CILIP Copyright Executive Briefing – April 2016

On 7 April I attended this event, which is an annual event for copyright professionals. It is not just for HE; there were delegates there from a very wide range of sectors, such as museums, law firms, ande government institutions such as the Department of Health. There was even someone from Algeria on the attendance list!

Authors’ perspectives

One of the most interesting talks for me was the first one, given by the Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, Nicola Solomon. She explained how to get authors ‘on side’ if you wish to re-use works where the rights belong to them, such as in digitisation projects or any project involving publication. Typical examples of such projects are exhibition catalogues, and reproducing letters or photographs relating to a certain event online. Nicola suggested ways of getting authors on side, including:

  • offering payment (if possible)
  • offering involvement in the project (thereby offering them opportunities for promotion of their work)
  • making applications to authors to use their work as easy for them to deal with as possible (e.g., not using legal language)
  • explaining the purpose of the project and how their work fits in.

She reminded us that many of us are rightsholders ourselves, and encouraged us therefore to put ourselves in the shoes of creators are primarily professional authors. That can include us; I know many City staff have written articles and blogs, and we will in some cases own the copyright to these (unless we have signed it over to a publisher or done it directly as part of our employment). I was rather shocked to find that authors can only expect to earn on average £11,000 per year from their writing – so many of them really can’t afford to lose any income from copyright infringing activities. I don’t know to what extent academic authors are included in this average figure, but even if they are, they do usually have institutional salaries as well to depend on – they depend less on their writing than other types of authors. (Unless they happen to be lucky enough to write the definitive textbook, possibly…)

Finally, Nicola offered a salutary story of a highly reputable institution (which I am not going to name here!) that got it wrong with regard to a certain well-known and still-living author, resulting in a certain amount of embarrassment, as you can imagine. Reputational damage is one of the big risks of getting this sort of thing wrong: this was not mentioned at the event, but one educational institution was required by a court to display a notice on the homepage of their website for six months stating that they had infringed an organisation’s copyright after they were found guilty of this. (Not that I’m trying to scare you or anything!)

Copyright in copies

One question that I am sometimes asked is if there is copyright in a photograph taken of an artwork. There has been some disagreement over this. Some claim that the skill and judgement required in taking a successful photo of an exhibited painting merits a photographer claiming copyright on the photo, and it is true that taking a good photo in these circumstances is much harder than it may appear. In another presentation, Tim Padfield, one of the major authorities on copyright in archives in this country, argued that this this is not the case (and backed up his argument with quotes from a number of legal judgements), saying that technical skill should not be confused with creative skill. He also said that the only scenario where he could imagine a copy of something being protected by copyright is if someone sits on a photocopier and makes a copy of their posterior. Too much information I think…

Copying with cameras

Jane Rosen, Librarian of the Imperial War Museum, gave a presentation on their use of photography permits. Taking photos of copyrighted documents (subject to the limitations of Fair Dealing) is permitted – the British Library allows it subject to certain conditions (see Photocopying for users used to be carried out by staff, but this became untenable when they had been subjected to massive cuts, so they introduced a photography permit for self service copying, which has been extremely successful and popular with users. It is also an increasing source of revenue, as they make a charge for these permits, which was very useful as the library had been challenged about not generating enough revenue for the institution.

Copyright games

The final presentation I’m going to write about is one given by Dr Jane Secker (LSE) and Chris Morrison (University of Kent), giving advice on copyright training and describing the benefits of using games in this, in their ‘mission to make copyright engaging, fun and empowering’. It can be difficult for people to interact with copyright positively, because it is so complicated and can seem threatening, so it is important to try to break down these barriers. Their suggestions include:

  • embedding copyright training into other information literacy training
  • avoiding jargon
  • emphasising the exceptions that the academic and education community have available to them, which allow acts to be carried out for specific purposes that would not normally be permitted
  • engaging interested people, for example by having copyright champions
  • using games to try and make it fun and to get people thinking about for themselves

Many of you have played ‘Copyright: the Card Game’ which Chris and Jane developed, in training sessions that I ran (with a slightly adapted version of the game) and my impression was that it worked in engaging you! I have also started running copyright training for academics, although I brand it as ‘Copyright briefing and workshop’ – I’ve chosen the word ‘briefing’ as I have a hunch that the word ‘training’ may put academics off, and I encourage people to bring their own real-life copyright questions or problems, hence ‘workshop’. I did not play the card game, although I may do in future, but I did use voting software, which definitely livened up the sessions, and led to positive feedback, including: ‘extremely informative (which I was hoping for) and fun (which I was not expecting)!’.


So I found that this briefing was a very varied and immersive day – all of the presentations were of great interest, and as usual the opportunity to talk to other HEI copyright officers was instructive and reassuring. Discussing current issues that I’m dealing with made me realise that my thinking and feelings about these issues do correspond with other peoples’!

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