Just the other day, Jaun-Paul Rebola visited SAE and gave a lecture on the importance of copyright, contracts, and intellectual property within our areas of study.
He also gave us some information about contract negotiation and power of position which could be applied more liberally to business in general.
Copyright is the form of intellectual property protection which covers artistic and literary works, and can be compared to Trademarks (products, logos, brands), Designs (aesthetic appearance), and Patents (ideas and inventions).
Copyright is unique in that as soon as you have created a piece of art or literature, it is automatically covered by copyright. A point to note here is that you must be able to prove the date of creation/registration if you are contending the originality of someones work, or they are contending yours. This seems logical as there must be proof that one was created before the other in order to settle any dispute over copyright ownership. Most digital files are time and date stamped so this is not usually a problem but if your art is not within the digital realm it can be a good idea to convert it if possible for the sake of copyright, or do what everybody used to do and get it date stamped at the post office before mailing a copy of it to yourself and leaving it unsealed.
Generally in music the artist holds the rights to their own songs, while major labels often own rights to recordings. This is not always true and differs on a case to case basis, however it’s a fairly safe assumption with when researching who owns the rights to what songs.
One industry that this is changing in, is the gaming industry. Often artists are paid outright for compositions (soundtracks), and in return relinquish the rights to their music.
If you are employed by a company and produce art/literature for them as part of your contract, you may not own the rights to what you are creating. If this bothers or affects you, read your contract!
Contracts are a legal agreement between two or more party’s. They have three basic requirements which must be met before they can be considered valid.
1. Offer and Acceptance [both party’s must enter into the agreement and mutually accept the terms of the contract]
2. Intention [both party’s must have intention for the contract to be legally binding]
3.Consideration [both party’s must be giving something to the other, i.e. it cannot be one sided]
DO NOT SIGN A CONTRACT IF YOU DON’T AGREE WITH THE TERMS.
Before the contract is signed it is up for review and you are perfectly within your rights to amend, add, remove any parts of the contract which you do not agree with (of course the other party is not obligated to agree with your amendments either).
Here are some general resources to help you if you’re wondering more about copyright, contracts, and intellectual property and what it could mean for you as a content creator.