So, your business or product has been featured in a newspaper or magazine article and you want to share it with the world.

Are you free to do so?

You might think that because an article is about you or your business or your products that you can copy it, reproduce it, share it, or distribute it as you wish. This is not the case.

The Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988 gives authors of original work the legal right to protect their intellectual property in any creative content in which they have invested time, money and effort. The basic rule is (with a few minor exceptions) that anyone wishing to use a piece of published work for commercial use must obtain permission from the copyright owner before doing so.

Now before you go looking for shortcuts, it is worth noting that these rules apply not only to the use of whole articles but also to text extracts, quotes, headlines etc. The safest option is to ensure you have consent to use the material or risk being liable for copyright infringement.

For content published by newspapers and magazines (whether in print or online), you will need to approach the publication for permission or alternatively you can secure a licence from one of the licensing bodies (i.e. NLA media access, Copyright Licensing Agency, Publishers’ Licensing Services). These licensing bodies provide access to and licence the use of publishers works in return for a licence fee.

It is important that you obtain the necessary permissions or licence BEFORE using another’s published work.

Permission from the publisher

The best practice is to request permission directly from the publication that published the content and obtain written approval prior to using the material.

This can be done by writing to their legal or communications team; note that an editor will not be able to grant permission as this does not fall within his or her remit. If the publisher does not control the rights, they will be able to forward your letter to whoever does.

Possible outcomes:

  • No response: you will not be able to use the material without permission as this will constitute copyright infringement. Consider writing for a second time and sending the letter as registered post.
  • Granted limited rights: you must ensure that you only use the content in accordance with the permitted use.
  • Licence for a fee: more often than not a fee will be required by the publication to use the content and you may need to take a commercial view as to how much this content is worth to you. If the fee is exorbitantly high, it may be possible to negotiate with the publication to reduce the fee. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, you must not use the material.
  • Link to publication website: you may be required to include a link to the publication website whenever the content is used; if so, you will need to abide by these rules and it would be prudent to keep to keep a list of any such requirements (and ensure that this is up-to-date).

Failure to secure permission means that you will not be able to use the material. However, you could consider securing a licence from one of the licensing bodies.

Licence from a licensing body

While it may be best practice to obtain consent directly from the publication, permission to use material is more often granted in the form of a licence from a licencing body.

There are a range of different licences that are available to you and your business and you will need to choose the most appropriate to suit your needs. The benefits of obtaining such a licence means that you don’t need to obtain permission from the copyright owners directly and this removes much of the administrative burden.

The takeaway message here is simply to adopt whichever option works best for you and your business, but it is important to make sure that you do have the relevant permission in place before using any press coverage.

If you have any issues with copyright or any other aspects intellectual property you want to discuss, we at Briffa advises on all aspects of intellectual property law and practice and offers free 30-minute consultations to all new clients. If you would like to book a call or a meeting with one of our specialist IP lawyers, please contact us or call 020 7288 6003.

Written by Charlotte Murphy, Trainee Solicitor

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