Contemporary Copyright Issues

The purpose of copyright is to enable the creative effort of writers, artisans, craftsmen and the like to be protected from copying without the need for registration procedures. The Copyright Act provides protection for a wide range of diverse items such as literary works, sound recordings, news articles, photographs and so on.

Copyright protection is not a monopoly since it does not extend to prevent independent creation of similar work but rather protects the reproduction or copying of the work. In saying this though, these are subjective tests and reproduction may be broad enough to include similar or substantially similar works.

The term of copyright protection is very long, generally in the order of 50 years after the date of the death of the creator depending on the type of work created. Further, unlike patents, trademarks and designs, there is no registration process involved in order for a work to be protected by copyright. Copyright inherently exists in every piece of work created by a person (be it a song, piece of writing, picture, photograph script etc) in order to protect the integrity of that work for the creator’s benefit.

Recently, we had a client who wished to use articles and photographs from other newspapers and online news sources in order to publish them in his own newspaper for a specific market.

Our advice was that the simple act of copying or translating such pieces of writing and copying photos from other sources would breach the Copyright Act and the owner/publisher of that material would be able to take legal action against you in that respect.

Especially with a newspaper article, there are considerations not only with respect to the author’s rights (individual journalist) but also considerations as to the publisher’s rights to the material it has published for commercial gain. Similarly with photographs, consideration needs to be given to the photographer’s rights in addition to the person of whom the photograph is taken.

In order to ensure you have not breached any of the author’s/publisher’s rights with respect to such material, their written authority must be obtained prior to any reproduction.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to post them below and we will endeavour to answer them.

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