Tuesday, April 23, 2019

World Book and Copyright Day

(Image source: UNESCO)

This article covers the role of copyright in celebrating World Book Day.

Why 23 April?

In 1995, UNESCO decided to pay a tribute to books and authors. 23 April was chosen as World Book Day. On this date in 1616 Miguel Cervantes, William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega died. Books were first made in 1923 by booksellers in Spain as a way to honor Miguel Cervantes who died that day. It is also the birth of several prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor Laxness, Vladmir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Vallejo.

What is copyright?

Copyright provides several rights to authors for their creative works such as novels, articles, poems, plays, computer programs, films, music, drawings, paintings, photographs, etc. Copyright protects expression of ideas. Copyright does not protect ideas or facts.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property. It can be traded or licensed for use. Independent author can approach publishers to sell their work.

What is expression of ideas?

Expression of ideas refers to how facts are relayed in words, music, graphic or other element. If a teacher were to instruct students to write a composition on a topic, students shall each write a composition in their own words. Each student would have copyright over their own composition. Some student may write on a similar idea and it is alright as long as the idea is written differently.
Facts are not protected by copyright. If there are twins in the classroom, and the topic covers ‘My Father’, each twin may write similar facts about their father if they can express the idea in their own words.

What is the importance of copyright?

Copyright provides acknowledgement to authors for their creative works. Authors ought to be recognized with incentives to enhance literary activity. By recognizing the contribution of authors, it is believed that individuals and companies can continually invest in the creation of creative works.

If an author works for a company, the ownership of copyright work will go the company. In several ways, company acts as a publisher to manage works of several authors. Companies usually take risks in employing authors and disseminating copyright works.

How does copyright play a role in economy?

Copyright plays a dominant role in developed countries such as USA. Currently, USA is the largest exporter of books, information, music, films, computer programs and computer games. Copyright is important so that publishers can reinvest profits in developing new creative works. Capital reinvestment is necessary to produce creative works of quality.

How can copyright protection be obtained?

In Malaysia and several countries, copyright is obtained automatically when a work is published. There is no need for registration of work.

Authors or publishers can place a copyright notice to assert copyright claim over the work. Example of copyright notice:

Copyright 2019 Dennis Tan
Copyright 2019 Boon IP

The former shows a copyright notice asserted by an author. The latter shows a copyright notice asserted by a publisher.
In an ideal world, people respect each other’s copyright works. In reality, people may copy others work intentionally or unintentionally, and not admit to such action. In such situation, it would be difficult to prove authorship if the act of copying is denied.
Hence, it is important for authors to establish a trail of notes to help assert copyright claim. Digital works should be created on genuine software. File metadata of works should be filled. Original, editable, uncompressed file should be archived properly.

Currently, Malaysia provides voluntary notification for copyright protection. A work can be notified and deposited as evidence over the creation of a work.

What are the rights of an author?

An author is provided with economic right and moral right. Economic rights refer to rights such as right to copy, right to commercialize, right to adapt, right to prevent use of work and right to modify. Economic rights are transferable. Moral rights refer to rights such as right to claim authorship and right to prevent degradation of work. Moral rights are not transferable. Moral rights are important to authors, especially journalist, so that the author of the work can be properly acknowledged.

What is the duration of copyright?

Original creative works enjoy protection throughout the life of author plus 50 years after the author’s death. Articles, graphics, and music fall under this category. On the other hand, sound recording, films and adaptation of work last 50 years after publication of the work. After the copyright term expires, the work will fall into public domain. Currently, classical works of Shakespeare, such as Romeo & Juliet, are in the public domain.

(Source: John Danter in 1957. Romeo and Juliet literary work is in the public domain)

Can I incorporate works protected by copyright in my work? Can I review or report works protected by copyright?

Usually, permission is required to use works protected by copyright. Exclusion is made in copyright so that works that enjoy copyright protection can be reviewed or reported. Part or whole of work, depending on type of work, can be extracted for review or report purposes, without permission.

Open source works can be used without permission of the author. People have the wrong conception that open source work is free work. Actually, open source work enjoys copyright protection. Open source means that the author waives certain rights. Waivers such as use, use with modification, or non-commercial use are provided by the author to increase reach of work. There are several open source platform available that host open source images, sound, music, video, etc. Each work is usually described with a waiver.

Why would authors list their work in open source platform?

Currently, new authors are struggling to get their work recognized. Open source platform provides a stage, a boundless world, for authors to list and let clients know their capability.

Why should I bother about copyright?

Copyright is not only important to authors but to readers and users of copyright works. Authors have distinct style in expressing their work. Shakespeare was good in expressing tragedies. Stan Lee was good in relating super hero stories. J. K. Rowling is great in showing the world of wizards. As consumer, we could identify and relate to new work launched by them after we are familiar with their work. If there is no copyright, we may not be able to identify the author and it will be a great loss. Think of works with anonymous authors.

“The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money,” anonymous quote.

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