Copyright for the Digital Arts and Humanities

I recently attended a talk given by Eoin O’Dell from Trinity College Dublin on the topic of Copyright for the Digital Arts and Humanities. While the talk was mainly aimed at students of the Digital Arts and Humanities PhD Structured Programme it was also very relevant to librarians, particularly those dealing with digital collections. Here are some of the nuggets of information I took away from the talk (and I mean nuggets, I’m only giving the headlines because as a non-expert that’s all I feel comfortable with). However, Eoin has also kindly allowed me to share his slides.


First, two Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) reports were recommended: Digital Humanities: Ireland’s Opportunity and Going Digital: Creating Change in the Humanities.


There are several relevant pieces of legislation that deal with copyright. These are:

Section 17 (2) CRRA: Copyright subsists in (a) original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, (b) sound recordings, films, broadcasts or cable programmes, (c) the typographical arrangement of published editions, and (d) original databases.


Section 12(1)a CRRA: The author of a work shall be the first owner of the copyright unless the work is made by an employee in the course of employment, in which case the employer is the first owner of any copyright in the work, subject to any agreement to the contrary.

If you are employed to create some original work, for example digitise a collection, then your employer owns the copyright. However, if you are not an employee but have been hired on contract to digitise the collection you own the copyright unless it’s written into the contract otherwise. This is something for libraries to take into account when outsourcing digitisation.

It’s also worth noting that even if you create something on the weekend or in your own time your employer still owns the copyright. So if you are a software engineer and you write code in your own time your employer owns the copyright to that code, but if you are a software engineer and you take photographs in your own time they do not.


Section 37(1) CRRA: The owner of the copyright can copy, adapt and make available the work. This is what is referred to as ‘all rights’ when you see ‘all rights reserved’.


Question: How much do you need to adapt a work before it becomes original to you?

Answer: The more you change, the more you adapt, the more you infringe. If you copy someone else’s work it never becomes yours.


For copyright to exist the creator must use skilled labour and judgement. So quick snaps taken with a point and shoot camera are not subject to copyright as there was no skilled labour and judgement used.


So you want to reuse someone else’s work?

  • Old: Section 24(1) CRRA – “The copyright […] shall expire 70 years after the death of the author, irrespective of the date on which the work is first lawfully made available to the public.” This applies to the EU, copyright laws in other countries (most notably the US where Disney has a big influence on copyright laws) may be different. The 1916 centenary is next year, so it’s worth considering that there is a good chance works created in 1916 are still in copyright.
  • Public Domain: Public Domain means a work in copyright is put beyond copyright. Stuff that is online is not by it’s nature Public Domain (but we knew that anyway, right?)
  • Public Sector Information: Directive 2013/37/EU is relevant but has not been enacted into Irish law. This legislation would see the assimilation of cultural institutions, e.g. libraries into existing legislation, with three special rules:
    1. Only documents where re-use has previously been allowed are reusable.
    2. The institution can charge the full costs, including reasonable return on investment.
    3. Institutions may engage in the award of exclusive rights for digitisation projects.
  • Permissions: It’s important to note that 99.9% of contracts are verbal (I didn’t sign a contract when I bought my morning coffee), oral contracts are valid.
  • Licences: Commonly used licences include: Irish Copyright Licensing Agency, Creative Commons or bespoke licences.
  • Exceptions: Part II Chapter 6 CRRA refers to “fair dealing”. However, “fair use” is a US construct and does not exist in the EU. For example, the Google Books project would not be legal in the EU. Section 52(1) CRRA refers to incidental inclusion of a work, so if a copyrighted work happens to be in the background this is ok, but if it is the subject of your work then it is considered infringement.
  • Orphan works: A work is considered ‘orphan’ when the copyright holder can’t be traced. This is dealt with in Directive 2012/28/EU but only applies to literary works.
  • Links: Providing online links does not infringe copyright that vests in the materials on the other end of the link.

Thank you to the organisers of the lecture and to Eoin O’Dell for presenting a really interesting and accessible view on copyright law. It’s a complex area but it’s good to know it’s not totally impenetrable for those of us in libraries that need to be aware of the laws.

 

 

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