Week 3 Blog: Copyright & Contracts
I’m sitting in bed, mindlessly searching and reading political agendas of global government parties, when I expectedly come across the infamous Nazi Party. For whatever reason, I explore their Wikipedia page and due to an impulsive curiosity , began exploring Adolf Hitler’s history. What intrigued me was my forgotten knowledge on Hitler’s 1925 political autobiography, ‘Mein Kampf’. I began looking at the history and legality of the book and found, coincidentally, that the copyright had expired due to German Copyright Laws stating “the copyright expires seventy years after the author’s death” (Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz, 2016). In 2016, 70 years had passed since the death of Adolf Hitler, making ‘Mein Kampf’ freely accessible on the public domain. Further, Adolf Hitler had no direct relatives to pass his estate and belongings down to, therefore, the state of Bavaria held the copyright of ‘Mein Kampf’ as a result of Hitler’s residence in Munich at the time of his death (Third Reich in Ruins, 2000).
Copyright is very important for anyone within the creative industry as it restricts people claiming intellectual and physical property as their own and monetising it for profit. In regards to ‘Mein Kampf’, when copyright expires, it becomes free to access and allows any user to have “unlimited creativity” with the property without restrictions (Cornell University, 2009).
Whilst writing this blog, I have realised how bland talking about copyright is. Most people have a fairly good grasp on what copyright is and how it applies to them. People know that if they pirate movies or songs that they are infringing the copyright act in some way, just like if someone publicly displays another’s content to make money without permission to do so. Therefore, it’s a fair assumption that a few individuals may find copyright a bitch at times! But as I stated earlier, for us as creatives, with hopefully a future in personal creations, copyright cannot be more of a godsend. We don’t want to spend years and years designing a perfect song, game, movie, animation or artwork, just to have it claimed by someone else as soon as we complete it!
One of my paranoid fears is listening to new music and hearing a familiar riff or rhythm and likening that to a song that I’ve created. What I fear is that all that effort I put into creating this song will be for nothing, because of the potential lawsuit if I publish my creation. Though this is very unlikely, this is a limitation of copyright; unknowingly infringing someone’s copyright will reduce your creative output!!!
“A contract is a legally binding or valid agreement between two parties” (The Law Handbook, 2015). Contracts can exist in many forms for many different business types. In the case for audio, a contract may be considered for record deals, radio air time, manager/band agreements and many more.
According to The Law Handbook, a trusted Australian source for laws, a contract must consist of 6 elements for it to be deemed valid:
- “Offer and acceptance”
- “An intention between the parties to create binding relations”
- “Consideration to be paid for the promise made”
- “Legal capacity of the parties to act”
- “Genuine consent of the parties”
- “Legality of the agreement”
- (The Law Handbook, 2015)
Without these elements, a contract may be considered invalid and within the creative industry, can cause property that you have created to be owned and copyrighted by a corporation, business or individual you made the agreement with. This is obviously something nobody wants, but I’m sure day-to-day this happens contently.
Though not set in stone and by no means a completed list, these are a few elements of a contract you should look out for before signing your life away:
- Who are you signing the contract for? Is this the party that you though you were dealing with?
- What are the terms? Do the terms suit you? Is there anything you do not agree with?
- “Automatic renewals”! If you initially sign on to work for 3 years (for example), does the contract automatically renew itself for another 3 years? Do you plan on leaving this job after 3 years?
- Who is held accountable for liability issues? Does the company hold you responsible for any losses?
- What are your rights?
- Termination? Are there any causes or reasons that allow you to terminate your contract early?
It’s extremely important going into the creative industry to know and understand what copyright and contracts are, as well as understanding the terms, laws and agreements made between yourself and another party.
Contracts are also not only apart of the creative industry, they apply for almost anything! The term and conditions that you must except to update iTunes is a type of contract. However, unlike Apple’s 10 volume document on what you can and cannot do with iTunes, other contracts for jobs and creative freedom must be scrupulously read. What is commonly refereed to as the ‘fine print’ is very important to find and read, as most of the time within the small text extraordinarily relevant and crucial information is hidden that could decide if what you’re signing for is worth it or not!
Finally, when you are considering creating something for the public to enjoy and share, be careful of how you get it out there! When you create something the copyright is automatically assigned to you, the creator, but if you decide to promote, sell or otherwise, be cautious about who that copyright ultimately goes to, because if it’s not you, you may find yourself plagiarising, promoting or selling the item illegally without you even realising (until that court letter is sent to you!).
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Copyright Act, (1968)
Cornell University. (2009, January 1). Public domain frequently asked questions. Retrieved July 5, 2016, from Teaching Copyright, https://www.teachingcopyright.org/handout/public-domain-faq
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