Teddington Blog

A Monkey, A Dog And An Explanation of Copyright

If you film a monkey who has the copyright?

You, right?

What if you are interviewed, do you own the rights?

And if you recorded the sound?

Or if it was filmed?

What if someone uploads it to social media?

The law often struggles to keep up with society and that hasn’t been more evident then with the internet and social media.

If you post content to Facebook do you still own the rights to it?

What about Instagram?

Twitter?

Pinterest?

Vero? (Also what is Vero…)

While the law can seem archaic around these issues, it still applies, and can be extrapolated to influence modern artistic works.

 

The Basics of Copyright

Essentially the person who created the original work is usually the owner.

But what does created mean?

Well put simply it is who made the work come into the world.

So, for a drawing that’s easy, it’s who ran the pencil over the paper.

A photograph is also relatively simple, whoever activated the camera to capture the light going through it at that moment.

This means that even if someone composed the shot, placed the camera ‘just right’, adjusted the lighting then asked another person to activate the camera, the second person would own the rights.

 

Making a Monkey of Copyright

There’s even a famous case about this with a monkey.

Monkey Selfie

Essentially a photography named David Slater placed the camera, turned on, near the monkeys.

One of them, a strapping monkey named Naruto, picked up the camera and activated it.

Naruto took a selfie,

And a dazzling one at that, better then any of my attempts

But, because the monkey cannot hold copyright, as it is not human, the image is therefore in the public domain.

Free for anyone to use.

 

Videography

So,

What does that mean for video?

Well if you are the person who presses record, you are the person who owns the rights.

If the sound is recorded on the camera then you own that too.

If it’s recorded on a separate device though, then the person who activated that is in control.

This means that all the other people involved in the process,

Actors,

Directors,

Costume Designers,

Lighting Designers,

Etc,

Don’t own the rights.

Making "What If" Possible

 

Exceptions

Now there are several exceptions, the first of which is both relatively obvious and is incredibly important

 

                 Employment

If you create a work while employed by someone, you do not own the rights.

Your employer has copyright.

Under the Copyright Act 1968 you give up this ability while you are under their service.

Again with the exceptions though,

The creative work must be in the scope of the employment.

For example, if you are hired as a school cleaner and you go home and paint a modern masterpiece the school won’t own the rights.

The only person who would own them is you, ready for it to be ignored for decades before making you a fortune.

If however you were cleaning the school gym and cleaned a cool pattern on the basketball court, this ‘artwork’ could be argued to be within the scope of your employment.

This would mean that the school would own the copyright to a cool, wet pattern on their gym floor.

The example is silly, but the point is made, if you create a work while within the scope of your employment, the entity that employs you owns the rights.

 

                 Commissioned Works

In a similar idea, if you are payed to create a work then the person who payed you will become the copyright owner automatically.

For example, if I pay a local artist to cast a 10’ statue of our office dog, Lilebette, I would automatically own the copyright to that work.

Cute Dog in Skeleton Costume

If the artist thinks it is worth more then what was paid (It is a giant dog after all), then they might try to sell that and create another work for the commission.

Unfortunately for the artist, the copyright is automatically ours, so they cannot legally do this.

Nor can they create more identical 10’ statues and sell them, as that expression of the idea belongs to the person who paid for it.

 

                 Government

If a work is created for the government,

Whether that be an agency, department or otherwise,

The copyright is automatically gained by that entity.

So, if it’s made for the government, it is owned by the government.

 

Social Media

Okay so we know who starts with copyright, but what happens when we post that online?

If it’s on our private website it’s easy, it stays ours 100%.

But what really happens if you post a company logo to a social network?

Or your “8 tips for better lawn mowing” video to your personal YouTube?

The easy answer is,

It depends,

Which is easy for me to say, but not so much for you to interpret.

Generally social media networks don’t claim copyright themselves or require you to transfer copyright to them.

What they do instead is require you to allow them to use your content.

This is through the terms of service.

These differ from platform to platform but are generally similar in this regard.

So, the safe answer is you still hold copyright, just Facebook, or Instagram, or wherever you post it to can do with it as they please.

Importantly this doesn’t mean that the users of the company may,

But the social media platform may sub-lease it to them without your consent.

Generally, though, if someone else wants to use your content on the platform they must ask you,

And because you are the copyright owner you can enforce the terms of that arrangement, if you want to have one at all.

Except of course if they change it enough to warrant fair use, but that is another issue.

 

Interviews

For an interview, our exploration of copyright should give you the indication that the person being interviewed does not own the rights to the recordings.

Generally, they have the ‘idea’ but copyright protects the expression of that.

In other words, the recording, article or lip-sync music video that someone makes from the interview.

Obviously, factors are different on a case by case basis so if there’s potential for some reason otherwise you should get in touch with a trustworthy lawyer.

Making "What If" Possible

 

Computer Copyright

If a computer made something purely independently then the work is in the public domain,

However, that is an incredibly rare occurrence,

Usually it is assisting a human, in which case the human that is aided by the computer owns the copyright.

 

Conclusion

Copyright is complicated, but somethings are cut and dry.

Hopefully this should give you enough clarity to understand the basics of copyright, if you have any more serious questions I would advise contacting a lawyer.

Here at Teddington we have some great options when they aren’t full of client’s work,

I would suggest giving us a call now at 02-8096-8143 or sending us an email at info@tt.legal while there is some availability.