Opinions

5 misconceptions about copyright for professionals

Posted by Miles McNamee on July 28th, 2014 at 9:30 am

Where would your company be without published information? Whether you’re researching advances in cloud computing and security, sharing best practices for risk management, staying abreast of industry and legislative regulations, or helping companies expand into new markets, you know  sharing published information is vital to giving your clients sound guidance.

Much of the content used and shared by those in the professional services industry is copyright-protected. In fact, the 2013 Information Consumption and Use Study conducted by research and advisory firm Outsell, Inc., revealed  40% of the content shared by professionals comes from outside sources.

Content sharing is up; copyright awareness is not. Outsell’s research found more than half (55%) of those surveyed in the professional services industry either don’t know if their organization has a copyright policy or don’t know what’s in it.

There are five common misconceptions about using copyrighted content:

1. THERE'S NOT MUCH SHARING GOING ON AT OUR ORGANIZATION
Sharing is pervasive in the professional services workplace. Those surveyed in the professional services industry reported sharing content frequently—an average of four times per week, with an average of five people each time.

Whether these articles come from InformationWeek, Computing Now, The Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg Markets, the use of published materials is essential. But the sharing goes beyond that. Plenty of content sharing happens throughout your organization, from Human Resources and Sales and Business Development, to Corporate Communications and Marketing.

2. ONCE OUR COMPANY HAS PAID FOR AN ARTICLE, WE’RE FREE TO SHARE IT
When you purchase an article, you’re buying one individual copy. Unless the license associated with the article authorizes creating or distributing additional copies, you probably need additional permission to share that article with others, whether inside or outside your firm.

3. THE SUBSCRIPTIONS WE PURCHASE ALLOW US TO USE MATERIAL FREELY
Not all institutional subscriptions are created equal. Although some include accompanying rights, such as the right to save, store, print and copy content, others include only some (or even none) of those rights. Some subscriptions may allow content to be shared internally with a limited number of colleagues, but not with larger internal groups, much less external clients. It’s risky to assume the scope of your subscription covers every activity.

4. ARTICLES AVAILABLE ONLINE ARE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN AND ARE FREE FOR THE TAKING Online availability of articles does not mean copyright holders have given up their rights to their works. It also doesn’t mean these works are in the public domain. Under U.S. copyright law, the term “public domain” refers to works that are not covered by copyright, for example, because the copyrights have expired or because the works were written by the federal government. Publicly accessible content is not necessarily in the public domain. It’s likely to be copyright-protected, and thus, you need appropriate permission to copy and share it.

5. COPYRIGHT COMPLIANCE ISN’T THAT BIG A DEAL
According to Outsell’s research, two-thirds (67%) of industry professionals believe protecting their organization’s intellectual property (IP) is critical or very important. The same respect for third-party IP rights is also critical. Further, beyond the ideal of reciprocal fair play, copyright infringement claims can cut into your organization’s bottom line and taint its reputation.

Given that it is easy to forget to comply with copyright laws, an organization needs to write and have a copyright policy in place to prevent infringement. Proper education and licensing, such as Copyright Clearance Center’s annual license, can also ensure that your organization takes the steps necessary to consume and share content safely.

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