Blame it on the internet, if you will. Blame it on technology that makes downloading songs and pictures off the web so easy it has become second nature to do so! Everyone’s doing it so it’s OK. But, is it? Every second of the waking day, someone’s downloading someone else’s materials off the web be it MP3, photographs, designs, writing and whatever else I’ve left out that can so easily be copied or saved without sparing a thought that we’re violating something called a copyright.
What exactly is copyright? Whatever it is (to the layman), it is not the right to copy! The subject of copyright opens up a big can of worms when you dwell in its entirety but quite simply, in layman terms, it refers to legal rights held by the original creator or author. By dictionary definition of the Oxford University Press, “Copyright is the exclusive legal right, given to the originator or their assignee for a fixed number of years, to publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.“
Which brings me to this subject of much interests, copyright protection of photographs. I recently came to recognize the cover of biG (Brunei Insider’s Guide) magazine Jan—March 2008 issue where a photograph I took at the official opening of Fitness Zone in 2007 appeared on the cover (source). I contacted the Editor of the magazine and also Kiat Chun for an explanation. There is no long story or speeches to cut short here and I’ll get straight to the point—Kiat Chun has, on behalf of Fitness Zone, written a formal apology that I’ve accepted and the correct photo credit will be published in the next issue. To further clarify, the cover photo was not downloaded from my site but from a high resolution file contained in the CD that I had given Kiat Chun as a personal gift. This answers the question that I’ve received on how the magazine was able to obtain a high resolution image.
A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. The next issue of BIG is out where a promise is delivered as follows.
A similar incident that came to light was photographer Mizi whose photos were used in a billboard ad. I’m grateful the designer acted responsibly and issued a formal letter of apology for his wrong doing. Unlike Mizi, I am not prepared to publish Kiat Chun’s letter in respect of his career and the likely consequence of such material being made public.
It’s all about RESPECT! In a recent visit by Microsoft South East Asia President, Chris Atkinson said
…. the local software industry and ICT business to develop, intellectual copyright law must be taken seriously and intellectual property rights should be fully respected.
In the Borneo Bulletin, March 5, 2008
Even though Atkitson believes that educating the public is effective in rooting out demand for pirated software, there should be a more iron-fisted approach with raids and litigations. It is with this combination that piracy can be stopped with the greatest effectiveness.
In what I hope was an isolated incident, Borneo Bulletin journalist Ben Ng downloaded an image from ON OPPOSITE ENDS. COMMUTING A NECESSARY EVIL and while intending to credit the photograph to SHIMWORLD, instructions to the editorial team were overlooked and the photo was mistakenly credited to the journalist instead. While Borneo Bulletin formally apologises for editorial mistakes, I’ve yet to see apologies made for matters that involve wrong photo credits. In his own capacity, Ben called to apologise for the mistake with an explanation of the logistical error! Had I seen the article first, there would probably be a blog post JAN SHIM: TEMPERATURE RISING! :)
© Borneo Bulletin 13 Feb 2008 [full size]
WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES. Owning up to the mistakes when it’s due separates the professional and ethical from the criminals (for the lack of a better word!). One exception to the law where the photographer waives his/her rights to copyright protection is when he/she enters a written agreement with the client to produce a set of images for the client’s exclusive use. Many clients naively believe they own the photographs the minute they pay the photogs. Brunei copyright laws [also called the Emergency (Copyright) Order have existed since 1999. It's high time we took this matter seriously.
Notable excerpts from the Copyright Law in Brunei
[a copy of the Attorney General Chambers Copyright Handout can be found on BEDB's website under iCentre]
- The author is the person who creates the work, and the first owner of © in the work will be the author.
- Permission to use must be in writing by the © owner
- Permission must be obtained on each and every occasion and must be very explicit about what you want to do.
- Using an image on a website, handout or PowerPoint presentation need permission
- Downloading an image from a website for personal non-commercial study and only to make a single printout need not have permission.
- Copyright duration is life of the author + 50 years [applies to all works except typographical arrangement of published edition: 25 years]
- International © does not exist
- Brunei is a member of the Berne Convention
Out of curiousity, mobile phones have come a long way and are equipped with high tech cameras. I believe copyright protection extends to photos recorded this way. Interestingly, my three month old Nokia E51 has no © symbol. It has commonly used currency symbols and even has other strange symbols that I’ll probably never use in my life time such as §. Nokia ought to update their operating system to include the © symbol.