The Extra Dimension

The Extra Dimension features deep discussions on how technology intersects with society. Welcome to the heart of the technological convergence.

Copyright Law

Episode #20

Copyright law can be big and complicated, but that doesn't mean it is impossible to understand! Join Brian Mitchell and Ian R Buck as they delve deeper into this subject that affects almost everyone's lives.


Episode Summary

00:00 | Intro
01:15 | Copyright is a type of intellectual property
  • Copyright is for creative works, like this podcast!
  • Different from a patent, which is for the design of an invention.
  • Different from trademark, which protects brands.
  • Copyright applies to a work automatically, you don’t have to go and apply for it.
03:34 | History
  • 1709 Britain - Statute of Anne.
    • Created in response to the tendency of printers to just make and sell copies without the author’s permission.
  • Many countries had their own copyright laws in place, but did  not recognize copyrights from other countries. This meant that publishers in one country could copy a work from another country without the author’s permission.
  • Many international agreements regarding copyright have been signed, starting with the Berne Convention in 1886.
  • By now, copyright laws are almost universal.
  • Copyright usually lasts for the life of the author, plus 50-100 years.
    • After the copyright has expired, the work is in the public domain.
    • What about works that don’t have a single author?
  • Copyright belongs to the author of a work, unless it is “work for hire,” as in an employee creating something in the course of their employment. Then it belongs to the employer.
10:19 | Examples of works copyright usually covers:
  • Literary (written) works
  • Lectures, addresses, sermons
  • Motion pictures
  • Choreography
  • Musical compositions
  • Sound recordings
  • Paintings, drawings
  • Sculptures
  • Photographs
  • Software
  • Broadcasts
  • Graphic designs and industrial designs
  • Translations and adaptations are “protected as original works without prejudice to the copyright of the original work”
  • Collections of artistic works, again protected without prejudice to the original works.
  • Copyright does not cover ideas and information, only the way they are expressed or recorded.
  • Copyright applies to original works, but does not guarantee they are unique. If two authors independently create very similar works, they both still have copyrights.
16:22 | Copyright covers two types of rights:
  • Economic rights
    • Derive financial reward from the use of the work by other people.
    • Usually transferable to other people.
  • Moral rights
    • Preserve and protect their link with their work.
    • Not usually transferable to other people.
    • In some countries, they last forever.
  • Types of economic rights:
    • Reproduction, distribution, rental, and importation.
      • Distribution is an interesting situation in the digital age. Previously, as soon as an author sells a copy of their work, they no longer have the right to prevent the person it was sold to from giving away or reselling that copy. There is still debate on what that means for digital files.
    • Public performance, broadcasting, and communication to the public.
      • Performance is either a live performance or a recording played for the public.
      • “Thus a musical work is considered publicly performed when a sound recording of that work, or phonogram, is played over amplification equipment, for example in a discotheque, airplane or shopping mall.”
      • Some countries treat digital files transmitted over the internet as a communication to the public, others treat it as distribution.
    • Translation and adaptation.
      • In order to translate or adapt a work, one needs permission from rights holder.
      • Translations and adaptations are also protected by copyright, so to publish them one must have permission from the rights holders of the original and the translation or adaptation.
      • How does user-generated content fit into this? Do people need permission to create mash-ups, remixes, etc?
  • Types of moral rights:
    • Attribution
    • Integrity
      • “The right to object to any distortion or modification of a work, or other derogatory action in relation to a work, which would be prejudicial to the author’s honor or reputation.”
24:41 | Transferring copyright
  • Assignment
    • A direct transfer of copyright. The original right holder no longer has an economic claim on the work.
  • Licensing
    • The copyright holder retains the copyright, but allows a third party to use the work in certain ways.
    • Can be exclusive or non-exclusive.
  • Royalties
    • A type of licensing where the copyright holder gets paid based on how many times the work is used.
  • Collective administration of rights
    • Exclusive license granted to an entity that will act on the author’s behalf to handle distribution, granting usage permissions, and detect and prevent infringement of rights.
30:49 | Consequences of copyright infringement:
  • Depends on the region.
  • Copyright holder may be compensated for either the amount of profit the infringer made, or for the estimated amount of money that the copyright holder did not receive as a result of the infringement.
  • The infringing goods may be destroyed.
  • The tools and materials used to produce the infringing goods may be destroyed.
  • Criminal sanctions may be applied in serious cases, like piracy on a commercial scale. This can take the form of a fine or prison sentence.
33:11 | Related rights
  • Performers have the right to prevent recording, broadcasting, and communication to the public of their live performances.
  • Broadcasting organizations have the right to authorize or prohibit rebroadcasting or recording of their broadcasts.
  • Similar to copyright, there are limitations and exceptions, like for teaching, private use, and reporting current events.
  • Related rights last for 20-50 years.
  • Public Domain
    • Any works that are no longer protected by copyright.
    • Could be because the copyright expired or because the copyright holder released the work into the public domain.
35:30 | Fair Use
  • Under some circumstances, one can perform acts of exploitation on a work without the owner’s permission and without obligation to compensate them.
  • Examples:
    • Quoting a short piece from a work, citing it as the source.
    • Using a work as illustration for educational purposes.
    • Using a work for news reporting.
  • Fair use is the area that regional copyright laws vary the most on. Something that is considered fair use in one country may not be in another.
  • Factors that are taken into account when determining the limits of fair use:
    • The nature and purpose of the use.
    • Whether it is for commercial purposes.
    • The nature of the work.
    • The amount of the work used in relation to the work as a whole.
    • The likely effect of the use on the potential commercial value of the work.
43:19 | Free Content Licenses
  • Free cultural works are released under licenses that do not restrict others’ freedom to:
    • Use the content and benefit from using it.
    • Study the content and apply what is learned.
    • Make and distribute copies of the content.
    • Change and improve the content and distribute these derivative works.
  • As technology has driven down the cost of distribution to essentially zero, the number of content creators and number of works available to the public has exploded. Many of these content creators realized that their works would benefit if they could incorporate the works of others. Therefore, it is to everyone’s advantage if everyone allows free and open use of their works.
  • How does a creator make money when their works are being released for free? Well, we have a whole episode dedicated to that! Check out The Extra Dimension #8.
  • Creative Commons
    • Meant for licensing media.
    • Contains several features that the copyright holder can customize:
      • Whether or not to allow derivative works.
      • Whether the derivative works must use the same license as the original.
      • Whether or not to allow commercial reuse of the work.
  • GPL, MIT license
    • Meant for software.
    • Open source software is not only free to use, but all of the source code is available to read and modify.



The Extra Dimension is released under a Creative Commons — Attribution 4.0 International license. Feel free to use any or all of it as long as you link back to