C is for copyright

I love the writings of Judy G Russel aka The Legal Genealogist. She has written extensively on copyright. Unfortunately this is predominantly from a US perspective and UK law differs. A UK equivalent summarising the various aspects of copyright law would be wonderful.

This isn't it.

The National Archives have a useful
summary of the position on their site. These points are based on that text. In brief:
  • Copyright exists when a work is created.
  • It is vested in the creator of the work unless this is transferred to another or the copyright holder has made it available for use without explicit permission.
  • Work created in the course of employment is usually copyright to the employer (I remember it well from being a University Lecturer, intellectual property rights worked similarly) but time limitations depend on the original author not the institution.
  • There are a number of ways in which work may be made available without express permission, the most common being the Creative Commons Licence.
  • Copyright it time-limited, the standard duration being 70 years from the death of the creator for literary works and 50 years from creation/publication for sound recordings.
  • Copyright of photographs is held by the owner of the negative (not the photographer) for work produced between 1/7/1912 and 31/7/1989.

The TNA summary document linked to above includes two very helpful flowcharts. They also give a
summary document on using their material.

Straightforward? Well, not exactly

Firstly there is the issue of the use of 'insubstantial parts' of a work which can be used freely. There is no definition of what constitutes a 'substantial' or an ' insubstantial' part of a work. The rule of thumb from my Uni days was one article from a journal or one chapter from a book as long as that did not exceed 10% of the work.

Secondly there is the issue of 'fair dealing'. This allows use for private study or non-commercial research. The copyright owner should still be credited. Fine, but what constitutes 'fair dealing'?

Thirdly, Crown copyright material is available for use under the Open Government Licence. The difficulty here is in knowing whether material is Crown copyright or not. Being held by TNA does not make it Crown copyright. Also this applies to the material not to images of the material supplied.

Fourthly there is a distinction between ownership of the copyright and ownership of the work. This seems to be a particular case with photographs. This is further complicated in many cases by not knowing exactly when the photograph was taken. How often have you looked at a picture, scratched your head and thought 'well I think it was taken in 19XX'?

Fifthly is the issue of knowing whether material is in copyright and if so, who owns the copyright and how they may be contacted. The Intellectual Property Office publishes details of the process of conducting a diligent search for copyright holders before works are permitted to be declared as orphan works, i.e. the copyright holder/s are unknown or cannot be located. This process differs for literary works, film/sound and still visual works and can be found

Related to copyright but distinct from it is the issue of plagiarism. This is claiming somebody else's work as one's own. Don't.

This area is complex and whilst I think the above is correct I am prepared to stand corrected!