-employees who produce work for your organization? When is it okay to distribute your organization’s own materials?

ADVISE EMPLOYEES ON THE PROPER HANDLING OF INFRINGEMENT

Encourage employees to do the right thing, and to follow specific procedures when they witness instances of copyright infringement within your organization. Also, identify procedures for how employees should handle infringement of your company’s own works that they discover online or in the marketplace. Once you have developed your policy, be sure to formally introduce these guidelines to employees and issue periodic reminders. You may also consider including copyright compliance in your new employee orientation as well as in training
for existing staff.

With the Annual Copyright License, your team can exchange published information from millions of sources with colleagues down the hall and around the world.