Verksamhetsberättelse 2020/Fail fest: Copyright issues

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In this Fail fest we are focusing on a couple of the difficulties when it comes to copyright and related rights. Many times it is about interpretations and previous practice and we believe that we must have openness and humility to the issues to avoid mistakes and that engaging legal experts is crucial.

In working with the project Free Music on Wikipedia, we discovered that many parts of copyright are difficult to understand in an effort to make media more accessible on free platforms. On the one hand, the legislation looks different in different countries, but also internally within each individual country, the rules can be interpreted in different ways. In Sweden, for example, a distinction is made between a photographic work and a photographic image. A work is copyright 70 years after the death of the copyright holder. For a photographic image the rules have changed over the years, but if the image was taken before 1969, it is in the public domain also according to American rules due to the Uruguay Round Agreements Act.

So in addition to being able to verify with certainty who the copyright holders are, you must have knowledge of both Swedish and American legislation and how it has changed over time. For music, there may be rules for new recordings of copyright-extinguished works as the event also has copyright. So it is not enough just that the song is in the public domain, the arrangement and the notes you use should also be free. Studio staff must then also be counted as copyright holders and in such cases where is the limit for their participation in the work.

There can be both difficult and time-consuming copyright issues that need to be resolved before you can share the files further. What you can do in all steps is to document the process and keep it transparent. It is important to clarify why you have the right to publish media under free licenses. There are many people who want to make more materials available but we need to find easier ways to guide people through the copyright process for the sharing of content to really take off.