21 March 2017

Copyright Policies

In advance of a workshop about copyright policies,  I wanted to put together some key thoughts based on my experiences over the years of drafting organisational copyright and IP policies for a variety of clients, including museums, libraries, NGO’s, Universities etc.

The first thing to say is that almost always, a copyright policy is more than just a piece of paper. To truly be effective, it is an articulation of a set of organisational beliefs, a statement of aspiration and a confirmation of the ways in which staff are expected to behave. In essence, a copyright policy is therefore the high level organisational statement that supports a culture of rights awareness and the objective of balancing corporate legal responsibilities, sustainability opportunities, risk management and ethics.

Moreover, a copyright policy is a complex set of principles which have been championed by Directors, supported by HR and bought into by all staff. Without this level of support, it will inevitably, at best be viewed as irrelevant and impractical and at worse, languish as shelf-ware.

Model of Copyright Compliance Indeed, a copyright policy can only be effective as part a much broader organisational buy into rights management. In order to articulate this, I have developed the Copyright Compliance Model (above), which is a systemic organisational approach to rights management, which I believe is necessary for organisations to ensure that best copyright practice is embedded into organisational culture and behaviours, supported by a top down bottom up recognition of its importance and the tools necessary to do it. This means that a copyright policy is intrinsic to cultural change, but not the sole means to achieve it, nor the only organisational commitment to such a crucial issue.

Of course at the base of any copyright policy, and the heart of cultural acceptance of rights management being core to activities, is staff awareness – training, training, training. Whether procedures and tools change, policies adapt, new staff start, circumstances shift and/or legislation is updated, staff working in any organisation need to know what they should do, what they should use, when, how, with whom and why. They need a forum for questions, a chance to discuss and more than anything, an opportunity to grow in proficiency and knowledge, so that they can feel confident and safe to make good calls, and know when they don’t know and need to ask.

So, in essence, a copyright policy needs to be supported, embedded and constantly reiterated – it is a clear and certain message that an organisation takes its role towards rights, permissions and risks seriously, and it is prepared to do what it needs to do in order to support a culture of compliance, opportunity and responsibility. One where the critical balance between legal responsibilities, sound ethical practices and pragmatism can be easily achieved.

© Naomi Korn, 2016. Some Rights Reserved. The information here is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike Licence (CC BY SA)



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