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Copyright and Wrong

A resource reguarding the use of copyrighted material.

By Steve Puffenberger on
Copyright and Wrong

Copyright. It's the word should strike the fear of God in anyone creating media these days. But, second only to speed limits, in my observations this is the law that is most widely disobeyed in this country.

Time and again, clients ask if they can use copyrighted popular music or images from magazines or newspapers in their projects, and time and again, I have to say "no." And if they insist, we have them sign a contract taking all the risk, because the copyright police are out there.

There was a time when I was young and naive (back in the 70s), and never considered this to be an issue - even while working at an institution of higher learning. But in fact any use of copyrighted material without the copyright owner's permission is stealing! There are ways to license copyrighted material for use in a production or to play at an event , and you CAN freely use material in the Public Domain or that has been released under the "Creative Commons" license. Here are some resources that further explore the issue:

  • For a complete guide to copyrights on recorded music, this Guide to Music Copyright is very insightful.  In essence NO music recorded since recordings were invented are yet in the public domain. Any recorded music needs to be licensed.
  • To learn about the types of licenses needed for video or Web release, and to negotiate with record companies, we've used BZ Rights and Permissions. They can negotiate your license, but be prepared for major expense.
  • To show films licensed for home use in a public venue (e.g. all commercial DVD or Blu-Ray disks), visit Swank Films.
  • To learn about assets people are willing to share on the Web, visit the Creative Commons Website.

Digital transfers for non-commercial personal use pose their own copyright issues, as it's commonly understood that "space shifting" or "time shifting" is permitted, however it's not quite as simple as that.  This is an interesting discussion of the topic of Format and Space Shifting.

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