- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

Some local photographers' pictures have shown up in Toronto in ads for Owen Sound without the artists' permission (an error now rectified), and we thought  it was time for a reminder about copyright.

Creators own the rights to the work they create. Period. They can sell the rights to their work, they can even give them away, but only the creators themselves can make that choice.

The internet has made it very challenging for writers, photographers, musicians and artists of all kinds to protect their work, but the principles have not changed.

In 2013, after I had been writing my Orange Crate columns for years in the Owen Sound Sun Times, the new owners (no longer the owners) demanded that all free-lancers sign a new agreement.

“...you may supply content (including, columns, articles, photographs, images, illustrations, cartoons, video, audio, web)” it read. “You represent that the Content is original, that you have created the Content, that the Content has not appeared elsewhere and that the publication of the Content do not violate the rights of any third party.”

Okay, they want to have first use, and they want to know I wrote the column myself. Fair enough.

Without the agreement, I would legally retain the rights to my work, and noone could publish it again (not that anyone was asking to, let me assure you) without my permission. But signing the agreement would have meant that I would no longer own my own work, and that the corporation could use it, forever, with or without my name attached.  Specifically -

"You hereby provide us with all copyright rights and an irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual licence to reproduce, publish, translate into any language, broadcast, post on the web and distribute the Content in any language, manner or form, in any medium and using any technology, including, without limitation, in any print or electronic form or on the Internet. (c) sell, license, sub-license and otherwise deal with Content and any products derived therefrom as we may choose in any medium using any technology and in any language."

They would also have the right  to edit and crop any “Content” or to bury it forever, never to be seen again.

And then there was clause 6.  “You waive all moral rights in the Content.” The hair stood up on the back of my neck.  It didn't matter that it  was unlikely my words would ever have been seen again after they lined the birdcage.  I sweated over them, they belonged to me, and I was unwilling to abandon them in perpetuity for fifty bucks a week.

I did not sign and stopped writing for the Sun Times. 

Writers, artists, photographers, and videographers have been very generous with us at the Owen Sound Hub, and have allowed us to share their work on our site or in our social media posts. We ask permission, we respect the creator's conditions, and sometimes have had to forgo things we would have loved  to share with our readers because we couldn't meet those conditions. We always remind creators that they and they alone own the rights to their work, and they certainly do not need to ask our permission to use their own work - whether it be a letter to the editor or a three-part series - for any other publication.

By all means, share links to our articles - whole - from our website or social media. They are there for the community. Please do not cut images or words from our site and use them without permission, just because you can.  Someone else owns those creative works, and perhaps makes their living from them.  They are someone else's property, and taking it is like stealing it from a gallery or cutting a page from a book in the library.

We try to do our due diligence, but mistakes happen to everyone. We encourage all our readers to keep an eye out for plagiarism, breach of copyright, or mis-attribution and call us out.

Thank you, again, to those creators who allow us to share their work with our community.  We are deeply grateful.







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