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Copyright Infringement

Museums, striving to reach a broader audience, may distribute various types of publications such as marketing materials, educational documents, and web pages that incorporate items protected by copyright. Such copyright infringements can result in substantial losses for your organization, so precautions must be taken prior to the undertaking of these projects to ensure that all material is used legally. Protocols should be established to ensure that these documents are adequately vetted prior to their release.

Here are some basic questions that affect the liability of your organization in such circumstances and that need to be answered if you are going to pursue the use of protected material:

  • Who owns the rights to the material? Is the material protected by an active copyright or is it public domain? Does it fall under one of the exceptions provided for under the Copyright Act?
  • Does the portion or excerpt of the protected material to be used qualify as substantial under the legal definition?
  • What is the format or type of product in which the protected work is to be incorporated?
  • What is the purpose of the material in which the work is reproduced?
  • What is the approximate commercial value of incorporating the protected material?
  • What is the size of distribution?

In order to mitigate these potentially substantial and reputation-damaging losses, standard clearance procedures must be implemented at appropriate times during the development of such material. The following points serve as a basic starting point and should not be considered exhaustive.

  • Maintaining a catalogue of intellectual property in the collection
  • Legal ownership of the rights to the content is identified
  • Identifying the rights required for the planned dissemination
  • Timelines of starting the clearance process (this can be a lengthy process, so lead time is necessary before dissemination)
  • Agreement to use and disseminate formalized as a legal contract

In order to mitigate these potentially substantial and reputation-damaging losses, standard clearance procedures must be implemented at appropriate times during the development of such material. The following points serve as a basic starting point and should not be considered exhaustive.

The consequences of infringing on a copyright can include the loss of any profits derived from the work, an injunction order preventing use of the work, criminal proceedings and potentially devastating damage your museum’s reputation.

Contact Ecclesiastical Insurance Office and consider obtaining legal advice for more specific information.

This advice or information is provided in good faith and is based upon our understanding of current law and practice. Neither Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc nor its subsidiaries accepts any liability whatsoever for any errors or omissions which may result in injury, loss or damage, including consequential or financial loss. It is the responsibility of the Insured or any other person to ensure that they comply with their statutory obligations and any interpretation or implementation of the above is at the sole discretion of the Insured or other party who may read these notes.


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