copyright book
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As the demand for online video increases, some publishers are reshuffling their newsrooms, investing into larger video teams and developing workflows and technologies to make the production process more efficient.

News organisations are entering into partnerships with companies that use automation to streamline video production, while others, such as NowThis, have optimised their content management systems to allow video to be created and distributed quickly on social media platforms.

But as they are challenged with producing more and more of this type of content, what are some of the copyright issues journalists should be concerned with when shooting and editing online videos?

"Copyright is a very complex issue, as it looks like one of those big American club sandwiches because you get layer upon layer of it," Mike Dodd, media lawyer and co-author of the book McNae's Essential Law for Journalists, told

“This is why journalists who are dealing with copyright have to make sure that they are familiarised with the law, so that they know what they can and can’t do and what defences they might or might not have.”

Copyright applies straight after the work is created

In the United Kingdom, copyright applies as soon as the work is made available to the public, no matter if the creation has been copyrighted.

However, Dodd noted that it is worth marking your work with the copyright symbol to let people know that you intend to protect your interests.

“Journalists should always keep their eyes and ears well peeled to make sure that they know what is being done with their work.

"And, if they have some suspicion that somebody is ripping off their work, they should go and do something about it."

John Battle, head of compliance at ITN, added that it is worth being aware that when a video is published online, the copyright period lasts for life, plus an additional 70 years.

Because it’s on the Internet, it doesn’t mean it’s of free use

Journalists looking to incorporate user-generated content from social networks in their packages, be it images, sound or video footage, should always ask for permission.

“For most of the things that you would find on the internet, you would first go to the author of that material, as nowadays it’s possible to see who has created it – no matter if it’s a picture or video footage – and you would then get a license to use their work," Dodd said.

“But, if you don’t have permission to use the copyright material, don’t use it. It’s as simple as that. The only cases where you wouldn’t be liable for using online material is when you are taking it from an open source or when it’s actually out of copyright."

When asking for permission, you should make sure you know who the owner of the copyright is, as it may not always be the person who made the material publicly available.

Adam Rendle, senior associate at international law firm Taylor Wessing, highlighted more tips for working with eyewitness media fairly at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia earlier this year, including privacy implications surrounding online videos and third party rights that can be embedded in a piece of user-generated content.

Make sure to know which defences to use

As stated under section 30 of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1998, the defence of fair dealing comes into play when material that has been made available to the public is used for the purpose of non-commercial research or study; criticism or review; or for reporting current events.

“If you are fair dealing copyrighted material, you have to make sure that you use the material fairly and you give sufficient acknowledgement to the person who has produced the work you are using and is not a photograph," Battle said.

“Under fair dealing you can’t take too much of a work, just the enough amount to demonstrate the point. For example, you would take a small clip of a movie, but not the entire movie," Dodd added.

Besides fair dealing, incidental inclusion might also occur when shooting videos.

As Battle explains, incidental inclusion applies when journalists do not have control over circumstances that might influence or appear in the background of a video when it is being produced.

“If you were adding music to your piece, incidental inclusion would not apply, whereas, if it’s in the background of a shopping centre, restaurant or pub, that’s a different matter and then you can aim for the incidental inclusion defence.

“When it comes to music you have to use either free use music or music that you have permission to use. Artists, musicians and record companies own the benefits of their work and you as a journalist, cannot take someone’s music without caring about the copyright,” Battle said.

Copyright is transferable

You can assign your copyright, which essentially means transferring or handing over the rights you have for a video to another person or company.

Alternatively, you can also license your work to another person or organisation, for example as a freelance video journalist. This means that you would still retain the copyright of your work, but you are granting permission over your copyright for a particular use.

Nonetheless, John Battle advises journalists to be aware of the conditions attached to each copyright licensing.

“There might be time limits when licenses are attached to a time period, or jurisdiction limits, when someone would say that you can use the material but only in the UK for example.

“Thus, it’s important that journalists properly think of the commissions being granted to them because they use other people’s copyrighted material.

“This is why the starting point in law is that what is worth copying, is worth protecting. So, if you are using others people’s materials, whether it be films, photographs, or any other forms of copyright material, the starting point would be to seek permission for use,” Battle said.

*If you would like to obtain further information regarding copyright, you can read the main legislation dealing with copyright in the United Kingdom, the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988. *

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