Thursday, 11 February 2021

Copyright Licensing

Menai Science Park
© 2018 Jane Elizabeth Lambert (all rights reserved)

 







Jane Lambert

On 9 Feb 2021, I was the guest of the Menai Science Park's Enterprise Hub.  I had been invited to give a talk entitled "What every Business in Wales should know about Intellectual Property" which I had previewed in my article of 7 Jan 2021.  I had prepared some slides on the topic which I posted to Slideshare this morning.

Considering that we started the talk at 17:45 we had a good turnout.  Our group would have been a very tight fit had we met in the M-SParc boardroom though there were not enough of us to have filled the training room. It was, therefore, the ideal size for a two-way discussion.  I used the first few slides to start the discussion.  Before long the questions came rolling in.

One of the most interesting questions was about licensing.  An artist told me that she was familiar with the Creative Commons scheme but she really wanted to earn some money from her work.  She asked whether there were any schemes like Creative Commons that generated revenue.  I told her that there were indeed associations of copyright owners that licensed their work on standard terms and distributed the royalties or licence fees to their members.  She could check out some of them but if none of them suited her she could instruct a lawyer to draw up a licence agreement.  

In either case, I stressed the advantage of inserting a copyright notice on her work or its mounting or container to put third parties on notice that copyright subsisted in the work and that she owned that copyright.   This consisted of the word "copyright", an abbreviation or the "©" symbol, the year in which it was created and the name of the copyright owner.  For example, I took the photo of M-SParc that appears at the topic of this article when I attended the Anglesey Business Festival in October 2018.  It will be seen that I have inserted the symbol, year and my name.

Associations of copyright owners that license the use of their work on standard terms are called "collecting societies".  Most people will have heard of the Performing Rights Society ("PRS")  and the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society ("MCPS").  They may have seen their decals "PRS for music" in pubs, cafés and gyms.  They draw up terms for the licensing of their members' works and visit premises that are likely to need their licences to collect the appropriate fees and royalties. Businesses that fail to cooperate may be sued.   They instruct specialist solicitors and counsel and nearly always win their claims.

Although the PRS and MCPS are probably the best-known collecting societies, other societies exist for other copyrights and related rights.  Wikipedia maintains a List of Copyright Collecting Societies from most parts of the world including the United Kingdom.  Freelance writers, for example, might wish to check out The Authors Licensing and Collecting Society ("ALCS").   Artists may want to contact the Artists' Collecting Society ("ACS").   Although it is not strictly a collecting society, designers should be aware of ACID (Anti Copyright in Design) who protect designers and makers against unauthorized copying and dealings with their designs.

Many of these organizations have reciprocal arrangements with foreign collecting societies.   They can help to protect IP owners' works and revenue not just in the UK but in many other markets around the world.

Although collecting societies and similar organizations are great for authors and designers they are not necessarily good for consumers and other users because they create monopolies and impose conditions that some consider to be unnecessarily restrictive.  Licensing schemes are therefore regulated by Chapter VII of Part 1 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.   Some users such as broadcasters and universities are also very powerful and they may challenge a licensing scheme under the Act.   A body known as the Copyright Tribunal resolves disputes between copyright owners and users under Chapter VIII of Part 1.   One case that might interest Welsh speaking readers is BBC v EOS  17 Feb 2021.

Sofie Roberts has invited me to speak at a seminar on licensing for the North Wales creative network on 19 April 2021.   If Covid 19 infections reduce sufficiently to allow M-SParc to reopen it will be great to deliver this talk in person.   If not, I shall deliver it over the internet.   Anyone wanting to discuss this article or any point arising from it may call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message using my contact form.

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