8 Steps to Copyright Compliance

This post sets out 8 things you can do for copyright compliance. All organizations and businesses need to carefully monitor how they protect content their employees create and how they legally use the content of others (and mitigate their copyright infringement risks). Copyright actions are not always obvious so the sooner you act to secure copyright protection for your content, and take steps to legally use content of others, the better!

How to Ensure Copyright Compliance

Regularly perform copyright audits to lower your copyright infringement risksIs there an ideal time of year to undertake an audit to see if your organization is doing its best to protect content it creates and is also legally using copyright-protected materials? Really anytime is a great time to evaluate copyright issues in your organization. You can do a comprehensive review or a simpler review, or even do your review in stages but get a plan in action and plan to get started soon. Below are 8 things you can do to undertake a copyright audit on the protection of your works and also on how you use copyright-protected works owned by others (also called third-party content).

  1. Copyright Duration: The end of the calendar year is also the beginning of the expiration of copyright for many works. What books, images and other works that you use entered the public domain on 1 January each year? Check to see whether you’re still trying to obtain permission for (or perhaps avoid the use of) content that is now freely available and in the public domain. Public domain works are free to use and even adapt without payment or permissions.
  2. Licenses: When did you last check your copyright permissions and licensing agreements? Are there any permissions and licenses that have expired or are expiring? Also ask yourself: Do you still use this content and need to renew (or not) your license? Is there any action required to notify authors/owners of your intent to allow the license to expire? It’s best if you keep an on-going database of your licenses so that you can easily be check when licenses expire.
  3. Intellectual Property (IP) Audit: Now is a great time to audit your IP to determine whether your use of others’ IP is legal. It’s also a great time to inventory your own IP – what do you own and how can you exploit it and benefit from your own IP? Remember that copyright is only one area of IP. You may create or own other things such as patents or trademarks that also have commercial value and must be used within the law or according to license agreements.Become a copyright leader in your organization with the Copyright Leadership Certificate
  4. Fair Use Checklist: Fair use allows use of content without permission. However it also requires a judgment call as each situation of fair use is based on the particular circumstances at hand. Develop a checklist for use by your organization for evaluating fair use and to ensure a more consistent application of fair use.
  5. Compliance Education: Know your organization’s copyright policy, and share it! Develop FAQs with copyright questions and simple, clear guidance or hold periodic lunch meetings or information sessions where you can invite and encourage discussion. Include lawyers or speakers, and keep it diverse to spur interest and retain attention on this important topic.
  6. Trusted Resources: Create a list of resources – websites, books, articles – your organization can rely on, to consult when new questions arise. Ensure that someone in your organization keeps this list current.
  7. Contracts and Copyright: Review ownership in any works consultants create for you or which you create with a partner. Do you have a clear written agreement? What does this agreement say? What are the rights each of you posses in the IP?
  8. Monitoring Unauthorized Uses of Content: Do you publish content? Protect your interests by setting up a monitoring system for legal use of your content by others. Use search engines, watermarks, and perhaps a monitoring service.

Copyright is evolving: as digital access offers new opportunities for monetizing content, and it also increases exposure to potential risks of copyright infringement. However, the basic principles of managing and monitoring copyright still stand, and undertaking periodic review or a copyright audit is a good way to ensure that your organization both benefits from its own content and remains within the law when using third-party content.

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