Photocopying a book of poetry and sending the copy to a friend is a lot slower than sending it out across the Internet, where thousands of readers can see it, but both infringe copyright. However, with the electronic method, the potential to violate the author’s rights is huge and has raised concern about copyright protection […]
Photocopying a book of poetry and sending the copy to a friend is a lot slower than sending it out across the Internet, where thousands of readers can see it, but both infringe copyright. However, with the electronic method, the potential to violate the author’s rights is huge and has raised concern about copyright protection in face of new media such as the Internet, CD-ROM and video-on-demand. Although the same copyright laws apply to electronically-transmitted information as to paper copy, the speed of electronic transmission and the ease with which borders are crossed, and differing laws, makes policing copyright more difficult. The Anglo-American system regards the rights of author over his work as a property right, while on the continent authors also h ave moral rights. This means in the UK the right is seen as primarily economic and, as such, can be sold, whereas in Europe the ‘droit d’auteur’ system gives an author rights of both paternity – to have your name attached to the work, and of integrity – not to have that work debased. These differences haven’t caused much difficulty up until now because of limited trade in copyrighted goods between countries.
But the advent of a global information infrastructure has made these differences increasingly prominent. If a photographer takes a picture that is subsequently manipulated and published in France, he can sue against derogatory treatment of his work. If this happened in the UK, and the photographer had been commissioned and so has sold his copyright, he would have no course for redress. This is complicated in the case of the Internet. Not only is it easier to manipulate pictures or text electronically in a way that does not do justice to the work, but it can be seen in a different country from where it was initiated. So how does the owner to the rights of a work protect them in an international electronic age? London barrister Alistair Kelman argues that the way to solve this is by drawing up internationally accepted rules on jurisdiction and hence legislation in respect of the Internet. If a server is located in Iowa but the information comes from Denmark and is republished in Portugal we cannot have a situation where litigation is required in three countries. And what is illegal in one of those countries may not be so in another anyway. He sees the solution as a harmonisation of copyright laws, which will enable Europe to compete as a single market in the development of multimedia products.
By Abigail Waraker
Such an effort is evident in the Rental & Lending Directive of the European Community, due before the UK’s Houses of Parliament later this year. Its aim is to harmonise the European laws and give creators the right to remuneration from rental of their work. But it has caused controversy among the creators’ lobby because the government plans to presume producers, and not authors, have copyright unless there is explicit agreement otherwise. This is a disincentive for creators to produce work for electronic publication. Chris Barlas, chairman of the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society said, The directive may lead to more distortion, because there are degrees of freedom in the directive for each country to determine finer details. The UK assumption of copyright ownership may differ from that on the continent, so maintaining existing anomalies. Other efforts to regulate international laws are being taken by the Stockholm Group, which represents signatories to the Berne Convention – the group of countries that agreed to protect moral right of authors. It has met with representatives from North America, Japan, Nordic and European countries to address this issue ahead of the World Intellectual Property Rights Organisation meetings to be held later this year. The Internet is not the only sticking point. There is a growing market in the publication of magazines, music, literature and art on CD-ROM. Re-use of work in this form revives an author’s rights so the publisher has to pay for the use. This issue has r
ecently been the source of dispute in the UK between publishers and freelance journalists, with some publishing companies attempting to get authors to sign away their rights in perpetuity so they don’t have to pay for re-use, as is permissible under UK law. However, in France if the creator of a work sells it to someone else, he still has a right to a share of subsequent sales revenue. Subsequent resale of work through rentals is another aspect to the Rental & Lending Directive. The UK government has chosen a one-off rental payment method because is is simpler to administer. This is favoured by the publishers. If a collection of children’s tales were published on CD-ROM and rented out, the fees from the rental would not go to the author, but the publisher, for example. But in Germany, under the same directive, authors are to be paid directly by the number of rentals. This will be administered through one of the collecting agencies.
Barlas believes that payment directly linked to rentals would not be difficult to administer because 75% of rentals are through major companies that keep computerised records of them. Additionally the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society is prepared to administer the royalties for on-line work. Last month, two small UK companies – Winchester Multimedia Plc and Metrodome Film Plc – announced their intention to raise funds and float on the Alternative Investment Market. Both specialise in producing programmes for video-on-demand, television, video and satellite media, developing a portfolio of film intellectual property rights in the process. This marks a continuing trend, as these two join the likes of the Storm Group Plc, which is already listed and involved in the intellectual copyright of programmes. In a future issue, Abigail Waraker concludes with a look at issues worrying broadcasters and companies preparing to offer video on demand services.