Protecting Yourself Against Copyright Infringement
What is copyright?
Copyright is the IP owned by the producer, it prohibits to replication of unauthorised use to another’s work whilst allowing the copyright owner to prepare derivative works, distribute copies and display/perform the work publicly.
In Australia, copyright is automatically obtained by the artist/author upon the production of an original work. Copyright lasts throughout the lifespan of the copyright holder plus 70 years after their passing. As a small business owner, it is crucial to be aware of Australia’s copyright laws as infringements can be detrimental to you and your business.
For small business owners, copyright infringements can mean two things…
- You have violated someone’s copyright resulting in hefty fines and potential public relation troubles.
- Someone has infringed on your copyright resulting in time consuming and costly legal action that may not be feasible for your small business.
Although it is impossible to eradicate the potential of copyright infringements, there are things that you can do to lower the risk for you and your business.
What can and cannot be copyrighted?
Copyrighted materials can include, literary work, articles, photographs, maps, broadcasts, and other multimedia artefacts. Copyright infringement can occur during the replication of a copyrighted work.
For example, if you post someone else’s photo without their permission, or replicate the photo through artistic mediums, you may be infringing on their copyright even if you are not profiting from it. However, if you produce an artefact imitating the style of someone else’s work, granted you are not imitating the content of the work, it is not plagiarism as styles cannot be copyrighted.
Patents and Trademarks
While copyright protects artistic multimedia creations, patents are used to protect ideas and inventions. These can include devices, materials, formulas and processes. Australia offers two types of patents, standard and innovation, both of which require approval from IP Australia.
Trademarks are predominantly used by businesses. Your businesses IP is one of your most valuable assets. As your business grows in stature it is important to protect your brand, the best way of doing this is with trademarks. Trademarks can be used for a letter, number, word, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture or packaging.
What to do when your copyright has been infringed
As a small business owner, it can be intimidating to act when you think someone has infringed on your copyright. Without significant financial backup, your ability to take serious legal action may be diminished, although there are ways to protect your copyright without going to court.
- Be sure that your copyright has in fact been infringed, seek advice if necessary.
- Get in contact with the person or entity that you believe have infringed on your copyright, there may be a simple solution.
- If you are not satisfied with the progress on your communications, seek legal advice. You may need to send a formal letter of demand. This will let your infringer know the severity of the situation and give them a chance to amend the infringement before serious legal action is taken.
- If all else fails, you may need to either face defeat or take them to court.
Steps for avoiding copyright infringements
To avoid the risk of others infringing on your copyright or claiming their own copyright on your work, follow these simple steps.
- To avoid confusion about ownership, try to include a copyright notice on multimedia materials.
- Keep records of your work and the dates of which they were produced (with evidence).
- For copyrighted material providing a source of revenue for you or your business, or any material you believe has the potential to make income, it may be worth patenting it if possible. Furthermore, if your business is beginning to take off, consider trademarking the name and/or logo.
To avoid infringing on someone else’s copyright ensure you:
- Create your own images where possible.
- Use licence free image and video downloading websites (make sure to read the licence terms as you may need to provide credit to the author or gain permission from featured models).
- Request permission to use any content that is not your own.
- If you receive a letter of demand, take it seriously and remove all copyrighted content immediately.