Copyright 101 From the photos in your brochures to theyou have with speakers, copyright laws come into play in just about every phase of the event planning process. Here are a half dozen key copyright concerns.
Notice Although not necessary to gain copyright protection, placing a copyright notice on a work is a good idea to keep away "casual infringers," those who wrongly assume that an article or handouts may be freely copied. Copyright notice should include the symbol "[C]" or the word "Copyright" in addition to the date and the owner's name. Other phrases such as "All rights reserved" or "No part of this may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright owner" may be included. Registering copyright with the Library of Congress also may be a good idea and is required before filing a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Music Licensing Unless a song is clearly within the public domain, such as "Happy Birthday," any music - live or recorded - played at an event is subject to copyright protection. Event sponsors may need copyright licenses from one or all of the music licensing organizations (ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC). Each organization has a "playlist" of music for which it is authorized to give licenses on behalf of copyright owners. They can provide you with a blanket license tailored to the meetings industry. Those organizations have stepped up enforcement. Exhibitors and planners should be careful to avoid enfringement.
Speaker Agreements Get explicit agreements from your speakers that protect your organization from claims that the speaker used copyrighted materials (e.g., a slide presentation) without permission. Speaker agreements also should ensure that the sponsor has the right to record and replay the presentation or reproduce the handouts for distribution or sale to non-attendees. Speaker agreements also should include language that allows the sponsoring organization to reproduce the presentation materials in any form or media (e.g., on the sponsor's Web site).
Photographs and Quotations If you use photographs in your promotional materials, make sure to use stock photos or obtain permission from the individuals pictured. While there is a limited "fair use" exception for news reporting that includes photos of individuals at an event, that exception does not extend to using those photographs for promotion. Permission is also required from the photographer, unless the organization owns the photos. Finally, it is a good idea to get permission from individuals or companies whose testimonials will be used.
Fair Use Many organizations distribute photocopies of articles or other materials throughout - or even outside - the company. Some not-for-profit organizations, for example, assume that the "fair use" exception to the copyright laws allows them to freely distribute others' materials. Not so. Whether the use is "noncommercial " or "educational" is only one factor. The nature of the work (how creative it is), how much of the work was copied (all of it or excerpts), and the effect on the potential market for the work (e.g., to what extent does it eliminate the need for someone to buy the material) are all important. Even if you think a use is "fair," it is prudent to obtain permission before reproducing copyrighted materials.
Mailing Lists A simple alphabetical listing of names, addresses, and telephone numbers of exhibitors, vendors, customers, and so on, is not generally protected by copyright. On the other hand, a mailing list as a whole may be protected by copyright if the information within it is organized and presented in an original, creative way. An exhibitor list, for example, may be a valuable piece of property and, if shared, exchanged with others, or sold, should be done so carefully and, perhaps, with a written agreement to protect against its inappropriate use.