If you’re lucky enough to work in the vibrant greetings card industry, then I would assume you have come across copyright before. However, before we get anything copywrong, it might be useful to refresh your knowledge… and that is the exact aim of this blog.
Copyright is an unregistered intellectual property right (at least in the UK and the EU) which means that you don’t need to pay any money or go through an application process in order to benefit from its protection – this isn’t true of other rights like trade marks and patents, which need to be registered.
As well as being free, copyright also has a far longer term of protection than a lot of other intellectual property rights, broadly speaking this is 70 years from the death of the author (whereas a patent expires after 20 years). So more than enough time to properly monetise your greetings card.
However, copyright protection is fairly narrow, and normally a lot narrower than people think. Copyright allows you to prevent the copying of the whole or a substantial part of your original work. The “substantial part” in this context is a qualitative rather than a quantitative test. So it’s not about the volume of work that have been copied, instead the court will consider the copied element’s significance to the overall artistic or literary merit of the work. Unsurprisingly, this is a point which often comes up in a copyright dispute and so it’s worth getting advice on the merits of any claim before letters are sent out.
As to the monetisation of your work, well copyright can either be assigned or licenced to a third party. An assignment is pretty straightforward, this is essentially a complete sale from party A to party B. After the sale has taken place, party A will have no longer own the copyright and will have no ability to control its use. The alternative to this is a licence, this is situation in which party A allows party B to use a particular work (e.g. to publish, sell or otherwise reproduce it) in exchange for a royalty payment and subject to set a set rules around exclusivity, term, breath of use, auditing rights etc, all of which should be contained within the licence agreement. However, at all times party A remains the owner of the work and, subject to the terms of the licence, can remove party B’s permission to use it.
Hopefully that’s enough to be getting on with but, should you wish to discuss this further, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a consultation meeting. And of course, if you’re in the greetings card industry and you’re not a GCA member, stop what you’re doing and have a look at this: https://www.gca.cards/join/.
Written by Will Miles – Partner
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