Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Copyright, attribution and assignment.

In recent days I have faced claims of plagiarism to which I have responded in prior posts. In these I have noted how I created documents, sometimes in a group with others and at times with clients.

It has been stated that this is an admission that will lead to liability.

The statement is that I have no rights to use these works as I was only an employee and would contractually have been bound to assign my rights. This is not the case and one where those involved clearly are talking and commenting based on assumptions.

The fact of the matter is that I was not an employee of the company, I was the founder and primary shareholder with over 75% of the shares in the company at the time.

More than this, I was informed enough to have ensured that I maintained all copyright. That is personally. My employees did not like this, but the works they created are covered in this manner. I have to attribute them for those works they created, but they do not maintain copyright in itself. They maintain author’s rights.

Copyright and plagiarism are not the same thing.

They can be related, but the theft of an idea does not always mean the theft of copy. To be theft, it also needs to be intentional. That is the intention to use without authority. This is the legal definition of intent and not that in common parlance.

I have more to follow on thins topic in coming days, but as with all things, I also need to ensure I complete my paid work.

What I did have in all contracts was a “right to use”. That is, those companies who received the works I issued could freely use and distribute those works. This is not an assignment of copyright.

I was always careful to maintain and not assign the rights to those works completely at any stage. The confusion in this I think stems from  the distinction in ownership of rights. When I owned DeMorgan, contracted to the ASX, News Ltd, IBM, CSC and others, we never assigned copyright. I doubt the lawyers in these places would allow me to get away with this now, but those were the early days of the net and few used lawyers to create contracts for small jobs.

More to add and over the coming weekend I will look at posting copies of old contracts. I am amazed how others have to assume that one is an employee and was not an owner of a company. That is not a difficult fact to check.


Anonymous said...

Actually it *is* hard. Less that verifying a company was owned by you, more that you do not make it clear which works were done for your own company, vs a client, vs a company you worked for. Without exact works, dates, and contracts, there is no reasonable way to verify any of that. If you and your company wrote a policy for a client, and they paid you for this work, it becomes theirs. In such a case, you would need to properly cite the original work, or publish only after obtaining permission from the client depending on the circumstances.

The comment made to your publisher, that was shared with you, was that all of this *may* lead to liability, not that it *will*. Please be careful in your rebuttal to the SecurityErrata piece. We do our best to ensure we don't put words in your mouth, and only make assumptions based on all available public evidence. We'd ask that you don't make public comments based on our private communication unless you quote us directly, or publish the mail. Changing the wording from 'may' to 'will' (essentially) changes the meaning of what we said, and is deceptive to your readers.


- Jericho

Dr Craig S Wright GSE said...

"If you and your company wrote a policy for a client, and they paid you for this work, it becomes theirs."

Actually, that is not correct. It ONLY becomes the properety of the other company IF there is an express assignment of the rigfhts in the contract.

They would have a right to use the policy, but this is not a transfer of copyright of the said document.

If an employee does this for the company, it is the property of the company (there are differences in employment contracts).

Generally speaking, repports and documentsa written for a company are not transfered unless it is expressly stated in the contracts.