The internet provides us with a deluge of both useful and irrelevant content. “Shared content” platforms are becoming increasingly popular worldwide. They help us collaborate, distribute and find relevant information. Copyright laws, however, inevitably spin a web around content sharing. In Australia, like many jurisdictions in the world, copyrighted material is subject to automatic protection and a series of exclusive rights. Below, we define and comment on the standard terms used on content share platforms.

Shared Content and Intellectual Property

Share content platform includes Facebook, Tumblr, Snapchat and HitRECord (one of the more progressive share content mediums). When posting content on these platforms, you are granting these companies licence to use your Intellectual Property (IP). It is a common theme amongst the platforms that you give the company a “worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sub-licensable and transferable license”.  But what does this mouthful mean?

Non-exclusive licence 

This means that several people can use your content at the one time. Importantly, this type of licence still allows you to use your IP, and you remain the owner. Usually, in this situation, the people that use your work will need to attribute your work to you. Comparatively, exclusive licences give the licensee the right to use the content to the exclusion of others.  

Worldwide Licence

Global licensing offers the company use of your content anywhere in the world which means that there are no geographical restrictions on the use. The alternative is that when you licence your IP to another, you may place restrictions, such as geographical limitation, on the licensee.

Sub-licensable 

The company can then licence your rights to others.  

Royalty-free

The practical effect of this phrase is that you will not be able to claim any money for your content no matter how valuable your content may be. Generally, when you licence your content to another, you will receive “royalties” (i.e. money) from your content. Typically, these royalties are expressed as a percentage of the product’s sale price.  

Transferable

If the company merges or is acquired by another corporation, the IP licence is transferred to the new corporation.   

All Together Now

Let’s now put all these words together. In posting on a platform that facilitates a “worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sub-licensable and transferable licence”, you will own the IP in your content, at least technically. Of note, you generally cannot receive money, and your content can be licenced and transferred to others. But you do still own the copyright material.

Other Things to Note

Although a content sharing licence might seem dim and almost pointless, it’s important to emphasise there are benefits in sharing your content. In sharing your content, your work can reach wider audiences, for free. Further, it can encourage creativity, increase quality and the usefulness of your content. Accordingly, this rings true to “two minds are better than one”. Content sharing licences also, usually, include terms such that the user needs to attribute the work to you if using your work.  

Interestingly, some content sharing platforms “monetise” your work (i.e. use your work for monetary gain). By way of example, HitRECord is a production company website that gathers and collates the work of creatives. It then mashes, remixes, adapts and changes the work to create an impressive work that may make money. In posting on HitRECord, a user is bound by the Terms of Service and grants the company a non-exclusive and royalty-free licence to content. When and if HitRECord eventually makes money from your work, the company seeks to share a portion of the profits to you.

Key Takeaways

Content sharing is prevalent among us. To effectively share content, the website needs to incorporate share content licences.  As a user, you should be mindful of what you post and always read and understand the terms of use as it might not be your best option for your wallet. Companies can learn from this and incorporate licence clauses, as it will be an effective way to share and adapt content.  

If you have any questions about how to protect your content, get in touch with our IP lawyers on 1300 544 755. 

Esther Mistarz

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