Creators' Rights Alliance - Manifesto for creators - 7: You need the facts
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What is needed - 7

There are already some excellent projects in the UK aimed to increase understanding of the value of creative works. For instance, there are workshops at the British Library Business & IP Centre provided by the Intellectual Property Office, and advice services for the business community from Business Link. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), has projects in the development of the curriculum on citizenship aimed at highlighting plagiarism and associated issues in the education sector.

Consumer-oriented initiatives such as the acclaimed “Knock-Off Nigel” campaign by the Industry Trust for IP Awareness are also helpful. They go some way to underlining the message that piracy is not a victimless crime. However, while recent research1 suggests that consumers continue to make the connection between piracy and crime and piracy and loss in revenues such as taxation, there is little evidence that consequent losses to creators with low economic status or, indeed, loss of future creativity itself, are seen as significant.

Content providers also have a role to play in promoting an understanding of IP rights and the balance between creators and users. The pilot BBC Creative Archive project2 (CA), for example, provides strong messages regarding user interaction with works within the archive. This is an ideal point-of-contact opportunity for the BBC and its partners to ensure that rights awareness messages are communicated, especially the possible public misconception that BBC CA content is all publicly owned material. It is not. A great deal of it is licensed from creators and this should be made explicit.

Unfortunately, there are many instances where consumers’ knowledge of intellectual property rights is basic at best.

For instance, the Association of Photographers (AoP) have found that members of the public rarely understand that copyright exists in photographs as it does in other media forms – for example, music. Currently this situation is being abused by broadcasters and newspapers who encourage amateur photographers to submit images for publication or broadcast. The standard terms and conditions of these companies provide for an assignment of copyright from amateur photographers, who in general are not aware of their rights. (The cynicism with which some of these terms are written is underlined when they require an indemnity against defamation or other actionable liabilities that exposes the unwitting contributor to potentially very large uninsured risks.)

This movement harms the field of professional photography and encourages a lack of respect for the medium. It is also a missed opportunity to encourage best practice and educate casual IP creators – knowledge of intellectual property issues should encompass all sectors, from students, creators and users to the general public.

The failure to educate is widespread. It is striking that even in specialist education for creative subjects, students are not made fully aware of their rights and how to deal with them in business.

As a measure of the seriousness of the problem, for example, the AoP has invested significantly in education materials for the general public, as well as for the industry, in order to raise awareness about copyright.

Many students in design or media courses at colleges and universities leave with no copyright education at all. Being ignorant, this future generation are easily abused by unscrupulous commissioners and may themselves become abusers when they rise to commissioning positions. This undermines all creators: if new entrants readily accept artificially low fees or freely assign copyright, the market is distorted and, as noted earlier, the quality of output of the UK’s so-called cultural industries suffers.

Effective tutoring to cover aspects of the law that affect them should be made compulsory in all creativity-related courses, including those in photography and in other image-making, design, journalism, music (and indeed fine art). Publications like the Association of Photographers’ book Beyond the Lens3 provide a good model. But while colleges affiliated to the AoP are required to use this publication in their course material, the AoP can’t ensure that students in other establishments are made aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Education about Intellectual Property needs to happen from the earliest stage. The CRA welcomes the 'Cultural Offer' provision of five hours per week of cultural activity in schools. Developed by the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s Creative Economy Programme, one of the stated aims of this provision is to encourage more and more diverse entrants into the creative industries.

The CRA recommends that a fundamental part of this provision should involve education about intellectual property. This need not be complicated. All schoolchildren should be encouraged in the habit of using the © symbol with their work, whether it be an essay or a musical composition.

The concept behind copyright is so simple that a child can understand it:

“I made it: it’s mine.”

 


^ Manifesto: 7: You need the facts
Notes:

1 Bryce J. & Rutter, J. (2005) Fake Nation, Intellectual Property Theft and Organised Crime Project

2See http://creativearchive.bbc.co.uk/ (accessed  04/03/2010)

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