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By Thomas Baekdal - August 2013

Sources and Copyright

There is an interesting discussion in my country about copyright. The whole thing started after a scientist, who had been interviewed for an article, decided to republish it on his own site. The newspaper then demanded he took it down and issued a copyright fine of $2,000.

Okay, let's ignore the specific case and instead talk about the concept. Who actually owns the copyright of stories in which the contents come from someone being interviewed?

In the past, and because ordinary people had no means of publishing, we assumed that the copyright would fall upon the publication publishing it. So when a journalist interviewed a person, we assumed the newspaper owned the copyright.

But now that we live in the connected world, in which everyone can publish anything, that whole concept is up for debate.

In my country, the copyright law states:

The person creating a literary or artistic work shall have copyright therein, be it expressed in writing or in speech as a fictional or a descriptive representation, or whether it be a musical or dramatic work, cinematographic or photographic work, or a work of fine art, architecture, applied art, or expressed in some other manner.

In other words, the copyright belongs to the creator, not the mediator. And while a journalist might claim that they created the article, it was the person they interviewed who created the actual story.

Also, what is a copyright? Is it the exact construction of the sentences on a page ... or is it the contents of the interview? If it's the construction, the copyright falls to the journalist, but if it's the interview, the copyright belongs to the person being interviewed.

Also, my country's copyright law is specifically protecting against reproduction (as with the law in most other countries). What is reproduction?

Any direct or indirect, temporary or permanent reproduction, in whole or in part, by any means and in any form, shall be considered as reproduction.

In other words, if a newspaper interviews a person, what the person says belongs to him/her. So essentially, when a newspaper interview you, you are only granting them a non-exclusive right to reproduce it, but you still own what you said.

So republishing the article, in which you are interviewed on your own site, can't be a breach of the newspaper's copyright because they never owned the copyright to begin with ... or did they?

See the dilemma? The connected world isn't linear.

The issue at play here is really not about copyright. It's about the shift. It's about how limitations of the past caused us to create the assumption that the person publishing an article was also the creator. But now that everyone can publish, we start to realize just how much content that is being produced in which the actual creator is not also the publisher.

As the copyright law says: "be it expressed in writing or in speech."

And it's about what I have been saying for a long time. You need to stop being the 'bringer of news' and focus instead on being the creator of news.

What do you think?

Keep in mind, I'm not a lawyer, but it's a fascinating discussion.

(Image via MIKI Yoshihito )


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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