Clipper Legal Issues

Contents: Introduction | The Legal Stuff | Clipper Does Not Copy | Doing the Right Thing: | Clipper User Rights: | A Legal Layer Cake: |

Introduction: At first sight, the Clipper toolkit might seem to some like a source of legal problems for both its users and the owners of the online media. This is not the case, in fact the reverse is true, here we explain why.

Clipper can help both content owners and users to keep within the laws concerning Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Before we go further in this discussion we shall assume that the reader has read the ‘How it Works‘ section of this website. We shall also assume a basic understanding of what copyright law is – but don’t panic! We quickly explain that next.

The Legal Stuff: Now, we know that to many people copyright law is both difficult to understand and deadly boring! So, to help, we have identified some clear and easy sources of explanation about the legal issues that will help. First up is this excellent (and short) YouTube animation:

For bonus points you can also watch another video about ‘Fair Use‘ and download this PDF about IPR law in e-learning, that one of the Clipper team created for a UK government agency a while back, and if you are really keen you can check out these links:

Clipper Does Not Copy: The main thing to understand is that Clipper does not copy anything it just links to an existing web site to create its virtual clips. This is a big deal, because copying, as the name suggests, is what Copyright law is all about. Because of this there are a number of benefits for the content owners:

  • The content never moves from their web servers
  • Any access control to the content will stay in place when a clip is shared – so only those people with the right to access the content will be able to do so
  • The web traffic will go to the content owners web site bringing with it benefits that may include expanding their audience, gathering analytic data, increasing social media footprint and possible monetisation opportunities (adverts, analytic data etc.)
  • New ways of user engagement and potential new business models

We are not out of potential trouble yet, because there are other legal issues that we have to consider and we cover those next.

Doing the Right Thing: There are other legal factors besides copyright to consider and these are mostly related to moral rights:

  • Misrepresentation of authorship (also known as ‘passing off’ in legal terms), where someone gives the impression (by accident or design) that they have created some content when they have not. Under the law a content creator has the ‘right to object to false attribution’ of their work.
  • There are also the closely related issues of attribution. Where it is important to acknowledge who are the authors / creators of the media content – ‘known as the right of paternity’ and,
  • Content creators also have the right to object to derogatory treatment of their work, known as the ‘right of integrity’ in legal terms

To deal with these issues we are ‘hard-wiring’ some features into the design of Clipper:

  • To reduce the offence or risk of passing off or false attribution when a virtual clip is being shared, we have an information fields in the Clipper player interface called ‘Source’ that displays the URL location of the source file. This in turn links to the parent website and any information about the content creators and terms of use. This makes it difficult for Clipper users to be accused of this offence
  • To further reduce the risk of false attribution and to respect the rights of paternity we have a statement that says: ‘Terms of Use and Authors – see Source’
  • To ensure that Clipper users can be identified and linked to each clip their user name appears under each clip preceded by the statement ‘Clipped by:’, this enables any complaints to be investigated effectively
  • To enable copyright holders, authors and others to complain about a clip a ‘Report’ button is under each clip that allows a viewer to report any concerns or complaints they have about the clip. On receipt of a complaint the clip will be suspended from the service, the clip creator notified and the issue investigated. The procedure is described under the Clipper Terms of Use (currently being drafted) and is known as a ‘Notice and Takedown Policy’ – here is a link to a model form of the policy as used by the British Library –
  • The ‘Clipper Terms of Use’ and ‘Community Guidelines’ make it clear to Clipper users what their responsibilities are in relation to the law and behaving respectfully to other people, and have to be agreed to as a condition of registering to use Clipper
  • Reminders of these obligations are sent to Clipper users at regular intervals and short clear guidance materials are made available to users to support their responsible use of Clipper

Clipper User Rights: So far, we have been discussing the legal issues and rights of content creators and owners. Now we move on to the issues and rights affecting Clipper Users:

  • Copyright: Clipper users own the copyright in the annotations and tags that they create. This may only be an issue if the annotations are long and important to the user i.e. they have some value. If they want to protect their copyright then that have to be careful who they share their clips with and they may want to state that the content is their copyright (called ‘asserting’ their rights in legal terms) or even provide a licence stating the terms of use of their annotations – the Creative Commons system may be a good choice. The fact that each shared clip has a ‘Clipped by: User Name’ statement helps to assert these rights
  • Moral Rights: Clipper Users have their own moral rights in the annotations they create – so they have the right to assert their authorship and to object to others using them without permission or doing ‘derogatory’ things with their annotations and clips. They also have the right to ‘right to object to false attribution’; where someone else claims they have authored the content. Again, these are only likely to be of concern if the annotations are particularly important / valuable to the users – in which case they should take care who they share them with and think about stating the terms of use or using a license statement. The fact that each shared clip has a ‘Clipped by: User Name’ statement helps to assert these rights.
  • Database rights:  A bit of an obscure one this, but potentially important. It is the law protecting the effort that has gone into the creation of a database. When a Clipper user creates a Cliplist they are effectively creating a database and, if, the Cliplist is valuable it can be protected by this law. Again, this is only likely to be of concern if the Cliplist is considered to be valuable in any way – in which case they should take care who they share them with and think about stating the terms of use or using a license statement. The that each clip has a ‘Clipped by: User Name’ statement helps to assert these rights.

A Legal Layer Cake: So, to sum up this section, the legal issues involved in using the Clipper toolkit involve different ‘layers’ of different people’s legal rights and obligations. The graphic below represents this. The top three orange layers are the Clipper user rights and the bottom two blue layers are the content owners and creators rights:

Clipper Legal Layer Cake