What is Copyright Licensing and Why is it Important for Comms Professionals?




Copyright advice webinar

What is copyright licensing and why is it important? This is a vital question for any PR or comms manager because you need to understand it and play by the rules to avoid infringing copyright law. But don’t worry, we’re here to keep it simple! 

What is copyright? 

Copyright is a legal right to an original, creative piece of work, giving the owner control of that work and how it’s used. Much like owning your phone or car, if someone takes it from you without permission, they’re stealing. In the same way, if an organisation copies, shares, or uses someone else’s original content (their intellectual property), without permission, they’re stealing it or infringing copyright. 

Copying and sharing content and media coverage includes:  

  • Photocopying  
  • Scanning 
  • Emailing (colleagues internally and clients externally) 
  • Printing 
  • Posting articles online 
  • Saving and sharing coverage you receive from a media monitoring service 

What is copyright licensing and why is it important? 

Copyright licensing protects the media and communications industries: 

  • By generating copyright licensing revenue, publishers can pay more journalists and maintain the standards of journalism we’ve come to expect. 
  • PR and comms pros have a simple solution for copyright compliance, allowing the industry to research, copy, and share content with complete peace of mind. By adhering to copyright law, your organisation is ethical and fair to the media industry. 

What are CMO’s and why do they matter?

Originally, Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) in the UK and Ireland, such as the NLA and NLI, introduced copyright licensing to protect the copying of print titles – photocopying newspaper articles for example. The aim was to ensure that publishers received royalties when their content was copied for business purposes. This also benefitted organisations who no longer had to seek permission to copy coverage from individual publishers; licences gave them the consent they needed.  

In the 90s, the evolution of the internet and emergence of 24-hour news created an ever-growing volume of online content. And the development of digital technology made it much easier to share it.  

This meant there were far more channels for PR and comms teams to monitor for mentions of their brands, an important part of measuring PR performance. This created a demand for online media monitoring services that could do the hard work for you – a key service we offer here at Onclusive.  

Over time, the licences offered by CMOs adapted to cover digital copying and sharing online articles too. 

Who needs a copyright licence? 

Copyright licences are only required for organisations and businesses who use publishers’ content for their benefit. In other words, the general public doesn’t need a licence to copy and share media coverage. 

Collective Management Organisation (CMO) licences are often non-exclusive, which means you can still choose to get permission to copy and share content from individual publishers. But can you imagine what a headache that would be? 

Media monitoring organisations, such as Onclusive, are legally required to have publisher permission, in the form of licences, to deliver protected content to their clients. And clients also require a licence if they wish to reuse and share this coverage internally. 

How copyright impacts PR and comms professionals 

Every day, you need to know how many journalists have mentioned your brand or campaign, analyse that coverage, and get an understanding of overall campaign performance.  

Then you need to share that information with your stakeholders. From the moment a print or digital piece of coverage is produced, it’s protected by copyright. If that article is distributed within an organisation or to clients without the correct licence to do so, copyright has been infringed. So, it’s imperative to have the right licences in place to protect your organisation.  

There are some exceptions: 

  • Independent publishers

     In several countries, some publishers do not want to work with a CMO. These publishers license their own content – the Financial Times for example. Your agreement with the NLA, one of two CMOs in the UK that you pay licence fees to, allows you to copy and share the Financial Times’ print content only. You need a separate licence from the Financial Times to share and view electronic coverage. 

  • Broadcast

     There’s no CMO for broadcast in the UK and Ireland. So, Onclusive holds direct agreements with individual broadcasters to cover your internal coverage use. If you wish to share their coverage externally, in marketing material for example, you’ll need direct permission from the broadcaster. 

There’s no doubt that when it comes to the subject of copyright licensing and copyright compliancy, you can be left feeling discombobulated. After all, you should be doing what you’re good at as a PR or comms pro, not worrying about the legalities of compliance! Thankfully, we have in-house experts who can help you to navigate the complicated world of international copyright and reduce costs. 

If you’re ready to become copyright confident, join us for our webinar on 26th April with our in-house copyright experts, who’ll be sharing how to make copyright compliance a cost efficient and frictionless process for your organisation.  

Register here