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Why PR and advertising agents should put copyright at the heart of what they do

Photo of Justin Manton in an orange circleCLA’s Justin Manton looks at how getting copyright ‘right’ can help Ad and PR agencies retain clients.

Advertising, marketing and PR companies thrive on getting their clients seen and heard – just think of how Gregg’s marketing team made Vegan sausage rolls go viral. Great campaigns often rely on the use of striking images, catchy music or high-impact words. However, given the ease with which such elements can be ‘grabbed’ from the internet, this means that ad agencies and PR firms must be very savvy about copyright.

Speaking to my clients in this sector, it is clear that one of their biggest fears is for a client to be contacted by a copyright holder to be told that their campaign has used an image, words or music without permission. This can be a major problem: If a campaign has been put together and the constituent parts haven’t been cleared then there may well be big fines to pay.

Another major concern is if a creative team comes up with a wonderful piece of work based on something that is under copyright and then finds that they cannot get copyright clearance and the campaign has to be scrapped.

Although advertising and PR people know the pitfalls, there is, unfortunately, something of a lack of copyright knowledge within the industry. There is also a lack of understanding of how getting copyright ‘right’ can help businesses build their credibility and achieve that holy grail – more retained clients.

This is where the CLA can help. We offer advice on all aspects of copyright and our CLA Media Consultancy Licence provides a one-stop solution to a number of key copyright pitfalls, including one that many companies do not even realise exists – the need for permission to pass on copyright material to clients.

PR, advertising and marketing companies must continually prove that they are offering their clients good value. This means that they have to show their clients that they are getting them good coverage – that stories are being picked up and featured in high-profile publications, websites and other media.

The CLA Media Consultancy Licence provides blanket permission for PR firms and communications agencies to supply their clients with copies of articles from thousands of different magazines and websites. This is similar to the cover provided by the NLA for newspaper content.

The need for getting this type of permission in place is highlighted by the questions I get asked by PR and ad agencies. For example: ‘I have just completed a PR campaign that was very successful and received a lot of coverage. As the content was supplied by us and the publications only made small changes to the text, I assume I am ok to distribute the press clipping to my client and to post this success on my website?’

The answer to this question is ‘no’. Under the current copyright law, you would need permission to publish/share or copy the press clippings, even if they include content that you have created. This highlights the type of grey areas that companies need to be aware of and the potential pitfalls they can fall foul of.

The biggest aim of the PR company is to get retained clients and they do this by building credibility. This credibility doesn’t just come from having high-profile campaigns or from winning awards. It also comes from doing everything in a professional way – ensuring that all of the copyright and other legal elements of the work are properly dealt with so that there are no mistakes or nasty surprises.

The CLA licence provides peace of mind, ensuring that a company maintains its professional integrity and that it doesn’t ‘look bad’ in front of its clients. This is a key way of building the long-term trust that results in a company having a strong roster of long-term clients.

With the above in mind, you may wish to apply for a CLA Licence or you may want further information to establish if a licence is required, if this is the case, please use the button below to contact us or call us on 020 7400 3171.  

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