By Mark Goh | Just as important as protecting your intellectual property rights, online content has its own set of copyrights to be grappled with. These typically revolve around how to protect their own works and how to avoid infringing other people’s work. Here 5 essential points you should know about online content and copyright issues:
1. There is no public registration of copyright materials or works
Copyright laws are territorial, which means that it differs from country to country. In Singapore, our laws are covered under the Copyright Act, Cap. 63.
2. Copyright laws are not easy to interpret and apply
Copyrights are artificial constructs under the law. This means that its existence, the rights of use, the enforcement and infringing acts are all defined under the provisions of the Act.
If a fact, conduct or circumstance does not fall within the ambit of the definition of the Act, there may be ramifications where the copyright does not exist, or where there is no exclusive use of the copyright, or where there was no infringing act.
However, this piece of legislation is highly technical and even among lawyers, not many will be apt enough to interpret and apply the various provisions to specific situations.
3. Guiding questions can help to determine if you’re infringing any copyright
Want to use a photo you found on Google Images on your blog? Here are some questions you should ask:
- Is the photo a work or type of work covered under the Act?
- If so, what are the exclusive rights attached to such work?
- Compare the alleged infringing act to see whether there was permission to use it this way (e.g. posting on a blog)
The Act defines and covers artistic works, such as a picture or photograph. In the case of “artistic work”, copyright means the exclusive right to:
- reproduce the work in material form;
- publish the work in Singapore or elsewhere, if the work is unpublished;
- communicate the work in public.
You are infringing copyrights if you do any of the above without obtaining the permission of the copyright owner.
4. There are exceptions where permission to use copyright work is not required
According to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, “there are exceptions to copyright protection which provides limited circumstances where you can use copyright works without seeking permission from the copyright owner. These exceptions are set out for the use of works for specific users (e.g. schools and libraries etc.) or for specific reasons (e.g. research and reporting of current events).”
This is known as “fair dealing”. For instance, here are some guidelines that can determine what amounts to fair dealing:
- the purpose and character of the dealing; meaning whether it was for commercial or non- profit prupose?
- The nature of the work;
- The amount of the work copied or taken;
- the effect of the dealing in the market; and
- the possibility of obtaining the work in the market at a certain price.
5. Engage a lawyer to handle the grey areas
There are many copyright matters that end up in dispute as they do not fall within the definitions of the act. For instance, there is no infringement in fair dealing, but there is also no clear definition as to what is fair dealing.
In conclusion, there are no simple answers to copyright issues. Want to find out how to better protect your work, or how to avoid infringing copyrights? Contact our Biz Friend today.