Copyright Agency holds Copyright CPD session with Holman Webb Lawyers

November 28, 2018

The Copyright Agency recently held a CPD session for lawyers on copyright, in partnership with the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Australia and Holman Webb Lawyers.

In-house lawyers had the opportunity to hear pointers on how to assess copyright risk and implement a framework for creative outputs and software within their organisations.

Holman Webb Partner, Tal Williams introduced the session by outlining that copyright education amongst employees is key. “Copyright is a big issue and many disputes involve ex-employees or derive from the fact that contractual obligations around copyright were not thought about upfront,” he says.

Copyright Agency Senior Licensing Consultant, Greg Taylor, talked through key copyright concepts and addressed common myths. “Working in businesses, staff are going to come into contact with copyright material; generally, the level of understanding around that is low or there can be misconceptions around it, which creates a risk of them unwillingly infringing copyright,” he says.

Both discussed the key factor of what constitutes a ‘substantial part’ of a work, and shared some telling examples. Tal says, “In one case I came across, 250,000 lines of codes were developed for an organisation by an employee. The employee left and they copied 800 lines of the 250,000 lines… that was enough to be substantial [and therefore a copyright infringement] as it was part of the core functionality of the website and essential to make it work.”

Greg adds, “There is a myth that you don’t need permission if you copy less than 10% of a work. In fact, using even a very small part of someone’s else work can still require permission, if it’s an important or integral part and was the result of the creator’s skills and time. Australian copyright law allows the use of 10% without permission only in special circumstances, such as personal research or study in an academic context.”

Copyright ownership was also raised as an area of confusion. “If the content creator is on staff and the work is created as part of their job usually their employer owns the copyright. If the content creator is a freelancer then they usually retain copyright unless the contract specifies otherwise. For example, photos taken for a particular campaign might not be able to be used for another purpose without asking permission first,” explains Greg.

Real-life situations where copyright has been an issue are numerous. Says Tal, “The lesson of this is: educate employees, never assume anything, and lock contractual obligations when it comes to copyright.”