If Content Is King, Copyright Is …


If Content Is King, Copyright Is …

For business owners who teach, advise and create, the core of their enterprise is often the content they produce. Original content adds value to their business and is central to the unique way they meet their clients’ needs. Few would argue with the phrase ‘content is king’, but less is known about the role of copyright as the ‘king’s guard’.

Just as the presence of armoured ranks may prevent an attack, the mere existence of copyright-protection certainly acts as a deterrent to infringement. Occasionally, however, a fight is inevitable, and this article looks at ways to maximise existing safeguards.

In Australia, the Copyright Act 1968 protects literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works, so if your content is made up of books, articles, screenplays, songs, drawings or even sculptures, protection is available.

In business use, copyright protection is commonly applied to:

  • Policies and procedures
  • Staff training material
  • Operational guidelines
  • Photographs
  • Contracts and agreements
  • Blueprints, flowcharts and diagrams
  • Compilations of information
  • Brochures, magazines and publications
  • CD’s, DVD’s and recordings
  • Podcasts and webinars
  • Emails and correspondence

This is not an exhaustive list, but it represents the types of content you may produce.

These works are protected by law because they’re considered to be valuable property. Ideally, they should be exploited for commercial gain by none other than their creator either through use, sale or licence to other parties.

Fortunately, the process of obtaining copyright (which is simply the right to copy) occurs automatically. Copyright in an original work is achieved as soon as that work is presented in material form. That is, once it’s expressed in a form other than a mere thought or idea in the creator’s mind.

In cases where these rights are infringed, and material is used without permission, the law will protect the owner of the copyright. It follows then that legal arguments in these matters will generally centre on proving ownership and a well-prepared case can often prevent a matter proceeding to court. So, in the unfortunate event that you need to take action against copyright infringement, here are a few things you can do to further protect your assets:

1. Use the Copyright symbol.

The recognised symbol for copyrighted work is © followed by the name of the person (or company) claiming the right and the year it was created. For example, © Georgia Thomas 2017. It is not necessary to put this on your works; however, it may act as a reminder to an offender acting under a careless disregard for others’ rights.

2. Keep your drafts.

These might be electronic versions that were later edited or updated, or handwritten notes of the first ideas that underpinned the final work. They could be the concept sketches of the proposed sculpture or photos showing the work’s progression. These track the history of the work and can be used to establish ownership predating the final version.

3. Date and record your final work.

Sometimes this is achieved by pressing ‘save’ or ‘post’, uploading to a site or emailing to a publisher. In the case of significant business documents, a useful practice is to table them during weekly office meetings or board meetings and have them recorded or attached to the minutes.

4. Be organised.

However you choose to record your work, keep them filed or catalogued in a manner you can access readily. Carefully document any transfer of ownership, licences or permitted use and generally treat them as the asset they are.

5. Put all agreements in writing.

Never allow your asset to be used on the basis of a handshake. A written agreement not only records what can be done with your works, but it’s also the opportunity to clarify what can’t be done with them either. A verbal agreement allowing a colleague to use your training material with their staff might be more than regrettable when you find copies of your material distributed further afield, simply because the terms of use were misunderstood.

Appreciating the value of your content should not only prompt ways to use it to your advantage, but also highlight the need to keep it safe. The tips in this article are a good start, but more information about Copyright can be found at the Australian Copyright Council or speak with your solicitor for personalised advice.

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