Let’s talk about copyright…

April 25, 2018


Copyright is a legal right which comes in handy for those of you who like to create. Whether it be writing, photographing or inventing once your idea is physically expressed and tangible you automatically qualify for copyright. Copyright law provides a framework of rules which you, the creative can use to your benefit. Your copyright gives you the legal right to sell, copy, share or change your work whilst also preventing others. With copyright you have full control. No one can go on to exercise any of the above stated activities without your permission. Sounds useful right? Especially for you, the creative.

So let’s continue…As great as copyright sounds it’s not as easy of a right to exercise in regards to the world of social media. The internet has undoubtedly changed the way we express. Sharing your work with the world has never been so easy. The endless possibilities of online exposure are a temptation many of you creatives will not resist. But before you rush off to tweet about an idea you have, or Instagram an original photograph let’s all agree on something…Once it’s out there your originality is at risk. Exercising your copyright becomes a little confusing and a little bit fuzzy once social media has its hands on your work. The truth is anything which you share through the internet can easily be copied, adapted, or shared without your permission.

Let’s talk about photography and copyright…

Under the law photographs are owned by the person who takes the photo unless he/she is acting on behalf of someone else e.g. employer or if there is an agreement which assigns copyright to someone else. Pretty straight forward rule right? Ideally yes! Realistically no.

For example ‘The Red Bus’ case illustrates the inconsistences of this law when applied to the digital world of sharing photographs online. In this case an iconic and modern photograph featuring a red bus against a black and white background of London Westminster was produced by Mr Fielder.  The photograph was to be used on souvenirs by Temple Island Collections Ltd. The image circled the internet for its unique and interesting style. Mr Fielder had clearly worked and manipulated the image to express his initial idea and people seemed to appreciate his work. An issue regarding copyright began when Mr Fielder expressed that an image printed on tea tins by New English Teas reproduced a substantial part of his red bus photograph. The image photographed by Mr Hougton and used by New English Teas was not a replica of Mr Fielder’s original photo however, the design, structure and colour scheme of the image was very similar to the red bus photograph. Mr Hougton argued against any copyright infringement as he felt the copyright law did not apply as the photo he had taken was sufficiently different from Mr Fielder’s work. Mr Houghton believed it was unfair for Mr Fielder to hold monopoly of on all black and white photographs of Westminster consisting of a red bus. The court ruled in favour of Mr Fielder stating that Mr Hougton did in fact copy a substantial part of Mr Fielder’s photograph. The decision was based on the presence of obvious similarities between the two images and also Mr Hougton’s exposure to the original image before creating his own.

Let’s talk about protection…

Don’t be alarmed! There are methods which you can use to protect your work whilst still enjoying the world of social media.

Watermark your work people! If you are tempted to post that original picture but don’t want to put your credibility at risk this is the way forward. Digital watermarking is a technique used by many creatives online. A digital watermark can be added to any photo you may have. A digital watermark will make sure you get your credit by illustrating your copyright. It will become harder to copy or share your work online without your unique watermark on display.

A copyright notice can also be attached to any social media account or work published on to a digital platform. This is another easy and useful technique to consider. A copyright notice is a simple statement which informs users that copyright exist and ownership of the work posted belongs to you the publisher.

Finally the best advice of all. Protect your rights wisely. Get in touch with Briffa. Our Creative IP lawyers will ensure you’re protected online the right way.

Assal Sharhani (Work Experience Student)


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