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Multimedia and Copyright

A continuing problem for developers of multimedia applications is ensuring all the necessary copyright clearances have been obtained. One of the main problems is that separate clearance is often necessary for each media clip, and it may be unclear where the copyright lies. For example, all kinds of literary work may be protected, not just books, and written work including email messages and World-Wide Web (WWW) pages. Within a book, illustrations, tables and graphs may have separate protection. With a film clip, rights may belong to several groups, for example performer's rights, author's rights, rights associated with any music and so on. Also, copyright is a property right, and like any other piece of property, can be sold, so copyright need not necessarily lie with the original owner.

The multimedia industry is also concerned with protecting copyright, particularly with the growth of the Internet, as clips, reports and software can easily be transferred and widely distributed. Losses due to software piracy in Europe were believed to be over $3 billion in 1994. To address these concerns the Association for Information Management (ASLIB) in collaboration with the DTI are running a conference, 'Copyright in Multimedia' in July '95. Speakers from government and industry will look at how multimedia copyright can be protected by technology and legislation, copyright issues in electronic publishing and how the law relating to these issues differs in the UK, Europe and America. A full report about the issues raised at the conference will be available on the SIM web server:

Understanding Copyright

A number of reports and articles have been written to help developers understand copyright and obtain clearance. Some of these are listed below.

Andrew Charlesworth, lecturer in IT law and director of the Information Law and Technology Unit at the University of Hull, gave a presentation about the legal issues of the World-Wide Web and Electronic Publishing at the WWW Workshop in February '96, organised as part of the SIMA series of workshops. This covered copyright issues, libel, computer crime and data protection. His full paper, and others from the workshop are available online at:

The TLTP Copyright Working Group produced a booklet, Copyright Guidelines for the Teaching and Learning Technology Programme which includes sample letters for obtaining copyright clearance.

Richard McCracken of the Open University presented a paper 'Copyright and Rights: A Hitch- Hiker's Guide' at the Multimedia Courseware Developer's Conference in 1992. An updated version of this paper can be found in New Frontiers of Learning Guidelines for Multimedia Courseware Developers in Higher Education Vol 1 (Chapter 7), part of the Information Technology Training Initiative. This includes guidelines for deciding who owns the copyright for various media and how to obtain clearance.

Online Resources

There are also a number of World-Wide Web sites related to multimedia copyright:
(University of Strathclyde).

This contains the full text of The Electronic Frontier by Ian J Lloyd and Moira Simpson. This has chapters on Crime, Data Protection, and Intellectual Property and the Computer:

This is the home page of Fenrick and West, a legal firm based in Silicon Valley. They provide a number of papers including:

Understanding Intellectual Property Rights - Dennis Fernandez

Multimedia and the Superhighway: Rapid Acceleration or Foot on the Brake? by Sandy J Wong. This discusses who owns copyright, how clearance is currently obtained, and how it may be obtained in the future.

Multimedia - Top Ten Legal Issues: all of which relate to copyright and moral rights, both obtaining clearance and protecting your own works.

Although these papers are concerned with American law, many of the issues raised are equally relevant in the UK. The papers are also available via anonymous FTP from: or

Intellectual Property Law For Multimedia Developers by J Dianne Brinson and Mark F Radcliffe. This report is described as a primer to help you understand the legal issues in developing and distributing multimedia works. It is based on the Multimedia Law Handbook - A Practical Guide for Developers and Publishers. Details of this book and the first four chapters, dealing with copyright law, patents, trademarks and intellectual property rights, can be found at:

SIMA Reports

Two new SIMA reports are now available online.

Videoconferencing on Unix Workstations to Support HelpDesk/Advisory Activities by Steve Morgan and Mary Thorp

This report is based on work carried out to investigate the use of desktop video-conferencing products to support Helpdesk/Advisory activities in a Computing Service environment. The report provides background information on products available on Unix systems and details the use of the SUN Showme suite of video-conferencing software. Particular mention is made of the experience gained in using the facilities to support those with hearing difficulties.

Although the report is based mainly on experience of video-conferencing over a Local Area Network, it should also have relevance to those wishing to exploit desktop technology over Wide Area Networks.

It is hoped that the report will be useful to those wishing to exploit this new technology and will provide some foresight into the possible benefits, and to the pitfalls, which may be encountered.

World-Wide Web - A strategic Tool for UK Higher Education

This is the report of the workshop organised by AGOCG as part of the Support Initiative for Multimedia Applications (SIMA) funded by the JISC New Technologies Initiative.

The event was held at Loughborough University on 13 and 14 February 1995. The first day consisted of papers from experts in the field. The second day built on that through group discussions of the issues raised to result in recommendations to the community for activity and funding. The first day was attended by 80 participants from 54 institutions, 41 of whom stayed for the second day.

The report contains all the papers presented on the first, conference, day and notes from the discussion sessions on the second, workshop, day.

For more information please contact:

Sue Cunningham
Multimedia Support Officer, Computer Graphics Unit
Manchester Computing, University of Manchester