Copyright to Class Notes: Do Students Own the Copyright to Their Notes?

Photo Credit: Notes by Brady Withers used under CC BY 2.0.

Even as a law student, the very idea of who owned the copyright in the written notes I took in class was not something that ever occurred to me, let alone whether I was actually committing an infringing act by lending the notes to one of my friends.

Admittedly, this was way before copyright permeated into nearly everyone’s lives via the internet.

Now, a student’s class notes are just as likely to be uploaded to blogs, websites and forums, or even distributed as e-books.

They can be shared, not just between a few friends in class, but with an infinite number of people on the World Wide Web.

This has led some US states and universities to take steps limiting just what students can do with their class notes, which raises the question of whether students, or lecturers own the copyrights?

Universities and Publishers Clamp Down On Class Notes

This clampdown seems to be partially in response to the widespread and lucrative business of students selling their class notes to website publishers who make this material available to others for a price.

It is now such a problem that universities have Continue reading Copyright to Class Notes: Do Students Own the Copyright to Their Notes?

What Every Freelancer and Graphic Designer Needs to Know About Copyright

Before computers became the main instrument of design, graphic design was a labor-intensive process involving scalpel blades, spray mount, toxic chemicals and hours spent in dark rooms.

Post-digital, a few keyboard strokes enables the process of design to print and be completed in a matter of minutes.

For both designers and freelancers, the creative process has moved on and graphic design is now a broad term covering all ends of the creative spectrum from package design to multimedia development.

Unfortunately, copyright law has struggled to keep up with the new technologies and things do not always appear to be black and white. Here are some pointers:

What is Copyright?

Copyright gives the owner of original, creative works the exclusive right to copy, publish, distribute and adapt their works.

Essentially, this gives the owner the right to stop others copying, adapting, publishing and distributing their work without permission.

When does Copyright begin?

Copyright begins as soon as Continue reading What Every Freelancer and Graphic Designer Needs to Know About Copyright

What Apple vs Samsung Means for Creatives and Designers: Imitation vs Inspiration in the Spotlight

The verdict in Apple vs Samsung has brought the patent system sharply into focus.

Some argue the complexity of patent law is unworkable because, arguably, designers, engineers and techies need not only the requisite skills in their own areas of expertise, but also advanced skills at recognizing that a product does not infringe existing patents.

So, what does the verdict actually mean for creatives and designers, and does it matter?

A Monopoly Over Rectangles with Rounded Corners in Question

At this point it is worth looking at what the actual infringements are deemed to be. Samsung’s statement after the verdict ‘that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners’ was rather unfortunate.

Although, the court did find that Samsung had infringed a number of Apple’s patents, rounded corners was not one of them.

The infringements covered the software patents enabling ‘bounce back’, ‘pinch and zoom’ and ‘double tap to zoom’, and the design patents for the front face, the back and icon design.

It can be argued that some of these software patents could be seen as new standard forms in the industry, so why has Apple won a patent case based on some of these features?

Without going into the legal intricacies and without over-simplifying the issue, the key point in the verdict is the ‘willful copying’ of these aspects of Apple’s patents.

Apple Designer’s Choice of Sunflower for Icon Used Against Samsung

Mac Iconographer Susan Kare’s testimony in the witness stand illustrates this, pointing out that her sunflower design for the photograph icon was an Continue reading What Apple vs Samsung Means for Creatives and Designers: Imitation vs Inspiration in the Spotlight

Copyright Theft vs Fair Use: How to Determine if Your Work Has Been Stolen or Adopted for Fair Use with a 4-Part Test

One of the misunderstood characters in the world of copyright and intellectual property is the concept of fair use.

For some, it’s used as a proverbial get out of jail free card – for others, it’s an important part of effective teaching, reporting and expression.

But what exactly is “fair use”, who decides what’s fair and why does it matter to you as a photographer, writer or designer looking to sell your wares in the ever-expanding online marketplace?

Comment, Criticism and Parody

Fair use is what keeps the wheels of praise, criticism and review freely spinning. Without the ability to quote a portion of a play, reproduce an element of a gallery display or passage from a novel, artists would be in an awkward position.

On the one hand, able to stave off harsh or uninvited criticism; but on the other, those good reviews that encourage people to visit unheard of attractions and commentary included in local color segments on the evening news would likely be close to nonexistent.

The other key component to the concept of fair use is parody.

While it is often said that mockery is the highest form of flattery, it can be hard for a creative to swallow seeing their photograph, painting or song aped in any media.

Again, we’re faced with the difference between generating buzz for our product and tolerating someone else making a living off of our own hard graft.

Unfortunately, the notion of fair use isn’t determined by dollar signs – if it was, the creative world would be a very different place.

The Four Factors

So what’s a photographer, writer, singer, artist or other creative supposed to do when they find their work has been effectively hijacked by someone else? First, you’ll want to Continue reading Copyright Theft vs Fair Use: How to Determine if Your Work Has Been Stolen or Adopted for Fair Use with a 4-Part Test

How Copyrights Ruined the Olympics and What You Can Learn From It

The Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world, with London 2012 on course to achieving record-breaking viewing figures across the globe.

The Olympic brand is widely recognized and is, therefore, a significant and highly valuable asset of the Olympic Movement.

The London 2012 Olympics will be remembered for its particularly aggressive stance on brand protection with new laws being passed – the Olympic Symbol etc. (Protection) Act 1995 (OSPA) and the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006.

These laws stand alongside existing copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws and create a new ‘Unauthorized Association’ Law for the protection of the Olympic brand.

Olympics Sets New High for Brand Protection

Collectively, the brand encompasses a variety of names, phrases, logos and designs, known as the ‘Games’ Marks’.

The legal protection is necessary to preserve the commercial value of the brand and to bestow upon authorized sponsors and licensees of the Games exclusive rights to use the Olympic brands.

At first glance, Continue reading How Copyrights Ruined the Olympics and What You Can Learn From It