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New Tool To Help Creatives With Copyright

25 Mar 2024

Staggering stats on how little NZ creatives know about their rights when it comes to their mahi has prompted a new online service to demystify the process.

Copyright Licensing NZ (CLNZ) - the not-for-profit organisation that helps authors, publishers and artists get their due when copyrighted work is copied and shared - has just announced a new online service to help New Zealand’s creatives protect their rights. 

CLNZ surveyed a number of creatives in Aotearoa and found that only 12% of them felt confident that they knew their rights when it came to copyright.

Copyright is one of the most powerful protections that a creator has - but failing to keep on top of the relevant documentation or failing to understand all the implications of copyright can have serious financial consequences for creatives.

To address this knowledge gap, CLNZ has developed MyCreativeRights to make copyright information and protection available to anyone in Aotearoa.

“The original concept,” details Sam Irvine, CLNZ Chief Executive, “came from the research we did with The Research Agency on the Creative Rights Management Opportunity in 2022. 

"This was an in-depth piece of work with a group of creatives that identified rights management is confusing, stressful and not always valued by creatives.”

The new service also coincides with rising uncertainty in the creative sector due to the unprecedentedly swift rise of generative AI tools and other technologies that exploit the data scraping of copyrighted work. 

This isn’t just an issue of legality, but it directly affects the artistic integrity of creators.

“The relevance,” says Irvine, “is in creating a platform that creatives can join that gives them access to affordable legal advice if their work has been illegally taken for use in a generative AI dataset, and also to ensure they have agreements in place to ensure that can use the legal argument of copyright infringement in a case against that generative AI organisation.” 

MyCreativeRights is a cloud-based service that brings together two products to help creatives prove the provenance of their work and maximise its value, bringing security and peace of mind in a rapidly evolving legal landscape that is often difficult to understand.

Good recordkeeping is vital in the event of a copyright breach. A creative may struggle to prove their rights if they cannot prove they have those rights to the work in the first place and what those specific rights are.

Screenshot MCR Internal Catalogue Yolunda.jpegMyCreativeRights’ Catalogue function documents and securely stores the records of the creative’s works, contracts and any other associated documents. This also helps creatives by flagging dates when rights revert of a contract ends.

Copyright explained

The purpose of the service is to simplify the understanding of copyright by providing bespoke educational hints throughout the process, as well as helpful prompts to assist users in understanding what rights they are actually granting.

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Yolanda Hickman. Photo: Supplied.

“Artists,” says Yolunda Hickman, an artist, academic, and visual arts adviser to CLNZ, “are often busy juggling paid employment and care responsibilities, any spare time is then focused on the studio. 

"It is challenging to find time for making, and reading legal documents may feel inaccessible, low priority or too dry for many creatives.

MyCreativeRights,” she says, “provides artists with access to advocacy and information about their rights, and also offers the Catalogue platform for artists to manage their exhibition history, sales record and documents all in one place. 

"When uploading a project or artwork, Catalogue asks various questions about the works both as a record of production and as an information tool for artists to learn more about their rights and the type of things to consider when making an artwork or exhibiting. 

"For example, if someone commissioned the work or is a public sculpture, the artist’s copyright may have different conditions; if an artist collaborates with others to produce the artwork, they may be subject to sharing copyright. These questions in Catalogue prompt artists to learn more about their rights.”

The legal language around copyright can often be dense and confusing, legal services expensive, and the thought of the required administration overwhelming. This often shuts creatives out from using them. That is the reason for the other feature of MyCreativeRights: subsidised legal services. The app is both an intermediate stage and a portal to more comprehensive legal services. 

Tackling imbalance of power

Seeking legal advice early on in negotiations can save a lot of stress and trouble later on in the process. MyCreativeRights encourages creatives to sign up for a free account for their first project and gain access to legal advisors with extensive copyright and creative industries knowledge.

Irvine explains, “MyCreativeRights gives the creator access to both free 15-minute consultations with a legal advisor along with access to longer legal consultations, both of which are heavily subsidised by Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage for a limited time. 

"We think it’s a great tool to even the playing field in cases where there is an imbalance of power."

“In the arts,” adds Hickman, “agreements are often informal handshakes, which can lead to problems and confusion. Artists often feel unsure of their rights. They may not feel confident asking questions or negotiating conditions in case they are seen as ‘difficult’ or ‘ungrateful.’ 

"This is especially challenging when many professional institutions and arts organisations have access to legal expertise and resources that artists don’t.

“Understanding their rights regarding copyright, reproduction, and image licensing,” says Hickman, “helps artists stay in control of how they want their artworks shared with the world. 

"From a moral rights position, this includes correct naming and attribution of works in publicity materials, for example, and the potential financial and commercial benefits from legal rights protection. 

"Ensuring that artists have access to advocacy and information without costly barriers and having a working understanding of copyright, contracts, insurance, and tax requirements helps keep artists and their works safe and creates a vibrant creative community.”

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Sam Irvine. Photo: Supplied.

It’s more than just protection from risks, says Irvine:

“It’s not just risks, I think on the flipside they should be aware of more opportunities – so MyCreativeRights will give them the tools (agreements/contracts/legal advice) to be able to make commercial returns from their work and therefore improve the sustainability of the whole sector. 

"This is more important than ever now.”

Refreshingly, MyCreativeRights can also accommodate Māori artistic practices where indigenous intellectual property might be held collectively by an iwi, or work produced through a collaborative process. This also opens up possibilities for other creative collectives.

“The MyCreativeRights Catalogue platform,” says Hickman, “has the option to record collaborative projects and contributors to artwork, e.g. contractors, fabricators, and curators, who may or may not have copyright or licensing rights. In Catalogue, you can register as an organisation or an individual, allowing flexibility for iwi and hapu groups, artist collectives, galleries and others.

“Artists can upload and track production details, exhibition history, contracts and sales records of artworks and projects with Catalogue. This ensures you have a record of your artworks’ provenance and details all in one place. 

"In recent years, organisations such as Artmakers Aotearoa, Artists For Equity and many individual creatives have been advocating for increasing knowledge and rights for artists. 

"MyCreativeRights is a tool to support arts advocacy and with the recent successes of CLNZ’s Auction House Licencing Scheme and the upcoming Artist Resale Royalties Bill coming into law later this year, it is a strong moment to build momentum advocating for artists and creative professionals.”