You couldn’t get enough of our last facts about copyright blog – and why not – everyone loves a bit of trivia. So to feed your insatiable curiosity, here we offer up another selection of hand-picked tit-bits about the world of intellectual property.
1. Just because a work is on the internet, it doesn’t mean it’s free to re-use
Some people describe a piece of material as ‘public domain’ if it’s accessible to all on the internet and therefore wrongly assume that it is free to use. But, just because copyright work is free to view on the internet, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s free to use and/or reuse. In copyright terms, a work in the public domain is a very specific thing - it means that the copyright has expired. In most cases this is because 70 years since the death of the creator has elapsed. Once this has happened, the work is a public domain work and is generally free to use. Mein Kampf and The Diary of Anne Frank famously became public domain works together in 2016 (though the status of the diary has been disputed). Works can also be dedicated to the public domain by the creator by using a Creative Commons (CC) licence.
2. Copyright exceptions for education don’t negate the need for a licence
Exceptions to copyright are circumstances when the purpose of your re-use of copyright material means you don’t need to seek express permission from the rights holder. In 2014, some copyright exceptions were updated to permit wider uses in some cases. The Intellectual Property Office has made clear in their guidance for educators (see pages 4 and 11 specifically) that the exceptions do not mean you don’t need a blanket licence, just that the exceptions could be relied on (dependent on conditions) where a licence is not available.
3. You don’t always need to obtain permission to re-use works, but you do always need to check first
Permission to re-use works might come in a variety of ways. The work might be public domain, or you may be able to rely on the exceptions mentioned above; it could be under a licence like CLA’s or it could be published under a Creative Commons licence that permits your intended use. The important thing is not to assume you have permission to re-use someone else’s work, but take time to check its terms and conditions, to see if it’s covered by the CLA Licence using the Check Permissions tool, or to get in touch with the rights holder for direct permission.
Classroom Activity: Considering the above facts, it’s worth discussing with students what they think should happen to creative works. Is 70 years too long/long enough? Why do they think it was set at 70 years in the first place? Should all creations be free to use straight away, unless opted in to copyright? Do the students check if they have permission when the download music or videos and do they think they should?
4. Copyright isn’t a recent phenomenon
Copyright now seems to be synonymous with the internet – the latter has after all made access to materials a totally different experience. But copyright isn’t a new thing. Indeed Britain led the way in protecting creations with the world’s first copyright law, the statute of Anne in 1710. The Berne Convention of 1886 provided international standards to copyright, and the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act established our current system. As such, copyright might be three hundred years old, but it has updated and moved with society.
5. An idea can’t be copyrighted
For copyright to apply, your great, unique, stunning idea needs to be recorded in a permanent, fixed form. Some people advise that you post this to yourself via tracked delivery and don’t open the envelope, so that you can prove the date etc, while others advise that emailing it to yourself for a time stamp might be enough. All advice seems to point to marking the work with your name and copyright symbol. There’s lots of guidance available on the web so do your research to protect your work!
Classroom Activity: Discuss with students if they think this is a good idea, or are there any problems with this. This might even extend in to a mock court case where students decide on real life copyright issues such as Marvin Gaye vs Thicke & Williams and the Red Bus case.
6. Copyright, patents and trademarks are all different
CLA’s remit lies with copyright for print and digital text and still images. But there’s lots more creations to be protected, and that is essentially the difference between the three different intellectual properties – the medium they protect. Copyright applies more to ‘creative’ works, trademarks to products and patents to inventions.
7. 1 in 11 UK jobs are in the creative industries
At one point Britain was called the workshop of the world owing to our manufacturing output. Britain, and the world, has certainly changed, and so for many of our students, they can expect to go in to jobs that look nothing like the generation before. What is fairly sure however, will be the continued predominance of creative jobs in the economy. Statistics from 2017 show that 1 in 11 UK jobs are in the creative industries, and that the industry’s financial contribution to the UK is growing faster than the rate of the economy.
Classroom activity: Can students explain why copyright is so important in these industries? Do the stats convince students that it’s important to seek permission or not? How do they feel about copyright infringement – some fairly humorous examples are evidenced in the twitter account Bootleg Stuff. How would they feel if this was happening to something they had created?
CLA gives approximately £70m to copyright owners each year
Copyright protects, licences enable. Users of material can get quick and easy access to copyrighted material with a CLA Licence, which is great. But the good news continues. Once our operational costs are deducted, the money made from licence fees goes back to authors and publishers, so that they can carry on creating. Thank you so much to everyone who helps with our data collection exercises – they’re the linchpin to us making our royalty payments and ensuring that all that £70m goes in to the hands of the right people.
About the author
Julie Murray is Education Licences Manager at CLA, which means she trains and educates licensees in schools, further and higher education institutions about CLA licences and how they fit into the wider world of copyright. Prior to working at CLA, Julie was Head of History and Politics at an 11-18 comprehensive in London.