PR Training

What Every PR Professional Must Know About Copyright Compliance in the Digital World

The rules have definitely changed. Digital content is easy to share, but even the most well-intentioned sharing of press clips may violate copyright law. Steve Shannon, executive vice president of BurrellesLuce discussed how to best share media clips social media, online news and video. Publishers are nervous right now. Monetizing content has risen to the forefront. Publishers realize PR professionals want to comply with the law, but do not want sharing of media relations results to interfere with their livelihoods.

Key take-aways from this session:

  • Copyright protections first put into place in Britain in 1710.
  • Business always outpaces the law. There is very little case law regarding social media and online works, but there are several settlements and informal agreements in place.
  • Information yearns to be free, but it still costs money to produce content.
  • Content producers permit news monitoring, but want to be assured the value of their property is acknowledged and protected. Publishers like link love.
  • Use monitoring/clipping suppliers who have secured permissions to distribute content.
  • Know how to share and measure media relations results without violating copyright.
  • Violators will be subject to penalties.
    1. SIIA (Software and Information Industry Association) has launched campaign to educate PR professionals and induce proper use of news clips.
    2. SIIA settled first case August 16, 2007: $300,000 “content piracy” settlement.
    3. SIIA Op-Ed in PR Week

  • Current Legislation:
    1. Fair Use Act
    2. Digital Millennium Copyright Act: prevents transmission of whole works.
    3. The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act (the PRO IP Act): was passed last week and signed by the President. It greatly increases the coordination between government agencies, and creates an IP Czar with Cabinet status to oversee the IP enforcement effort, both domestically and internationally.
  • Upcoming Legislation:
      1. The Orphan Works Reform Act: will be introduced in the 111th Congress if it doesn’t pass in a lame-duck session that the leadership may convene after the election. The bill, if enacted, will allow historians, museums, educational institutions, and some other users to use copyrighted works the owners of which cannot be located.
      2. Legislation may be introduced that will officially sanction the activities of broadcast monitors, who electronically copy over-the-air and online news broadcasts, and then send news summaries and sample new stories to their clients, many of whom are PR professionals. Currently, the broadcast monitors operate under an informal 1991 agreement between broadcasters and the monitors that permits the monitors to track these news broadcasts without paying royalties and without negotiating individual licenses from broadcasters.
      3. The outgoing chair of the House IP Subcommittee, Howard Berman of California, introduced legislation (the Performance Rights Act) that would require radio stations and television stations, among others, to pay a royalty to performers and record companies for the public performance of their sound recordings. Under current law, only the songwriters get paid for these broadcasts of music over-the-air. The new copyright fee, if enacted, would cost the broadcasters hundreds of millions of dollars, and affect their advertising rates.

For coverage on the PRSA 2008 International Conference: The Point of Connection, visit

About the author

Lauren Vargas

Leave a Comment