Copyright – how to stop people pinching your work
There’s a lot of talk lately about copyright. You’ve probably heard the howls of protest from Rugby League and AFL bosses over a recent court ruling that allowed televised matches to be recorded and screened a few minutes later on internet enabled devices.
The football bosses and Telstra had claimed Optus was breaching their copyright as people could record match broadcasts and watch them a few minutes later on Optus’s “TV Now” internet service. The court ruled it was not a breach of the copyright law as individuals had used the service to record the match, not Optus.
Big money is at stake. Telstra paid $153 million for the exclusive right to stream AFL matches on the internet for the next five years. The NRL is negotiating rights with Channel 9 and Foxtel for exclusive TV rights to broadcast league matches.
The row isn’t over. There are calls to the federal government to change the copyright law to meet the realities of today’s technology.
The popular group Men at Work ran into copyright problems in 2010 when a court ordered them to hand over 5 per cent of royalties earned since 2002 on their hit song “Down Under” as it contained a flute riff that was similar to two bars of the 1930s children’s song “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree”. The court ruled this was a breach of copyright on the old song that was held by the Larrikin music publishing company.
The two cases demonstrate the big money that can be at stake in copyright. But it isn’t always about millions of dollars. Copyright is there to stop people pinching your creative work.
Everyone who creates an original work such as writing, music, computer programs, art, dramatic works, sound recordings, films and broadcasts is automatically covered by copyright. It doesn’t cost anything, and you don’t have to register it anywhere. Copyright lasts the life of the creator, plus 70 years.
It doesn’t cover ideas, concepts, styles, techniques or information. You can’t copyright your own image, name, title or slogan. These may be protected by registering them under patent or trade mark laws but you might need legal advice on that.
If you believe your copyright has been infringed you’ll probably need legal advice on what to do about it as you may need to go to court. If they have benefited from deliberately breaching your copyright you may be entitled to damages. However there are exceptions such as if the material were used for research or study, news reporting, parody or satire.
Remember – date and keep all your original material to prove you are the creator such as drafts, plans and dated records of research.