In 2003, a Baltimore jury forced financial services firm Legg Mason to pay $20 million in a copyright lawsuit brought by Lowry’s Reports. The offense? Legg Mason had bought a single copy of a Lowry market report and distributed it to as many as 1,300 stockbrokers and clients.
Eight years earlier, Texaco paid a seven-figure settlement to six publishers in a case centering on whether it is “fair use” for a researcher to copy journal articles without getting permission from their publishers.
Four years before that, Kinko’s shelled out nearly $2 million to settle a suit brought by eight publishers who alleged that university “course packs” infringed on their copyrights.
“In each one of these cases, the systemic cause of the crime was being ignorant of copyright laws. The accused were probably unaware of copyright complexities and enforcement possibilities, which extend to the unauthorized copying and distribution of published material,” says Peter Derycz, chief executive officer of Reprints Desk, a new Santa Monica, Calif. firm offering a business software that simplifies how research-focused companies procure, manage and share content in a copyright-compliant manner.
In 1978, an organization called the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), based in Danvers, Mass., was formed to ensure that published information—from scholarly medical research articles to blogs, newspapers, and ebooks—could be shared legally while the rights of content owners were respected. Today, the company’s copyright licenses enable academic institutions and corporations to ensure that they are using published materials legally.
“If the folks at Legg Mason, Texaco, and Kinko’s had the chance to go back in time, I’m fairly certain they’d have taken the time to better understand copyright, educate employees, and deploy rights management solutions,” Derycz says.
Reprints Desk is serving as an authorized sales representative for Rightsphere, a tool developed by the CCC allows a company’s employees instant electronic access to content rights and re-use data from CCC, publishers, and other sources.
Derycz says the copyright field has come a long way. “In the pre-Internet era, it was challenging enough for a company just to quickly locate scientific literature and other mission critical information that wasn’t available through any subscriptions. Once those articles were finally found, the last thought on the employees’ minds was whether there was a copyright conflict when they were distributed, ” he says.
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