COM 558: Digital Media Law & Policy final presentation


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PowerPoint presentation about online journalism, ownership and the rights of American freelance writers for my COM558 final.

Class: Digital Media Law & Policy
Spring 2013
Instructor: Kraig Baker
Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington
By Dawn Quinn.

Published in: Education
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COM 558: Digital Media Law & Policy final presentation

  1. 1. Online Journalism,Ownership & the Rights ofAmerican Freelance WritersDawn Quinn | MCDM Cohort 12COM558 | Baker | June 2013
  2. 2. Modern Wordsmiths,Modern Issues Today online journalists, freelance writers andbloggers all have a variety of mediums in which topublish their writing, thanks to the Internet But with new opportunities come new challengesand concerns over legal rights, ownership and howcontent creators can re-use their own work withoutfear of breaking the law. Their copyright is literallytheir livelihood Thus, what ownership rights do freelance writershave over their articles when writing for onlinepublications, blogs or magazines?
  3. 3. Copyright BasicsAt its base, The Copyright Act of 1976 covers five basic rights for originalworks of authorship in a fixed medium to copyright owners (traditionally,the writer or content creator):reproduction: the right to create identical or substantially similarcopies of the work;adaptation: the right to create derivatives of the original work, such asabridgments, translations and versions in other media (book to film, songto music video, etc.);distribution: the right to make the first sale of each copy of the work;performance: the right to recite, play, dance or act the work publicly;and display: the right to show the work publicly, directly or by means offilm, slide, TV image or other device.These rights often get muddled when a writer creates an article for apublication.
  4. 4. Exceptions to CopyrightOwnership When writers are employed by a publication orcompany, the copyright of all creative works thatresult from the employment belongs to theemployer, (ex: my writing for the Tacoma Weeklynewspaper while employed there belongs to theTacoma Weekly) Made for hire scenarios (more on the next slide) Lastly, if the writer has sold a copyright to aparticular work, the entity, business or personwho bought the work then owns the copyright
  5. 5. “Made For Hire” If an individual writes for a company as an independent contractor with a “madefor hire” stipulation, the person/organization that requested the work owns thecopyright if a few requirements are in place. If the work is: 1) a part of a larger literary work, such as an article in a magazine or a poemor story in an anthology; 2) part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, such as a screenplay; 3) a translation; 4) a supplementary work such as an afterword, an introduction, chart,editorial note, bibliography, appendix or index; 5) a compilation; 6) an instructional text; 7) a test or answer material for a test; or 8) an atlasCreative works that can’t be categorized in any of the eight ways above areworks made for hire only if created by an employee while under the employof the company.
  6. 6. Transference of copyrights andlicensesIf a writer wishes to sell their work, they can either transfer certain rights to the work or allrights to the business of individual who will buy and market the work. The owner can alsostipulate limitations to the exclusive rights being transferred. There are a few ways to goabout this:Examples of copyright limitations: the copyright owner may require that the right beexercised only through certain media, such as magazines or films, allow the right to beexercised only in a specific part of the country or world, or limit the transfer to a specific periodof timeIf a copyright owner transfers ALL rights, this is called an “assignment.” When only somecopyrights are transferred, it’s called a “license.” An exclusive license exists when thetransferred rights can be exercised only by the owner of the license (the licensee), not eventhe person who granted the license (the licensor). The license is non-exclusive if it grantsother individuals (including licensor) the same rights being transferred in the licenseBuyers of exclusive and non-exclusive copyright rights can record the transfers in the U.S.Copyright Office. This helps to protect them in the event that the original copyright ownerattempts to transfer the same rights to another individual or businessCopyright ownership transfers are unique in that authors or their heirs can end any transferof copyright ownership 35 to 40 years after it is madeIn order to transfer copyright(s), there must be a contract
  7. 7. ContractsA few things/phrases to look out for when reviewing writing contracts:Specific rights: Magazines, for example, request First North American SerialRights (FNASR) which grants the publication the right to be the first to printyour work in North America. After it’s printed, the rights revert back to you Depending upon your clients and market, you could see First Europeanrights, etc. Other rights: One-Time Rights, which allow an entity to printyour piece only once, and Reprint Rights, which grants the publisher toprint your work again after the initial printing You or a publication can decide whether or not the work can be re-usedagain at a later date in a different publication. Ex: In the event you wantto re-work an online magazine article into a print magazine articleThis is where you can insert a clause that allows you to use the work again inthe future for promotional purposes in different types of mediaBe ready and prepared to negotiateIf you want extra protection, you can file a copyright with the U.S. CopyrightOffice
  8. 8. No contract?Sometimes opportunities come up to write a piece for a publicationwithout a written contract, especially for the Internet. To turn it down,or not? Contemplate these things before agreeing to the assignment:Copyright law states that any published work without a writtencontract automatically grants FNASR to the publisherAsk about rights if you have questions or concerns. Clarify whichrights are being granted, where the piece will be published, andnegotiate if necessary Questions to ask: If it’s an online publication, will the piece remain onlineindefinitely? Would the publication be willing to remove the piece from theirsite in the future if requested? Will your bio, website or byline be on thepiece? Is the byline on a piece at this particular publication worth pursuing,even without a contract?Write your own agreement. State exactly what you’re willing to grantand discuss it with the editor or publisher
  9. 9. Blogging and onlinepublicationsWeb content, including blogs, is protected under U.S. copyright law. A few things tonote: Without a contract, all content written for a blog inherently belongs to theauthor. Ex: you’re writing a guest post for a friend’s blog. Unless yourblogger friend has a written policy that states all content on the blog belongsto the blog owner, regardless of who wrote it, your content is still your own Bloggers vs. reporters: Among other things, bloggers often do not have thetraining or background to know whether what they’re doing is legal. It’simperative to have an understanding of journalism laws before proceedingwith blogging if you have concerns Have a solid understanding of what copyright infringement and fair use are.Make sure you receive permission to repost someone else’s work andunderstand how to quote and use snippets. This is allowed, but be sureyou’re doing it to add commentary, and not to pass off the quote/writing asyour own work To bypass worrying about copyright infringement, utilize the wealth of worksavailable with Creative Commons licenses and in the public domain
  10. 10. Other Issues Joint authorship: When a work is written by two or more authors: “withthe intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable orinterdependent parts of a unitary whole.” If you wrote a piece equallywith another writer, you need the other author’s permission beforeentering into any exclusive licenses. Each author can do what theywant with their portion of the copyright. Joint authorships can be tricky.Enter them at your own risk and with a clear contract Orphan works: if the publication/company you wrote a piece for (andgave your copyright[s] to) goes out of business, your copyright goeswith it. This is a huge issue today as many publishing houses are stillattempting to figure out monetization Laws differ between the U.S. and other countries. Know the lawsbefore signing contracts These laws are changing everyday as new publishing mediums (andways to monetize them) evolve. It would be smart practice to reviewcopyright law updates every year to see what changes and how it mayaffect you
  11. 11. How to Survive and Thrive If you’re an online writer, it behooves you to thoroughlyread your contracts and state which copyrights you’rewilling to give up when writing for a publication or craftingan article, (if any) If you have to give up some or all copyrights when writingan article, negotiate for a higher rate or commission Giving up all copyrights to a work should be a last resort.This is the least desirable scenario for an author Make sure there’s a statement about using the work forpromotional purposes, such as your portfolio, written intocontracts Consult with an intellectual property lawyer if you havespecific contract questions
  12. 12. Sources