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The Know Your Rights Blog


We're pleased to be presenting this course in conjunction with Ragan Communications designed for corporate media pros who need to know how to keep their internal and external media blasts on the right side of copyright law.

GPC clients & friends get a discounted registration! Click here for more!

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  • Writer's pictureMJ

It was a VERY full spring here at GPC, with a lot of exciting new client work, some travel, and lots of meetings.

In April, we attended our second Independent Book Publishers Association Conference, this time in Austin, TX. While there, we presented a seminar on international rights & licensing to an overflowing crowd! We had lots of good questions and conversations there, and we're already looking forward to next year's conference!

MJ points to our session on Foreign Rights at IBPA Pub U 2018!

Early spring and into May saw one of our most ambitious clearance projects yet: helping the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center get the rights they needed to the images in their gallery space, as well as to clear music they wanted to play on location.

Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

The second phase of the project with the NFUGRHC involved lending our expertise to the set up and stocking of their retail store. We're still helping to bring in some new titles, but it was fun to help build their store from the ground up!

MJ setting up the retail shop at NFUGRHC

The NFUGRHC is a museum you should not miss! Definitely give it a look when you come to Niagara Falls and maybe you'll see us there on-site, too!

In May, we went to the debut conference for the New York Rights Fair and learned a lot about emerging foreign language markets. Did you know that the audio format is really starting to take off in Europe? We made a lot of great contacts there, and are looking forward to putting our learnings to work for you in the future!

At the New York Rights Fair!

While we were in NY for the Rights Fair, we also popped over to Book Expo to visit our publisher friends as well as take a look at all of the exciting new titles coming for fall 2018 and beyond. There are a LOT of fun publications coming out, and, even though Book Expo was smaller than previous years, there was a lot to take in, and many fruitful conversations were had!

The entrance to the exhibit hall at Book Expo

As we roll toward the July 4th holiday, we're still plugging away at a few projects for clients, but we're looking forward to more interesting work for the fall. We've sent out proposals for new work, and are always keeping an eye out to how we can help you more.

Stay tuned, because we also will be announcing a new course coming in August in collaboration with Ragan Communications!

In 2019, items that had copyright extended in the last amendment to the copyright act will fall into the public domain. This means that if you as a creator wanted to incorporate these works--from poetry to photography, and drawings to songs--into a new work of your own, you would not need permission from the copyright holder to use it.

Interestingly, unless copyright law is amended once more, materials released into the public domain beginning January 1, 2019 will potentially include the first iteration of Disney's iconic character, Mickey Mouse.

So does this mean The Mouse will be loose and FREE to use and re-use*?!

The image of this little guy isn't "free" to use, either...

Well, almost...

The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (or the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" as it is sometimes called) added 20 years to existing copyright protections for works already registered (or renewed) for copyright. There was no need for a copyright holder to re-register the work as extension was automatic to the term we observe today: the life of the author plus 70 years, or 95 years after first publication for an item created for a company or corporation (or 120 years after creation).

It's important to remember that copyright exists to protect original works of authorship so that those authors may benefit from their creation (and the potential uses for derivatives of those works). It was not meant to be a right that could be held forever, and guidelines such as Fair Use also exist to assist creators with guidelines for generally-acceptable re-uses of material without permission from the original creator.

Understandably, any large corporation like Disney would be most interested in protecting its keystone properties (like Mickey Mouse) so that they may continue to grow their business for years to come. So this is where trademark law comes in, and how corporations may be able to continue to protect their intellectual property IF a further extension of copyright law is not legislated soon (and you can be sure that Disney et al will probably lobby for another extension beginning in 2018).

Trademarks can be renewed pretty much indefinitely. They are designed to protect a business' commercial brand or identity from unauthorized or confusing usage. As a key figure in the Disney pantheon, Mickey (and reflections of The Mouse from the ears and silhouettes) would be something that the company would be most interested in protecting from such unauthorized use.

Indeed, copyright AND trademark law together make for very sound protection for a logo, symbol, or other icon, but trademark law is certainly nothing to sneeze at on its own. You can be sure that Disney would not allow any trademarks on The Mouse to ride off into the sunset anytime soon.

The forthcoming expiration of copyright on a wealth of materials is coming, however, and it will be interesting to see whether corporations lead the charge to change the law once again.

*In actuality, the mouse won't be in the public domain until January 1, 2024, as the first "Steamboat Willie" cartoon was released in 1928, and as a corporate creation, copyright protection extends until the end of December of the year 95 years from creation or 1928 + 95 = 2023, so in January of 2024.

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