Copyright is a fundamental law for journalists because it protects journalists' 'intellectual properties' from being copied or stolen. It also protects any writers, movie directors, photographers or any creator of "a substantial piece of work". If you want to sell or publish your work, you basically have two options:
- when you sell an article, you are giving up your rights upon it. Therefore, you can sell it only once, as the rights upon the article belong to the company you sold it to. If you don't want to give up your rights, you can otherwise
- get a share- royalty on every sold copy of your work. This way, you do not get wage, but you can reuse your work and publish it in another paper/ magazine/ website etc.
if you're a freelance journalist, you can sell your rights for an agreed period of time and they are returned to you once it's over.
Journalists must be very careful when they want to be publish their work in a paper or a magazine: they have to read carefully the contract (mostly what's written in tiny characters at the bottom of it) and make sure they understand what it implies- I know this seems obvious, but I'm sure it happens regularly that people sell their work thinking they could reuse it, and then find out with anger that they actually can't.
The other risk for a journalist is to commit a breach of copyright - reusing somebody else's work without his/ her consent, quoting without giving the name of the author or giving the impression that you've written those words yourself when it's not the case are example of breaches of copyright. If you want to quote something in an article/ book/ interview, you are allowed to quote 30 consecutive words, not more.
Guardian News and Media has recently announced that they are planning to change their copyright policy for freelance photographers: GNM is planning to pay freelance photographers only once for unlimited reuse of images. So far, the company has paid photographers every time they reused their images. Following this, on the 1st September 2009, freelance photographers protested against the decision, unfortunately without any great result.
A few years ago, our lecturer Chris Horrie decided that because he was so great he had to copyright himself. Therefore he conducted an investigation to find out whether it was possible or not. The story is reported on the BBC website, here is the link: "How to copyright yourself"