Saturday, June 29, 2013

Copyright Law in NZ - Legal and Financial Issues Part One.

Goodness, what a week!  It's been amazing how much response I've had from this new blog, and I've now got a few more new clients as a result.  It all works together with my other marketing endeavours, but wow – so much time goes into it all!
Today we start looking at the Legal and Financial Issues with self-publishing from NZ.  Please be reminded that I am not a professional (hense the crap writing style!) and I am not trained formally in the art of self-publishing – but who is these days???  Neither am I a financial, tax or legal advisor.  Good, glad we got that cleared up.  [Ergo, this is not legal advice – follow at your own risk.]
This post is the start of looking at what you need to think about before you start publishing online.  We will cover things like Copyright, Royalty-free, Common/Public Domain Material, and Digital Rights Management (DRM) – as this is pertaining to all of this.
Ok, so Copyright.  What is Copyright?
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time.  Generally, it is "the right to copy", but also gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work, to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, who may perform the work, who may financially benefit from it, and other related rights.
What does that mean?  It means you can't use any works, writing, pictures, illustrations, or any sort of media that does not belong to you without the express written permission from the original artist – the person who created that work, or the person who owns that work – has purchased the rights to it.  If you do use works without permission, you are in breach of copyright laws in NZ and many countries around the world.  You can be charged, taken to court, and be made to pay HEAPS of money.  OUCH!
So, if you are writing a picture book, you have to have permission from your illustrator to use their illustrations (if you haven't outright purchased them).  If you are writing a blog, any picture you post, you need permission to use it.  If you are adding an image to your story, you need to ask the person who took that photo for permission to use that image.  It's not enough just to ask the person whose photo was taken, you need to ask the photographer if you can use their image as it belongs to them.  Using someone else's copyright material without permission is stealing, and to me it feels a little like eating gum off the footpath – regurgitated and sloppy!
If you use a pic from someone else's blog or article thinking they have permission to use that pic, you could be liable.  You can't just say, 'But they used it and I thought that I could use it too.'  You need permission from the copyright owner.  This is why I have a major problem with Pinterest – nobody is taking responsibility for the copyright infringement, even Pinterest itself.  You signed up saying you would take responsibility for the copyright of each and every image you re-pin and use.  EVERY re-pined image!  Bummer if you didn't check out the facts before you re-pinned and got done for it, aye?!!!
I use royalty free stock images from Stock.xchng and cite the photographer as requested.  I have also used images from NASA's website as they are royalty free or in the public domain.  NASA requires that I state where the images were found using their exact wording in the copyright pages of my ebooks.  I used only space images from this NASA site so I wasn't in breach of someone else's copyright.
Royalty-free, or RF, refers to the right to use copyrighted material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use or per volume sold, or some time period of use or sales.
Works in the public domain are those whose intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable.
My ebook Rocket Boy Twinkle Star is the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star song illustrated with images of the stars from NASA's website.  The whole book is material from common or public domain and as a result, when publishing this kids ebook I was asked to 'Verify Your Publishing Rights'.  I had to tick that the ebook was public domain work.  As a result I was not able to enter this ebook into the Kindle Select Programme for lending through the Kindle Owners Lending Library, AND I was only allowed to receive 35% royalties on any sales, no matter how I priced the ebook.
Digital Rights Management, or commonly called DRM, is a tricky subject.  There is a bit of political hoo-haa around this issue, and most of the IT world hates it, including my wonderful and amazing IT hubby whom I love very much!  (Please don't rant, please don't rant, please don't rant...)
Digital rights management (DRM) is a class of controversial technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to control the use of digital content and devices after sale; there are, however, many competing definitions.  With First-generation DRM software, the intent is to control copying while Second-generation DRM schemes seek to control viewing, copying, printing, and altering of works or devices.  The term is also sometimes referred to as copy protection, copy prevention, and copy control, although the correctness of doing so is disputed.
When publishing a new ebook on Amazon, you will be asked: 'Select a digital rights management (DRM) option.'  They give you the option and explain what DRM is for those who don't know.  They state that some authors choose not to have DRM but those who do can still lend their ebook.  Once you have published the ebook you can't undo this option.  More here:
Our philosophy is that because we don't mind giving away copies of our ebooks for promotional purposes, then we don't really mind who ends up with our ebooks.  What we are not so keen on is if someone steals our ebooks and sells them for their own profit – NOT OK!  I'm sure it's more philosophical than this for my genius hubby (please don't rant) but I warn you, if you ask him he will get very animated and his voice will go all squeaky!
I often search an image of my cover on Google Images to see where it pops up, just in case it's been stolen and is being sold on some dodgy online ebook retailer in some crazy country that has really terrible copyright laws.
So, the moral of the story is, Copyright protects the owner of the art, writing, picture, music, tv, etc; it's important to get permission to use someone else's material, or you can use royalty-free or public domain material.  DRM is crazy but you have a choice.  So – don't steal, don't cheat, and don't eat someone else's footpath gum!
More information on Banking and International Cheques, Withholding Tax and US Tax Numbers, Self-Publishing Contracts, and Working with Contractors in our next Legal and Financial Issues post.
If you have any further questions, please comment below or email us from the contacts tab above.
Peace and Love ~ Joy

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