Clare Painter Associates

Digital licensing agency, copyright audits, and publishing rights consultancy

Changing Rights

This post was first published in Clare Painter’s digital rights newsletter on 29 September 2015


Changing rights

Copyright is stretching out to affect more of us than ever before

There’s certainly change in the air as far as digital rights go. Here are just a few examples that have caught my eye lately. Perhaps they’re not as diverse as they seem.


Chinese publishing visits Oxford

There’s an increase in the number and frequency of Chinese publishing groups coming over to the UK to find out about publishing, and particularly about licensing.

They seem especially drawn to Oxford, which is understandable. I always enjoy using Oxford colleges as a training venue!

Open licences

In a completely different field, it’s becoming clear that sometimes individual users don’t always fully understand the open licences they are using online.

There have been a couple of cases (perhaps more) where a user uploaded their own photograph using a Creative Commons licence, but were dismayed when they found that their image had been used for commercial use without their knowledge.

There are several types of Creative Commons licence, and the users in these cases could have chosen to use a more restrictive one which specifically excluded commercial use. But they didn’t. Perhaps it never crossed their mind that online content might be picked up by any organisation, for whatever purpose they like.

Does this mean you should avoid using CC material uploaded online by a private individual? Probably not. After all, a recent US case found that the publisher had not infringed copyright.

The difficulty perhaps arises when the individual assumes that their ‘open’ image will only be used privately or for social purposes, not as part of a product in pursuit of profit.

Online training

A third, and very different, field is that of online courses.

Some online courses are open to any online user, just requiring registration with an email address, while others are only available on payment and are firmly protected behind a paywall. Either way, copyright issues need to be carefully considered for the materials used.

And it isn’t only the universities and business schools which need to think about this. Membership organisations have to ask themselves similar questions, and so does any large organisation which is offering online training modules to members or to staff. And all this applies whether you are charging for the course or not.

Everyday copyright

So, what do these apparently unconnected examples have in common?

I’d say they are all part of the way that copyright, and the need for compliance, is becoming part of everyday life for a much wider range of people. It’s not only authors, publishers, photographers etc. but also organisations, trainers and online creators of many kinds.

It’s more important than ever to make sure that the licences you rely on are robust, and that people right across your organisation know where to turn for guidance when they need it.