The year end is often a time to review finances, clean off desks, and get organized for the new year. Below is a list of actions to get your copyright and licensing matters in order.
Permissions and Licenses
1. Check all licenses for electronic content to determine if any expire at the end of 2013. Do you want to renew expiring licenses or allow them to expire? Do you need to take any action to notify the vendor/content owner of your intention to renew or not renew a license?
2. Prepare a database of all content your organization has licensed. Whether it’s an image to use on a promotional brochure, or content from a large electronic database, include all content in a single searchable database that allows you to quickly and easily locate that content and determine what rights you have in it.
3. Generally, the duration of copyright expires at the end of each calendar year. Determine if any of the works you want to use will be in the public domain in 2013. Review one list of works entering into the public domain on 1 January 2014.
4. Develop the “ultimate” list on what your organization needs from its license agreements. Do you need remote access or the right to share a PDF file? Do you need to make print-outs, or post articles to your intranet? What about using portions of the database for internal education/ seminars? Use the list as a set of goals in your future negotiations for licenses.
5. Consider your 2014 budget for permissions, licenses and copyright training. Consult various people in your organization to gather their needs and preferences. Prepare a draft budget and ensure you have the funds you need to meet your copyright needs in 2014.
Education and Training
6. Brainstorm ideas to get the copyright message to your colleagues. How about a weekly lunchtime discussion group on copyright issues? Include senior management, marketing and information professionals, and lawyers. Aim for a diverse group of speakers from authors to photographers to web designers to librarians. The discussions can help “sensitize” your colleagues about copyright rather than being a lecture style format.
7. Continue your own copyright education. Do you need a refresher course on copyright? Or perhaps a course on international copyright or web 2.0 copyright issues? See what in-person or online courses are being offered.
Management and Compliance
8. Develop a written copyright policy. If you do not already have one, first determine why you need a copyright policy or guidelines and how you would use them. If you have them, determine whether they are valuable, how you can improve or update them.
9. Do the same copyright questions arise again and again in your organization? Year end is a good time to compile these questions and prepare short practical answers. Circulating these Qs & As to your colleagues or posting them on an intranet may help your organization better comply with copyright.
Copyright News and Information
10. Review copyright legislation in 2013 as well as court cases. Are there any legislative amendments to your country’s Copyright Act that affect you? Any court cases that interpret the copyright law that relate to your uses of copyright materials?
11. Try to better understand fair use/dealing. Is fair use/dealing narrow or broad? What research is covered by fair use? Create your own checklist to determine what may constitute fair use/dealing in your organization.
12. Create a list of favorite sites and books on copyright so that when you have a copyright issue in 2014, you can quickly consult reliable, helpful sources.
13. Investigate how best to follow copyright issues in 2014. Sign up for a RSS feed? Follow someone on Twitter? (Try Copyrightlaws @ Twitter) Participate on a discussion list? There are free and subscription newsletters that may provide timely and relevant news.
Copyright Symbol and Protection
14. Review how you are protecting your own copyright works from documents to images to podcasts and videos. Although voluntary in most countries, using the universal copyright symbol © is a reminder that copyright exists in a work. Including contact information for permissions will direct people when obtaining copyright permissions.
15. Copyright registration is voluntary in most countries but consider registering your works with your country’s copyright office. Rather than registering individual works, register a group or collection of works produced during the year to save time and registration fees. Registration is important if you are distributing your works to the public and may need to enforce your rights through legal action.
16. Review your agreements with consultants. Who retains copyright ownership in consulting reports? If your organization does, make sure that this is clearly stated in your agreement and if necessary provide for an assignment of this work to your organization. If the consultant owns his works, take a look at the rights your organization has in any of the consultant’s work. If you are a consultant, review what rights you have in your own works.
17. Undergo an intellectual property or IP audit. It’s a great way to make sure all the content and computer software you are using is legal, and a great way to find out what IP you own, and how to market and better profit from that IP. This is true for individuals, small and large organizations.
18. Set up a mechanism for monitoring the legal use of your own online content on an international basis. This can be as simple as undertaking search engine searches, or you could hire a professional who specializes in finding unauthorized uses of content. Piracy is not only the domain of the software and entertainment industries. You may find surprises in how your individual or organization’s rights are being exploited, and your works used and perhaps even sold without your permission.
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Note that this post was originally posted on 15 December 2010 and has been updated for 2013-2014.