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Copyright 101 for New Business Owners
5 When starting a new business, Copyright Law and its associated protections are probably the furthest considerations from your mind. After all, you’re not writing a novel, directing a movie or producing new music. So, the most obvious question is: “What is Copyright Law and how does it affect me?” The answer may surprise you.
While it may not seem so, every day, in offices all over Australia, employees and employers are creating copyright protected material. In the context of small business, Copyright Law helps your organisation:
- Look after and recognise the value of the copyright your business has, and;
- Ensuring it does not infringe the copyright of others.
Copyright is a variety of intellectual property to be bought or sold, just like tangible property like vehicles or buildings. Copyright Law covers the exclusive rights of certain works and materials.
These exclusive rights include:
- The right to reproduce the material, and;
- The right to make the material available online.
If anyone who does not hold the copyright does these things – copies the material or posts it online – without the copyright owner’s consent, that person has infringed the owner’s copyright.
What Does Copyright Protect?
In a business context, copyright protects the following:
- Legal documents;
- Computer programs, and;
- Scientific models.
Why do Many Organisations Lose or Fail to Take Advantage of Copyright Protection?
As copyright is intangible, it is easier to lose or damage than tangible property. This can result in a company being unaware of the copyrighted material it owns. Or, worse still, the company may be unaware when someone else (i.e. an ex-employee) uses their organisation’s copyrighted material.
How is Breach of Copyright Remedied?
An individual who breaches copyright may be liable to compensate the copyright owner for its loss, or to account to the owner for any profit made from wrongful use of said material.
How is Copyright Protection Obtained?
The rights covered by copyright are automatically granted once the relevant work is created. Although copyright is obtained automatically, you should put a copyright notice on all the important documents your business creates.
Although copyright protection isn’t essential, it may:
- Deter potential copyright infringers;
- Encourage your employees to treat the material with greater care, and;
- Make it easier to take legal action.
Who Owns Copyright? Employers, Employees and Consultants?
Predominately, copyright is owned by the original creator of the work. The most important exception to this rule however, is when said material is created by an employee in the workplace. In this case, copyright is owned by the employer. The only instance in which copyright is not owned by the employer is when material is created by independent consultants (even if your organisation pays to have the material created), unless otherwise stated in a contract or terms of service document.
Is it Time for a Copyright Audit of Your Organisation?
When conducting an audit of your organisation, you should know:
- What copyrighted material your organisation owns, and;
- What copyrighted material your organisation uses but does not own.
Practical Ways to Protect Your Rights:
- Keep copyright at the forefront of your mind. According to Australian copyright law, agreement can be reached about ownership before copyright material is created;
- Place copyright notices on the material you create;
- Supervise the use of copyright material by others (including employees);
- Exercise care when allowing others to see, use or reproduce your copyrighted material;
- Know exactly which copyrights you own, and;
- When using licenced material owned by others, always comply with the terms of the licence.