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One frequently overlooked aspect of brand management is ensuring copyright compliance. Join Copyright Agent as we explore the influence that adhering to copyright standards can have on a brand's reputation and the trust it garners from its audience. We'll shed light on the legal ramifications associated with violating copyright laws and the hazards these pose to a brand.

The Link Between Copyright Compliance and Ethical Business Practices

So… your organization prides itself on staying on the right side of the law, then why should copyright law be any different? This begs the question; Why be Copyright Compliant?

Respecting intellectual property rights demonstrates an acknowledgment of the creative efforts and contributions of others, which helps to foster an overall environment of mutual respect and integrity within the business landscape.

Non-compliance can also be costly, especially for commercial entities. Despite the complexity of global copyright laws, both companies and individual website owners are expected to stay informed about copyright regulations in their jurisdictions. Ignorance of copyright law is not deemed a valid legal defense for copyright infringement, which only underscores the importance of proactively addressing these matters to mitigate the risk of receiving copyright notices for your organization.

Delve deeper into the significance of respecting copyright laws and you reveal the underlying ethos of how a business conducts itself. If a company respects and honors copyright laws, they are not only ensuring that they comply with the law, thereby reducing their legal exposure, but also underscoring their commitment to fair and principled operations. If an image is perfect for your advertising campaign, or a certain piece of music will fit your video work then support the creator, and be proud to do so. Cutting costs by not licensing content can cost you a lot more than just money.

In the case of copyright protected images, behind every image is a photographer, an image agency, a chain of people required to get that image from the camera to the internet. This is someone's work, and although there are some photographers that allow their work to be shared freely, the majority expect to be paid when their work is used. This choice, of whether an image has a monetary value to the rights holder, is the rights holder’s alone.Their rights, including the right to seek compensation, are protected internationally by copyright laws. It is not safe to assume that your use of their work is “Fair Use”, or that it is accepted by the rights holders. Their authorisation is key, and the majority of creators permit  the use of their works solely via licensing. If you’ve found “free” works, be that images, music or other art forms, it is your responsibility to check that it really is free to use for the purpose you want to use it for.

So, buying licenses for images, or for music etc, ensures that the content your organization produces is both legal and ethical. The creators get paid, your advert is a success, your ethical approach to copyright builds trust among your customers, partners, and collaborators. It’s win-win.

Real-World Examples of Non Compliance: Legal Action and Fines

For the vast majority of businesses operating online, brand management is essential. Prioritizing authenticity, brand integrity, trustworthiness, and ethical practices is critical for maintaining a positive image and client relationships in an evolving digital landscape. However, issues, like infringing someone’s copyright, can have significant consequences for a brand's reputation in a fast-paced information environment where opinions spread like wildfire.

Here are a few real life examples of companies, and they are not alone in this, who were not so fortunate and faced reputational damage due to copyright infringements;

Weiwei Vs. Skandinavisk Motor Co. A/S (2018)

Danish company, Skandinavisk Motor Co. A/S, faced criticism and legal consequences when it was discovered that the company used international artist Ai Weiwei’s artwork, Soleil Levant, in the background of an image advertising a Volkswagen car without seeking the artist’s permission prior to publishing the image in a magazine in 2018. The Danish court ruled in the artist's favor awarding approximately DKK 1.75 million for copyright infringement.

Romanova v. Vice Media LLC (2017)

Vice Media faced multiple lawsuits in the US for publishing copyright protected photographs from the photographer Jana Romanova’s photo series “Waiting”. The photographer claimed that Vice initially used one image without permission, proper licensing or accreditation leading to a confidential settlement after facing public backlash. Vice LLC then repeated the infringement, publishing a second image under similar circumstances to which a second lawsuit was filed.

Norwegian News Agency/Norsk Telegrambyrå (NTB) v. Christian Tybring-Gjedde

Norwegian politician, Christian Tybring-Gjedde published a screenshot of an NTB image on a public facing social media account. NTB via their appointed copyright protection agency issued a claim for copyright infringement which went unpaid. NTB took the matter to court with Tybring-Gjedde eventually settling the claim for the original amount plus costs, which tripled the cost to Tybring-Gjedde with NTB’s lawyer, Jon Wessel-Aas, stating in the Norwegian press that “It should have been unnecessary to go to court to have it established that one cannot just make free use of other people's photographs”.

So the end result of non compliance with copyright laws is potential legal action from content creators or copyright holders. These actions are supported internationally by copyright laws and more and more rights holders are turning to copyright protection agencies in order to assert their rights over their images. As we’ve seen in the examples above, copyright infringement can result in costly legal battles and fines, while also negatively impacting the infringing parties' brand.

Customers are increasingly conscious of ethical considerations. So if a company, organization or individual is seen as dismissive of copyright laws, they may face public backlash, including calls for boycotts and negative publicity on social media platforms.

Copyright compliance shows respect for both local and international law and by prioritizing ethical practices and demonstrating transparency, entities not only protect themselves legally but also cultivate a positive image that resonates with the public. Ultimately, a commitment to copyright compliance is a fundamental aspect of maintaining a strong and reputable brand in today's competitive marketplace.

So what are some simple steps entities can take to ensure compliance and showcase it?

Top 3 Tips on how to showcase copyright compliance

1. Use Licensed Content: Explicitly state that your company only uses content for which you hold the appropriate licenses or have obtained permission. Showcase partnerships with reputable stock photo agencies or other content providers to emphasize the use of legally sourced materials. Reputable sources also help guarantee the authenticity and quality of the content, minimizing the risk of legal issues and ensuring that your audience receives reliable and professional materials, something you don’t necessarily give them if you simply take images from a web search and publish them.

2. Attribution: Giving credit to the creator recognizes their effort, skill, and creativity in producing the content. It acknowledges their intellectual contribution to the work and allows your readers, customers and users to see that you value and respect the original source. This transparency fosters trust and credibility, showcasing your commitment to ethical practices in content usage.

3. Clear Copyright Policy: Develop and prominently display a clear copyright policy on your website and in relevant company documentation. Outline your commitment to respecting intellectual property rights and explain the steps you take to ensure compliance including self auditing content published on your platform.

Follow these steps and you are well on your way to ethical copyright compliance and simultaneously protecting your brand.

Originality, always.

Copyright Agent -

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