Tuesday 4 March 2014

Copyright Notice - IPO publishes its first user guide to copyright

Yesterday, the IPO published its first Copyright Notice - which is not a copyright notice in the sense understood by copyright lawyers, but is a notice about copyright, which the IPO describe as "a concise note published by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) providing basic copyright guidance."

So the first one is about using photographs and digital images on the internet and can be found here.

The IPO press release says:

With Flickr, Facebook and Instagram all becoming such a big part of everyday lives, people can often forget their [sic] legal responsibilities they have ["forget" rather assumes that they knew about them in the first place!] when using images and photos online. Situations such as taking a photo on your smartphone and uploading it to a website or copying one of your friend’s photos on Facebook can all lead to copyright infringements if people are not careful. [well, as the guide makes clear, the former is only a problem if you take a photo of copyrighted material, so you don't have to be that careful!]

In order to ensure consumers [well- those who find the site anyway] have a better understanding of copyright law and the confidence to use these online services, the government has launched a ‘copyright notices service’. It is an innovative, new tool aimed at helping consumers clarify and simplify the complexities of copyright law.
The information published today, provides guidance about things to be aware of when uploading and using images on the internet. This includes advice for situations where you want to use photos taken by a professional photographer or [and?] what you need to consider before uploading them to social media sites.

Minister for Intellectual Property Lord Younger said:
“We want to make it easier for everyone to understand copyright law. Every day, people of all ages use photographs and images online through social media such as Flickr, Instagram and Facebook. But all too often people don’t know how copyright law affects them. They might be breaking the law without even knowing it.

“That’s why the new copyright notices service is an innovative tool which will help simplify the complexities around copyright law, and help people use images on the internet with greater confidence.”

Today’s new copyright notice is the first in a planned series of announcements that will unlock the difficulties of copyright law and how it affects consumers and businesses in their everyday lives and activities. The Intellectual Property Office will continue to produce new notices in response to specific problems faced by users and rights holders. [anyone can ask for a notice - so if you have any challenging questions...]

The guide itself seems, on first instance, to be accurate within its terms - and kudos to the IPO for keeping it up to date, including a brief summary of Svensson "The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that internet users should be free to share links to material, for example photos or videos, providing the material itself has been published freely online with the permission of the rights holder. The right to share links however doesn’t go as far as allowing users to share links that are designed to circumvent paywalls or other subscription only services." However, although it refers in a couple of places to "permitted acts" - by which we believe the IPO means exceptions, this blogger doubts whether the explanation (that you don't need permission where "the image is used for specific acts permitted by law (“permitted acts”) in respect of which people can use copyright works without permission from the copyright owner, such as for private study or noncommercial research;such as for private study or noncommercial research;" will be of great assistance to the average punter trying to work out if there is an exception on which they can rely.

At least nobody is being encouraged to explore the limits of when a photograph qualifies for protection - with the guide simply stating that "In short, most images and photos are likely to be protected by copyright."  Don't we all wish it were that easy?

One of the challenges - apart from how to provide a simple summary of copyright law - is getting the message out there - this press release is dated yesterday, but I do not recall being bombarded with information about it on my commute this morning.  Still, this blog is happy to play its part and plaudits to the IPO for seeking to educate the wider world about the wonders of copyright.

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