Friday Five: Copyright Edition

So, it turns out a lot of us have copyright education on the brain right now. I have my Copyright Primer series going, and other sites are exploring their own favorite topics. But we’ll start with the one that’s probably the most confusing.

1. James Bond is in the Public Domain…sort of. And that “sort of” is a doozy. When we get to Public Domain in the Primer, you’ll see just how thorny an issue Public Domain really is, but James Bond is one of those particularly treacherous copyright minefields because it not only addresses the books, but also movies, games, and any other tie-in materials that have been licensed. When we say James Bond is in the Public Domain, it’s only the Ian Fleming books that are in the Public Domain. Everything else is still under copyright protection. The other part of that “sort of” is that the Ian Fleming-written James Bond books are not in the Public Domain across the globe. They’re only in the Public Domain for those countries that signed the Berne Convention without modification. Here in the United States, Bond is under copyright protection across the board. (This is a really great case study for how Public Domain works across political and media borders.)

2. During the Primer, I’ll keep coming back to the idea that digital media is changing our relationship with and understanding of copyright, but digital technology is also forcing us to rethink the purpose of certain copyright protections. As the world changes in terms of media creation and distribution, copyright laws have to evolve to reflect the current state of things.

3. Copyright and IP protection laws are difficult to understand and apply, even for the most well-meaning. But certain myths keep persisting. (If Gawker is more your speed, io9 did a great job discussing these earlier this week.) The moral of the story here is that you should treat any statement about copyright the same way you should treat alarmist claims on Facebook: Go find a reputable source and check it out.

4. One of the myths that persists that really isn’t covered in either list is the concept of the “poor man’s copyright“. This is the idea that mailing something to yourself and then not opening it unless your copyright is challenged will provide proof of your copyright. The idea extends into digital fields, assuming that a timestamp will protect you if a copyright claim surfaces against you. There are a lot of problems with this myth, not the least of which is the fact that multiple people can legitimately come up with similar products without ever seeing or hearing about the other products. (Reseach can only do so much in some situations.) If you’re really that worried about it, registration is fairly inexpensive.

5. I recently learned that you can tell Google Images to search only for images that fit certain copyright and Creative Commons criteria. Type in your search term, and on the results page find “Search tools” at the top. When you click on it, a menu opens. Clicking on “Usage rights” brings up a selection of options including the most common Creative Commons combinations. It can be incredibly helpful when trying to find images for audiobook and e-book covers, but always check out the image thoroughly because the tool isn’t foolproof.

There you go. Five links/tips to augment the copyright primer, and to help you navigate those copy waters a bit better armed. Check back next week, when I will share five links and tips on whatever I find.

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