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Intellectual Property Question - 18/7/2012 12:16:30 PM   
Rebenectomy


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About a year ago a wrote an extensive policy document for a political party. I was not paid for this, and it appears to have lain dormant with them until now, as recent news agendas have made the issue in question more pressing. I am no longer involved with this party, but I received a message asking if they could use the document in question. This message came from someone who is actually paid to do the work I did for free and I'm contemplating my answer. I believe passionately about the issue in question, and one of the reasons I reduced my work with these people is I felt (and still do feel) that they only highlight this issue when it is newsworthy or to their benefit. If it raised the profile of the issue I'm happy for them to do so, however, I was wondering if I should be asking for consultancy fee for the work done?

Does anyone know, who owns the rights to this work? At the time I gave it in good faith to the party and they showed very little interest in it. It has my name all over it and I have emails to back up that it's my original work, other than a few hundred words in the introduction written by someone who is now a member of another political party.

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Post #: 1
RE: Intellectual Property Question - 18/7/2012 12:37:31 PM   
elab49


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Joined: 1/10/2005
I think it depends on your relationship to the party at the time and what understanding you produced the document under.

E.g. even if you were unpaid, if you were basically doing volunteer work for them, then the work for them part might be a strong factor?

If it was a looser position and you were putting forward a position paper to try and get their support, that might be a little different.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 2
RE: Intellectual Property Question - 18/7/2012 12:53:46 PM   
Chief


Posts: 7779
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Banshee
Just chance your mitt and tell them you want a fuck load of money and heaps of praise. See what happens.

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Post #: 3
RE: Intellectual Property Question - 18/7/2012 12:54:28 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle
If political writing works the same as media writing then, unless you have a specific contract or legal document, I'm pretty sure they can pretty much do what they want with it, and they are just asking out of courtesy.

Me and a mate wrote a feature length script a few years ago which we were looking to pass round the film and TV industry via a couple of mid-level contacts, so we looked into this very matter. Unless things have changed in the last five or so years (or political writing IS treated differently - I don't know if it is or not), unfortunately the usual "if you have your name on it and e-mails/letters/whatever to prove it's your work, or if you seal it in an evelope and post it to yoursefl without opening it, then it's fine" thing that a lot of people say/believe is complete bollocks. Even though both me and my mate had our names on the script, e-mails dating it and the original document as produced in a piece of script software, we were told (for free, by more than one independent expert) that we should get a legal document drawn up, otherwise any future infringement would barely make it to court, let alone stand up in it.

It's a REALLY thorny issue that is fully understood by very few people.

I think it also depends on what you're after - is it more about the money, your own pride and belief in the work, or concern about the latent u-turn of their viewpoint?

< Message edited by great_badir -- 18/7/2012 12:55:37 PM >


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RE: Intellectual Property Question - 18/7/2012 1:16:52 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54673
Joined: 1/10/2005
I think the standard agreement is to do what they want as well - one of my old colleagues wrote speeches for his local candidate. He was paid, but it was a case of them basically messing about with it as they wished after that, understandable as it was to 'their views' when they opened their mouth.

But that was agreed and he was paid so possibly technically a bit different (contract was really only their to cover the fee payment).

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 5
RE: Intellectual Property Question - 18/7/2012 1:28:25 PM   
Rebenectomy


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From: 10-0-11-0-0 by 0-2
At the time I was a party member and volunteered the document (it was not requested), as no one else was going to do it and I believed it was a woeful omission on their part. I am a little put out by the fact that the person asking has a paid position with the party, yet seemingly can't be arsed to do the actual groundwork involved.

At the end of the day though they did ask, and even if I say no they will probably just re-word it so I don't have any claim on it.

quote:

I think it also depends on what you're after - is it more about the money, your own pride and belief in the work, or concern about the latent u-turn of their viewpoint?


A bit of everything. The last point is particularly annoying. It's an LGBT document, and Belfast Pride is coming up. This is a great recruitment/PR event for them, but they really don't make that much of an effort with the issues until it's beneficial to them - too scared of what there older, more closed minded voters might think of the issue to actually have the balls to campaign outright on it.

I'm thinking of saying go ahead, but keep my name on it.

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RE: Intellectual Property Question - 18/7/2012 1:32:03 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54673
Joined: 1/10/2005
I'd think credit for the work would be a minimum - especiallly if there is an element of opportunism in their current appropriation of your efforts.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


Annual Poll 2013 - All Lists Welcome

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Post #: 7
RE: Intellectual Property Question - 18/7/2012 1:33:24 PM   
Dpp1978


Posts: 1165
Joined: 2/4/2006
It is a very grey area.

As it is a "literary work" it automatically falls under copyright. The general rule for copyright is it is the property of the person who does the work, and lasts for their lifetime plus 70 years. It is a monopoly over any exploitation of the work during this period and the author or his successors in title have the exclusive right to decide how and when (or even if) this is done.

So far so simple. But as with all things legal it is the myriad of exceptions which cause the problems.

An author can part with some or all of these rights, sometimes without knowing they have done so. The most common way of this happening is by virtue of the "work for hire" principle. Basically where you create something as part of your job or under certain contracts for services, the work, unless otherwise agreed, becomes the property of the person (natural or legal) who commissioned the work. In formal contractual relationships this will be usually explicit in the contractual documents, but not all contracts are formal, and many; especially where there are only loose structures of affiliation, are not evidenced in writing in any way.

In such cases, if a dispute should arise, it becomes the job of the court to infer what the terms were from the circumstances between the parties at the time of the agreement. This is expensive and time consuming and ultimately any victory is likely to be Pyrrhic.

I cannot give any specific advice on your situation: I am not a lawyer and even if I were it would be grossly inappropriate to offer anything but the most general advice over a public forum such as this. Professional sanctions and/or criminal charges could be brought.

What I can say is that even though you weren't paid in money there may still have been some sort of contractual relationship between you and this organisation which could have transferred your rights under copyright to them. If that is so their asking becomes nothing more than a courtesy.

It is also possible that when you left the rights went with you and it is entirely your decision whether or not they can use your words. I cannot say.

Unfortunately short of documentary evidence which clarifies this issue one way or the other, it would take a day court to know which is the case. Something which is probably grossly over the top given the circumstances.

As well as copyright an author has what are known as "moral rights" to their work. The most important of these is the right to be identified as author. You have to assert it and, depending on whether it was agreed you would be identified at the time you handed over the work, it may be too late to do so (should they have taken possession of copyright that is: see how quickly it gets horribly confusing). That is assuming you wish to have your name associated with the party involved. Again this can be done in writing or otherwise. If not evidenced in writing it'd again take a judge to decide should a common understanding between you prove illusive.

All of this is assuming they use it verbatim. If they are picking and choosing sections or just using it as a starting point we head into the area of derivative works where things get really murky and a full discussion of which would make up an entire module in a graduate course in copyright law.

As to a retroactive consultancy fee: it seems unlikely. You are attempting to renegotiate a contract for services already rendered. There is no reason for them to do so except out of the goodness of their own hearts.

Perhaps the most sensible approach is to try and find out whether they believe the work is theirs, or if they believe it is yours before you decide how to go forward. It would take a light touch to get it out of them without showing your hand but it might be done. Subtlety would be key (I'd be less than useless: I'm as subtle as a sledgehammer in such matters which is why at law school I showed more aptitude for litigation than negotiation).

Whatever happens I hope you get a result you are happy with.

quote:

ORIGINAL: great_badir

It's a REALLY thorny issue that is fully understood by very few people.


Seldom were truer words spoken. Even the judges make it up as they go along as each case is so unique to render precedent, over anything but the broadest principles, all but irrelevant.

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Post #: 8
RE: Intellectual Property Question - 18/7/2012 1:42:01 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle
quote:

ORIGINAL: Dpp1978
Even the judges make it up as they go along as each case is so unique to render precedent, over anything but the broadest principles, all but irrelevant.


Absolutely - that whole case last year or the year before between George Lucas and the guy selling the stormtrooper stuff is a perfect example, and that went on for months and involved some VERY expensive lawyers...

Reb - I personally think your decision of giving them the okay as long as your name is a good one, in the circumstances. If they took the time to contact you and ask for your permission after so long, it's probably safe to assume that they will be happy to keep your name on it, even if they end up changing some or most of it.

EDIT - I should also point out here, just in case it wasn't clear and following Dpp's excellent (as ever) response, that what I said above about our script pertained to the advice WE were given in OUR SPECIFIC situation - your mileage may vary.

< Message edited by great_badir -- 18/7/2012 1:43:51 PM >


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RE: Intellectual Property Question - 18/7/2012 1:54:49 PM   
Dpp1978


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Joined: 2/4/2006

quote:

ORIGINAL: great_badir


Absolutely - that whole case last year or the year before between George Lucas and the guy selling the stormtrooper stuff is a perfect example, and that went on for months and involved some VERY expensive lawyers...


That case went on for years.

In the end the work for hire question was disposed of easily at trial: any rights which could have existed were the property of Lucasfilm. This was not a point brought up in either of the appeals.

The question here was whether the Stormtrooper's helmet was a work of sculpture or one of industrial design. If sculpture copyright attached, if not design rights (with a duration of 15 years) attached. It was decided (not uncontroversially) at trial that the helmet was industrial design, and all rights had expired. This was upheld at both appeals and in effect the design of the Stormtrooper is now in the public domain in the UK.

It was actually a rare case where actual substantive law was made and a complex legal issue was clarified and streamlined.

Back on topic: The best solution is always one negotiated between all parties amicably. Getting the law involved should only ever be a measure of last resort. it is too unpredictable and expensive to be used for anything else.

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Post #: 10
RE: Intellectual Property Question - 18/7/2012 10:10:17 PM   
homersimpson_esq


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DPP: single-handedly restoring the intellectual balance of the forum offset by the muppets in the review subforum.

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RE: Intellectual Property Question - 19/7/2012 3:07:56 AM   
Spaldron


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From: Chair
quote:

ORIGINAL: homersimpson_esq

DPP: single-handedly restoring the intellectual balance of the forum offset by the muppets in the review subforum.




Ironically we even have our own Bat-signal for him.

< Message edited by Spaldron -- 19/7/2012 3:08:45 AM >


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RE: Intellectual Property Question - 19/7/2012 3:28:55 AM   
NinjaShortbread212


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From: Edinburger, Scottyland
quote:

ORIGINAL: Spaldron

quote:

ORIGINAL: homersimpson_esq

DPP: single-handedly restoring the intellectual balance of the forum offset by the muppets in the review subforum.





Ironically we even have our own Bat-signal for him.



I think you just got called a muppet.



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