Thursday, March 30, 2006

Canadian Law And The Web Part 2: Copyright

Copyright Basics
Copyright is the right granted to an individual to protect a peice of work he/she has created. This applies to literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works.

Copyright is automatic. Meaning that once you have created a work it is already protected by copyright and you have rights to defend that work from being copied.

Copyright protection does not extent to ideas, facts, or information. Meaning that if I came up with an idea for an invention and even wrote it down. It does not prevent someone else from creating that idea. The only thing they can not do is copy what I wrote down. Patents can be used to protect these kinds of ideas (but that is outside the scope of this document).

An interesting thing I discovered is that lectures count as literary works and are also protected. Lecutures includes addresses, speaches, and sermons. I know this really does not apply but just thought it to be interesting.

Copyright lasts. A copyrighted work maintains its copyright 25 years after the author dies. The copyright is passed as part of the estate.

Ownership
In essence the person who created a work is its author and therefore owns the copyright. This is not necessarily true when you are in the employ of a contract of another person

Section 13(3) where the author of a work was in the employment of some other person under a contract of service or apprenticeship and the work was made in the course of his emplyoment by that person, the person by whom the auther was employed shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright.

There are exclusions though for newspaper, magazine, or similar periodical contributions in this section but that does not apply for us.

If you are in the hire of someone and do work the person who hired you holds the copyright!

Granting Rights to Others
As the owner of a copyright you can grant rights for other people to use, perform, create derivitive works, or full rights. These agreements must be in writting to make them binding. By granting someone the right to use or perform your work they can replicate your work in its entirety. Derivitive works give the right for the licencee to modify the original and re-use it. Full or Exclusive rights give the licencee full rights to the work and can do whatever they want and relicence it to others if they so choose.

What This Means
-If you are hired by someone to do work they own the copyright on the work you performed for them.
-If you take content (be it text or images) from another person without their written permission and place it on a site you are commiting a copyright infringment.
-If you design something on your own (not hired by someone else) and a client wishes to use it. You should sell them a license to use your work.
-If you grant someone a licence to use your work (but not make derivitive works) and they modify it, they have commited an infringement.
-Using music or images on a site that you do not have written permission to use is an infringement.
-If you built something for a client that has hired you and then find another client that needs the same thing. You can not sell them the item you produced without written consent from the original client you did the work for (as they hold the copyright).

How To Protect Yourself as a Developer
-Ensure that you have rights to all of the works you are using in your project.
-Have a contract with your client that outlines who owns what.
-In your contract have a clause that ensures both parties are contributing works that they have rights to.
-I personally like the idea of stating in my contracts for projects that I am the owner of the copyright and the client has been granted a license to use the website. I also like to grant them the right to make derivitive works on the item in case they want to make changes in the future. This way they can go to another developer and have it done in case we had a falling out.
-The best way is to consult with a lawyer. From my reading most laws for the brick and mortar world apply to the internet world.
-If hiring subcontractors to do work ensure that the subcontractors only use works that they have rights to.
-Make sure that you have rights to the work that the subcontractors do. I ensure that I have at least the right to make derivitive works on everything they send me.

Questions
Q. Who owns source files, psd's, fla's, etc.?
A. If you have hired someone to do the work then you have full rights to those works as you have paid for them to be created.

Q. How can I verify that I am not infringing on someone elses copyright?
A. There is no real way to do this that I know of. I would do a search on the interenet for content that I am using on a project and make sure that I can not find it. Usually if you infringe on someones copyright then they will notify you and ask you to change / remove the offending matterial. This is the best case (who wants to go to court anyways?)

If you have any more please send them.

DISCLAIMER: I am not even close to a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Consult with a lawyer in any matter you have about law.

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