Thursday, March 18, 2010

Online Legal Rights - COPYRIGHT & OWNERSHIP

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, copyright protects the time, skill and effort put into producing creative content, such as music, literary work (including software), performances, sound recordings, film and broadcast. Copyright infringement comes under civil law and occurs when the work is reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner. ‘Fair use’ and ‘fair dealing’ are terms applied to usage for permitted practices that do not infringe copyright, such as criticism, comment, news reporting and research. Incidental inclusion, such as background music or a poster that happens to be on the wall in the background, is also allowed. For more information on UK copyright law, visit the Intellectual Property Office ( If literary copyright has expired (under UK law, this typically means the author died more than 70 years ago), the work will be in the public domain. Julian Heathcote Hobbins, general counsel at FAST IiS
(Federation Against Software Theft – Investors in Software,, said: “Copyright is a proprietary right allowing the use of the right by others under condition, therefore I suggest always reading the licence to ensure you adhere to the rights-holder’s wishes.”

Any photo you take, you are automatically granted copyright for and it is up to you what you do with the image. But reproducing a photo from a website requires getting permission from the copyright owner and perhaps paying a fee. However, you could include the photo in a screen grab of the site you’re referring to, provided it is shown in context and not cropped. The UK Copyright Service ( includes a fact sheet on photography and copyright. For images published online, you should contact the site webmaster unless the site provides contact details for the owner of the image. Big organisations such as the Telegraph Media Group ( often have a syndication department you can email about reproducing a photo for your blog or website, but there is normally a charge. Just because you are not using a picture for commercial purposes does not mean you can get away with copyright infringement. You can be sued and, if found guilty, you could face legal costs as well as a fine. The photographic agency Getty Images (, for example, offers web and mobile images designed for emails and websites, starting at $5 (£3.07). However, it uses a firm called PicScout ( to scan the web for unlicensed use of its protected images.

Video-sharing websites such as YouTube ( have been accused of being mass infringers of copyright by record labels because many videos feature the work of artists and songwriters without their permission. The labels tend to go after the sites rather than the individuals, and most sharing services agree to remove content if they receive official notices. Their argument is that they are merely ‘conduits’ for content. However, deals are being made between the sites and the labels. For example, YouTube and Universal Music Group have a deal that lets users create and watch user-generated videos containing UMG sound recordings on YouTube. The video-sharing site gives tips for avoiding copyright infringement at It warns: “Accounts determined to be repeat infringers may be subject to termination.” Of course, you could also be sued by the copyright owner for monetary damages. To stay out of trouble, create something original so it’s you that owns the copyright.

Creating a soundtrack for a video you’ve made can get you into trouble, if you use someone else’s music. If, for example, you make a video of a wedding, add a well-known song to accompany it and post the video on YouTube, you could be accused of copyright infringement. If, however, you are filming the bride and groom at their reception and a song happens to be playing in the background and is recorded incidentally, it may fall under incidental inclusion and would not count as copyright infringement. To claim incidental use, much will depend on the extent to which the copyrighted music is used. YouTube offers an AudioSwap tool ( that lets you add music to your video from its library of licensed songs.

Turning a copyrighted song into a ringtone for your mobile phone is an issue that lawyers are currently getting their teeth into. Robin Fry, a copyright expert at law firm Beachcroft and FAST IiS member, said: “Even if you alter the medium and change a song, it’s still a copy and so, if unlicensed by the music collecting society – MCPS – it will count as an infringement.” Robin says the music industry is keen to make extra money out of ringtones and control them, even if they are not affecting CD sales.
“This is the case even if you legally bought the original CD or download and even if the ringtone is being used by you on just one mobile,” he said.

Ripping, or digital media extraction, of music from internet radio broadcasts can be done with software that lets listeners use their computer like a tape deck – but it is illegal. The music industry is concerned that songs streamed over internet radio sites are being pirated and there is an ongoing legal debate concerning how consumers receive the music. In the UK, it is still technically unlawful to record broadcasts and sharing audio content you download is definitely forbidden. Radiotracker (, an internet radio recorder, makes this clear in its legal information covering use of its Audials software.
Online rights are a big issue for the recording industry. The BBC (, for example, says that it is not possible to download all its radio programmes because certain content, including full-length music tracks, can only be offered with digital rights management protection. However, BBC iPlayer ( lets you listen to radio programmes as audio streams, which can be played for up to seven days after the programme’s original broadcast. Recording songs that you haven’t paid for and turning them into a music library is copyright infringement. However, you can record spoken word radio, providing it’s for personal use, because there are no music rights involved.

You can record broadcasts from TV for the purposes of viewing them at a more convenient time, a practice known as time shifting. But, as the BBC makes clear in its terms and conditions for the iPlayer (, online BBC content is available for download within the UK only and it has digital-rights security embedded so the BBC can delete it from your computer once its expiry date (normally 30 days after broadcast) has been reached. You can share iPlayer programmes using Windows Media Player – see our online workshop at – which will download the required licence, but not via peer-to-peer software.’s ( terms and conditions also make it clear that content cannot be “broadcast or transmitted or used in any other way except for your own personal, private and non-commercial use. Aside from personal use, you are not permitted to illegally file share”. For more info about downloading TV programmes, check out the Broadband Choices article ‘How to download TV programmes’ (

Once you have bought a song online, you’re allowed to play the audio file on your MP3 player or computer. However, many of us like to burn tracks we download onto disc to play on a CD or DVD player. Is this illegal? Copyright expert Robin Fry says that currently any formatshifting is still technically an infringement. “The government is consulting on this and it’s likely it will be permitted soon. But the record industry is still fearful that this will deprive them of revenue and unleash huge amounts of sharing where they are anxious to obtain royalties. So expect a battle and delays until this is legitimised.”

When you purchase music, you only own the right to the particular copy you bought. Just in the same way as making a tape of an album or burning a CD for a friend is illegal, it is not legal to share tracks from your iTunes collection with other people, because this is a form of distribution and not personal use. In the same way, sending a friend a song via email or instant message is not legally permitted because it is a form of distributing copyrighted material and is not classified as personal use. That said, you are generally unlikely to be discovered!

Many publishers have subscription websites, such as News Corporation’s Wall Street Journal (, but Google ( lets you access their content for free through its First Click Free system for Google News and Google Web Search. It could be argued that users persistently getting access to creative content via First Click Free are effectively committing copyright infringement. In December last year, Google acknowledged in its Webmaster Central blog ( that publishers are worried about “people abusing the spirit of First Click Free to access almost all of their content”. The search engine giant has therefore limited the number of free accesses to five per user each day on a publisher’s subscription website, after which they will be directed to a payment screen.

Source of Information : WebUser January 28 2010

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