Learn the basics of copyright in less than 7 minutes


Copyright Central

This is the enticing title of a recent email video campaign aimed at information professionals.

Given the level of confusion around copyright, and the fact that librarians and information specialists are often in the front line, I was pleased to be able to increase my awareness.

In fact even though the legal aspects cover US law and includes the their concept of Fair Dealing, it covers a very complicated topic in surprising detail in a short space of time. I like the way they include sources of content that are not covered by copyright, such as ideas, facts, data,  and publications created by the US Government.

Needless to say, given the source of the video (the Copyright Clearance Center) the information tends towards compliance and the reasons why.

Sadly, they don’t make any reference to Creative Commons and the choice of licences available there.


Corporate workers share information every day, but what percentage get copyright permission?

Most people don’t knowingly violate copyright law, they are simply unaware of their copyright responsibilities. To help increase awareness, CCC has created a FREE video that provides the basics of copyright in a fun and informative way.

In less than 7 minutes, Jim T. Librarian explains why copyright is important, what is and isn’t covered
under U.S. copyright law, and why attribution isn’t always enough.
Copyright Basics – The Video
Thank you for your interest in CCC’s
Copyright Basics

This Program is made available for your use by the rights licensing experts at Copyright Clearance Center. We welcome you to view the video here and/or download it for non-commercial use in your organization (terms and conditions apply).

Professor James Boyle and the fight for Creative Commons

http://www.dukemagazine.duke.edu/alumni/dm31/napster1.jpgI have already blogged about Professor Boyle’s latest book The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. And having heard him interviewed by Laurie Taylor on a recent Thinking Allowed broadcast on Radio 4, I was excited to hear he would be speaking in to staff in the British Library.

He did not disappoint, being erudite, passionate and amusing in his explanation of the rapid (since the 1970’s) and significant (from 28 years to life + 70 years) expansion of copy right restrictions.

One of his most memorable points for me was the deafening silence from the US Copyright Office when asked how he could make his work copyright free. His point being, that the law has been extended to cover all creative works with no regard to the views of the authors who want to allow access.

Cover of comic, superhero with video camera and creative commons shieldHe talked about my current favourite ‘book’ on copyright issues, produced by his colleagues at the Center for the Study of the Public Domain. It is actually a comic called Tales from the Public Domain: BOUND BY LAW? and is freely available.

He asked how many in the audience would have predicted that the open and non-hierarchical approach underlying the Wikipedia project would have resulted in a resource as accurate as Encyclopaedia Britannica, but twenty times the size, and updated in real-time.

Finally he explained the role of the Creative Commons movement in making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright.


Protect your content against online plagiarism and theft

Many of my Business Advice clients are concerned about rivals stealing their on-line content, so I was pleasantly surprised to come across the free Copyscape service whilst researching a replacement mobile phone on the Mobile Phones UK: Reviews & Best Buys website.

All you need to do is post in your website address and see where (and how much of it) is appearing elswhere on the Web. Needless to say Copyscape offer a premium service with no monthly limit and batch searching for a fee.

Copyscape recommend you put a warning notice on your website to help scare off any potential content theives.

Defend your site with a plagiarism warning banner!

Is Creative Commons the future of copyright?

smallcover2I listened to a fascinating discussion on In Business on Radio 4 recently with Professor James Boyle of Duke Law School.

Professor Boyle is the co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, and Chairman of the Board of Creative Commons, which is working to facilitate the free availability of art, scholarship, and cultural materials by developing innovative, machine-readable licenses that individuals and institutions can attach to their work.

Although not arguing for the end of all traditional forms of copyright. For instance the intellectual property within movies will still need to be protected in order to recover the significant cost of production. However, he argues for a much more flexible approach to use of creative output.

In this spirit he has ‘published’ his latest book The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind both in hard copy and as a free download under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike License.

Professor Boyle explains his reasons for taking this approach by indicating that the free publicity gained will lead to more sales than those lost to free downloads.

“Why am I allowing you to copy the book for free?  And why is Yale University Press letting me?   To understand why I am doing it, watch this video by Jesse Dylan.  And if you want to  understand why it  makes economic sense to my publisher, read this short article.”

This may seem like a risky or foolish approach to those with a traditional view of Intellectual Property, but there is growing evidence of its success. The latest high profile example is from heavy metal band Nine Inch Nails, who’s Creative Commons licensed Ghosts I-IV was ranked the best selling MP3 album of 2008 on Amazon’s MP3 store.

In other words, a music album that can be legally downloaded and distributed over the Internet for free, has sold more than any others for $5 each, and earned over $1.6 million in revenue for NIN in its first week.

This is all makes fascinating reading given my participation in the next Real Time Club event, Intellectual Property:  Success Story To Be Extended? Just Desserts or Global Gridlock? on 27 January at the National Liberal Club in London.

The art of business and the business of art

My Business Advice clients vary enormously in their business interests to the point where I rarely get surprised by their ideas.

rachel_whiteread_-_houseHowever last week I saw an artist and her partner, who’s project (an ‘intervention‘ as she called it) involves building a multi-million pound house (with a significant twist). Although houses as art are not new, with perhaps Rachel Whiteread’s House, a concrete cast of the inside of an entire Victorian terraced house completed in autumn 1993 and exhibited at the location of the original house in East London. It drew mixed responses, winning her both the Turner Prize for best young British artist in 1993 and the K Foundation art award for worst British artist.

My client was concerned that her idea, which in some respects is even more simple in concept, if not in construction, would be stolen by rival artists. Unfortunately the nature of intellectual property is that the less tangible the idea the weaker the protection. For example the storyline for a novel is much more difficult to protect than the finished book, printed and bound.

During the advice session she recommended a visit to Roger Hiorns latest work Seizure. This show the results of a giant science experiment in a derelict flat in south London. After reinforcing the walls and ceiling and covering them in plastic sheeting, 80,000 litres of a copper sulphate solution was poured in from a hole in the ceiling. After a few weeks the temperature of the solution fell and the crystals began to grow. The result is spectacular to say the least.




The artist admiring the fruits of his labour

Patent myths

Many of the clients I meet who have invented something new have a basic misunderstanding of the power of a patent.

They believe that once they go through the time consuming (and potentialy expensive) UK patent process. Their intellectual property is fully and automatically protected. I have to explain to them that the UKIPO (previously the Patent Office) does not act as an IP police force, they just decide who gets a patent.

In their latest IP Insight article (link) Simon Crossley, technology partner at Eversheds LLP law firm in Cambridge, explains the steps inventors need to employ to protect the commercial content of their ideas.

One of the key activities is to watch the market for infringements.

“You might as well forget about your IP, if you ignore what everyone else is doing in your market and let the unscrupulous trample on your rights. In the same way as you watch your competitors’ marketing strategy and product development, you should think about whether anyone is misusing your rights, swiping your inventions or lifting your software.

If they are sticking your brand on a product, that is easy to point out. In a complex piece of technology, it can be harder to prove that your IP is being abused. But without proof, you are not going to get any sort of remedy.”

BMJ accuses us of repudiation of the role of libraries

I was rather shocked to see this posting on the British Medical Journal’s website. The author Tony Delamothe, the deputy editor of the BMJ, accuses our use of the shed advert (shown here) as “representing an absolute repudiation of the role of libraries”.

Here is the introductory paragraph from his article entitled Amnesia strikes the memory business.

“A poster advertising the British Library’s Business and Intellectual Property Centre shows a padlocked garden shed, on which the following words have been painted: “Inside is your invention. We’ll help you stop it becoming someone else’s.” Nothing could better symbolise the suburban smallmindedness underlying this initiative.”

Fortunately Stephen C. Due a medical librarian from Australia corrected Tony’s misunderstanding of the role of the Business & IP Centre in providing information and advice that helps people protect their intellectual property. As he correctly states “There is nothing in this enterprise that conflicts with the traditional values of libraries – it is essentially no different from advising an author on how to make the most of his or her rights and opportunities under copyright law.”

Thanks Stephen for leaping to our defence!

My colleagues in our Science collection have asked me to point out that the British Library-led partnership was recently chosen to run UK PubMed Central. This enables scientists to access a vast collection of biomedical research thanks to a major new initiative that aims to promote the free transfer of ideas in a bid to speed up scientific discovery. Based on a model currently used in the United States, UK PubMed Central (UKPMC) provides free access to an online digital archive of peer-reviewed research papers in the medical and life sciences.

Also it seems the British Medical Journal is not entirely controversy free when it comes to open access publishing, as can be seen by this discussion thread Access controls on bmj.com – Restore true open access to bmj.com

How To Protect Your Intellectual Property

When helping our customers wanting to protect their intellectual property as well as referring them to the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO), we also include Own-it, which offers free intellectual property advice for creative businesses.

Here is a summary of their offering:

“Own-it offers free (yes – free!) online advice to help you solve your IP issues. This could lead to a free one-to-one advice session with specialist lawyers!

To use the service you need to be an Own-it member so why not register now or log-in using the form on the right-hand side of this page.
How Does It Work?

We offer two levels of service:

1. Check to see if an answer to your query can be found on the information already on Own-it. We offer FAQs, factsheets, podcasts, articles and events. This will save you time because if the information you request is already provided on the website, we’ll simply direct you to that information.
2. If your issue needs legal advice or intervention, then fill in our online advice form. We will then either answer your query online or offer you one free meeting (max. 45 minutes) with a lawyer from Own-it’s associated intellectual property firms.

Am I Eligible?

1. You cannot use the Own-it IP clinics for any existing legal claims or for second opinions on any legal intervention already taking place.
2. Please note that the Own-it IP clinics are for IP related legal advice only. The lawyers will not be able to deal with non-IP related queries or provide related information.
3. Please note that the Own-it IP clinics are for business whose annual turnover is below £100,000”

Your views on digital copyright

The British Library is concerned that the shift from print to digital publishing is undermining the traditional balance at the heart of copyright and could make it harder for researchers to access and use information, and undermine innovation, research and heritage in the UK.

The Library made a significant contribution to the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, but now wants to hear your point of view. The results will be incorporated into the Library’s response to the UK Intellectual Property Office’s ‘digital exceptions’ consultation. http://www.bl.uk/ip/

Please note, the questionnaire is open to UK residents only.

Here is a summary of The British Library’s Principles on Copyright Law:

1 Public Interest

Public interest policy formation must consider the impact on the creator, the citizen, the economy, the education system and our culture – for today, and for future generations to come.
2 Balance
Creativity, innovation and a democratic civil society requires copyright law to strike a balance between the private interest of the creator being recognised and remunerated for their work, and the interest of the citizen in ensuring access to information and ideas.
3 Digital is Not Different
Copyright law should enshrine the principles of creativity, access, recognition and remuneration as it always has done. Exceptions should apply to all formats including digital formats.
4 Law Aligned with Realities
Rationalisation and simplification of the law will lead to understanding and respect for copyright.
5 Technology Neutral
Copyright law must be informed by technological advances, but specific technologies should not be enshrined in law.