Issues in Multimedia

Most nations follow the Berne copyright convention, i.e. the author / designer doesn’t have to state that the material is protected. Thus, absolutely nothing is public domain unless the owner explicitly states it.

Copyright and how to breach it!

It is simple: ask the author / owner and get their permission before you publish their material. Failure to do so is a breach of copyright, unless allowed under the fair use doctrine.

Fair use is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work under a four-factor balancing test.

To determine whether your intended use meets the criteria of the four-factor balancing test, purpose of use (1), nature of work (2), relative amount (3), and market effect (4), refer to my post from August last year, © copyright versus fair use.

Educational fair use

  • motion media – up to 10% or 3 minutes, whichever is less.
  • text – up to 10% or 1,000 words, whichever is less.
  • music – up to 10% or 30 seconds.
  • illustrations, cartoons and photographs – no more than 5 images from a single artist.

Commercial fair use

Copyright permission must be obtained from the owner for all commercial purposes.

Terms in copyright

Intellectual Property (IP)

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.


A trade mark can be a word, phrase, letter, number, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture, aspect of packaging or a combination of these. It is used to distinguish the goods and services of one trader from those of another.


The owner of the rights will usually get payments (in the form of royalties) in return for use of the property.

Public Domain

The public domain is a range of abstract materials—commonly referred to as intellectual property—which are not owned or controlled by anyone. The term indicates that these materials are therefore “public property”, and available for anyone to use for any purpose.

Fair Use

Certain allowances of limited use of copyright material, without permission from the rights holder.

Derivative work

A derivative work pertaining to copyright law, is an expressive creation that includes major, copyright-protected elements of an original, previously created first work.

Right to Publicity

The Right of Publicity can be defined simply as the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness or other unequivocal aspects of one’s identity.

IP law for multimedia

intellectual propertyThere are four major intellectual property laws that are important for multimedia developers.

  1. Copyright law, which protects original “works of authorship.”
  2. Patent law, which protects new, useful, and “non-obvious” inventions and processes.
  3. Trademark law, which protects words, names, and symbols used by manufacturers and businesses to identify their goods and services.
  4. Trade secret law, which protects valuable information not generally known, that has been kept secret by its owner.

copyright on websitesCopyright protects written material, artistic works, musical works, dramatic works, computer programs, and compilations. Due to the fact that most commercial websites are created by multiple authors, copyright on websites is unclear. Materials and media used on a website may belong to other authors.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is an international organization dedicated to helping to ensure that the rights of creators and owners of intellectual property are protected worldwide and that inventors and authors are, thus, recognized and rewarded for their ingenuity.

IP AustraliaFor guiding information on copyright issues relating to multimedia, check White SW Computer Law’s article[]=multimedia#multimedia_issues and visit for IP in Australia.


Derivative work – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.).

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Fair use. (2009, June 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

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c=AU; co=Commonwealth of Australia; ou=Department of Innovation, I. (n.d.). IP Australia : Trade Marks > What is a trade mark?

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Personality rights – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.).

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Public domain – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.).

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What is Intellectual Property? (n.d.).

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