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Archive for April, 2015

Just sign on the dotted line…

Chris JHolland30 April 2015

Publisher contracts can vary quite a lot, but in the case of traditional book publishing it is common for the publishers to expect the copyright in the work to be assigned to them. Before you accept the agreement it is worth taking a critical look at the details. While the publisher is usually in a more powerful position, you could still try to negotiate if there are aspects which you don’t like.

An alternative would be for you to retain the copyright and grant the other publisher a licence to publish for example, which means that you have not entirely surrendered the Intellectual Property rights in the book. Even if the publisher is amenable to this suggestion, they may still insist upon an all encompassing exclusive licence and a cynic might say there is no practical difference to assigning the copyright.

If copyright is assigned, the publisher may also grant you a licence to make use of your own work in certain ways, such as reproducing extracts on your personal or institutional website. It is always worth pressing the publisher about any specific use of the work you would wish to make. Recently a UCL academic author was concerned that assigning the copyright in his work (as requested) would prevent him from translating and publishing the work in his native language (Portuguese) at a future date. The author was right to be concerned, since copyright includes the right to produce an adapted version, such as a translation. The answer: negotiate on that point with the publisher to see whether they will licence that particular right back to you.

Performing Poetry at a Public Event

Chris JHolland24 April 2015

A UCL department was planning a poetry performance to mark the WW1 centenary. The readings would be mainly of complete poems by authors of various nationalities. Where the original works were in a language other than English a translation would also be read either from a published source or translated into English by one of the team organising the event. What are the copyright issues and how should they be addressed?

Performance of copyright works is one of the activities restricted by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). Faced by this question, it is important to know whether the performances are internal to UCL and will be attended solely by our students and staff. If it were purely internal then the event would be covered by a copyright exception in Section 34 of the CDPA for performances within educational establishments. Had that been the case then there would have been no need to request permission to perform the works.

As it was, members of the public would be invited to attend the event and there would be a small entry charge to cover expenses, so Section 34 did not help us. The answer then was that, in so far as the works were still in copyright, it was necessary to seek permission from each copyright owner. Translating a work into another language is also a restricted act (a form of “adaptation”). It follows that where UCL people were producing an English translation for the occasion, they would really need the copyright owner’s permission to do so. If they were reading a published translation then that performance would also require permission, since the translation would also be protected by copyright (separate from the copyright in the original)

Copyright in Goebbels’s Diaries

Chris JHolland24 April 2015

A biography of Joseph Goebbels by Peter Longerich, a prominent historian at Royal Holloway College specialising in modern German history, has stirred up a dispute about the copyright in Goebbels’s diaries, which has been widely reported on internet news sites. The original, German version of the biography was published in 2010 and the English language edition is due next month. As you might expect in a biography, Longerich quotes extensively from the diaries kept by Goebbels.

The basic copyright term in Germany is the author’s lifetime plus 70 years (as in the UK), so Goebbels’s works are in copyright until 2016. Nevertheless the publishers were surprised to be pursed for infringement of copyright in the diaries by lawyers on behalf of Goebbels’s estate. It is common knowledge that Goebbels’s immediate family died in Hitler’s bunker, so presumably the estate has been inherited by more distant relatives.

This raises an obvious moral question about family members making money from the diaries of this particular individual but it also illustrates the lengthy duration of copyright under EU legislation. In terms of UK copyright law, the diaries may be caught by the 2039 rule (which is nearly as difficult to understand as the offside rule!). If the diaries are truly an “unpublished work” then it looks as though they would indeed be in copyright for an additional 23 years in the UK.

Quoting from an unpublished PhD Thesis

Chris JHolland17 April 2015

This query received by the UCL Library involves several aspects of copyright. A researcher, Shilpa, who is planning to publish a book, has visited the Library to consult a PhD thesis. The author of the thesis (Hector) died a few years previously. Shilpa has asked about the copyright implications of reproducing some quotations from Hector’s PhD thesis in her book. A question springs to mind for those familiar with the recent changes to UK Copyright Law:

Could the use of material from the PhD thesis be covered by the new, broader Quotations exception (Section 32 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988)? If the quotations are of modest length and meet the requirements of the Fair dealing test (which applies to Section 32 along with other copyright exceptions) then it may be that the researcher will feel confident in relying on the exception.

However, if there is any doubt about whether it is then, given especially that the book will be commercially published, Pam may decide to reduce her risk by seeking permission.

 But then whom should she approach for permission? Copyright would initially have belonged to the author. The thesis is unpublished so it is most likely that copyright remained with the author, now deceased. IP rights can be inherited like any item of property. Unless the author of the thesis made provision for the copyright in his works in a will it has probably been inherited by his family as part of his estate. The task facing Shilpa is therefore to trace Hector’s family in order to find the copyright owner and seek permission.

The London Manifesto

Chris JHolland1 April 2015

A statement to promote copyright reform in Europe entitled “the London Manifesto” has been launched by the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA). With the EU carrying out a  review of its copyright legislation this year it is a very timely moment to express some bold recommendations for reforms which would assist users of copyright material, particularly in higher education and research libraries.

Further information can be found here on the CILIP website and the text of the London Manifesto can be found here. It order to give as much impetus to the initiative as possible, LACA are inviting all interested organisations to sign up to the Manifesto if the are in agreement. Following the amendments to UK copyright exceptions in 2014, the EU is the new stage for copyright reform, so it will be important to follow developments and participate.