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February 2020
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Copyright law is simple. If you don't own it, then someone else does.

Media law expert Cleland Thom offers some simple advice on an important law.
Copyright law protects original work. It affects PRs in two different ways:

1. The media may illegally use your copyright material.
2. You may illegally use someone else’s copyright material.

Copyright covers:
1. Written words.
2. Photos.
3. Logos.
4. MP3 / MP4 files.
5. Images.
6. Clips from YouTube etc.
7. Page designs.
8. Computer programmes.
9. Databases.

It doesn’t cover:
1. Facts.
2. News.
3. Information.
4. Ideas.
5. Slogans.

Who owns copyright?

1. Employers – not employees.
2. Freelance writers.
3. Freelance photographers.

If you are distributing material to the media (images, photos, words, podcasts etc), it is your job to check the copyright and obtain necessary consents.

If you have a photo that was commissioned for private or domestic use (eg: someone’s wedding photo, graduation pic etc) you must get the consent of the person who COMMISSIONED it. They have the right to veto publication. You need the consent of the PHOTOGRAPHER, too.

Fair dealing

EXTRACTS of copyright work can be used – free, and without consent, on two occasions:

1. To report current events – but you can only use words, not pix.
As a guide, you should use less than a third of the original. Weigh up:
How many extracts have been used?
What percentage of the original have been used?
The percentage the extracts make up of the new article.
2. For review purposes – words or pix.

You can only use as much as you need to make your point.

The conditions of fair dealing are:
1. The copyright owner must be given sufficient credit.
2. You must not misrepresent the work or make fun of it.
3. You must not pass it off as your own.

Don’t …
1. Lift pix from the web, or anywhere else, without written consent.
2. Use videos from YouTube or elsewhere on the web, without written consent.
3. Lift facts from copyright work, without checking they’re accurate.
4. Use ‘personal’ pix without written consent – see above.
5. Use frame-grabs from TV or the web without acknowledgement.
6. Alter graphics or pix and pass them off as yours.
7. Deep link to other sites and give the impression the content is yours.

This extract is taken from the PR Media Law Guide, price £19.95. To order a copy, contact:

Cleland Thom does media law training and consultancy to a number of corporation and public authorities, including GPSJ, United Utilities, World Trade Group, Herts County Council, London Borough of Brent and Three Rivers District Council.

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