Most people believe tat copyright law exists as soon as you wright something down. This is partly true, but the law actually requires the subject to actually be published to be protected. There is no copyright in ideas though, so claiming you had the idea for facebook before Mark Zuckerberg, or that you 'thought of it first' wouldn't get you anywhere in a court of law.
Copyright is very important to us as journalists. We are basically selling our words. That's how we make our money. So if we publish something and someone else copies it then they will half your audience and half your money. No copyright, no journalism and no copyright means no profit.
If you work for an institute or a company then you often give up your right to have your work copyrighted in exchange for wages. However, if you are freelance, your work is your own and is protected by copyright law.
The Eiffel Tower:
During last weeks lecture on copyright, our guest lecturer Peter Hodges explained the copyright laws surrounding the Eiffel Tower - a normal photograph of the Eiffel Tower when it is NOT illuminated is fine and free from copyright protection. However, the lighting on the Eiffel Tower is STRICTLY protected by the law, so if you are a broadcaster and you take photos or footage of the illuminated Eiffel Tower, you will not be able to publish without consent. If you are on holiday and take photos, and you upload them to you Facebook account, it is extremely unlikely you will be sued though.
It is very important to journalists as broadcasters to make sure that any material they use is not affected by copyright such as music in the background - the rule is, if it can be recognised then it needs to have consent of use.
How long does copyright law last?
In most cases it is 70 years after the authors death - but in different cases it may last for less, or for more. The best rule for a journalist or anyone looking to broadcast any work which is not there own - get advice if in doubt.
As journalists we like fair dealing. Fair dealing allows us to use snippets of someone else's work without the fear of being sued. We do this for such things as criticism or review, or for research and private study. We must make sure though that the copyright owner is acknowledged.
You must never use a photograph in fair dealing - it is not protected
Moral Rights - The copyright owner has the moral rights of their work. They have to right to say how their work is portrayed. For example, doing a spoof of a movie - the copyright owner must agree to the changes. Or if one music artist does a re-mix of the original artists' song - the original artist must agree.