Legal PR blog

Can I share our PR content? Four things to consider in copyright

Sharing your PR coverage around the company? Not so fast says Elina Miezite. You may need to get a license before you do…

One of the nicest things about achieving PR coverage for your business is sharing it with your colleagues, management, shareholders and customers. However, content sharing often puts businesses at risk of being exposed to penalties.

In April 2013 we reported on the fines imposed on one public body which fell foul of licensing rules. Why? Simply because any business needs a license to share content that isn’t published by the business itself. Elina outlines four things to consider in copyright

1) So what do you need to know?What do I need a copyright license for?

A copyright license will permit you to make copies of various published materials and share these with a specified number of individuals in your business in compliance with the law. Depending on what media channel your business is targeting, there are a variety of license providers, including the following organisations:

  • Newspaper Licensing Agency
  • Copyright Licensing Agency
  • Motion Picture Licensing Corporation

You can also pay individual licences with specific publishers. The government’s licencing portal has more information.

However, regardless of where on the news your commentary appears, anything from taking photos, scanning pages to recording audio or video content and then sharing with others without an appropriate license, can put you at risk of breaching copyright laws.

2. I gave a BBC News interview on behalf of my business; will I breach the licensing rights if I copy the video and share it with my team?

There are of course social media sharing buttons which allow you to do this, but in the absence of this facility – perhaps if a piece of 3rd party recording software  is used to download and store the content, you may be in breach if you don’t have an appropriate license. It’s important to understand that even though content is often generated by external PR advisors or a business’ own communication department by way of a press release, the publisher is the one who holds the rights to the material.

3. Which licence do I need in order to make copies of just our local media coverage to share?

The good thing is that a small business doesn’t have to pay the same licensing fee as a nationwide organisation. Firstly, because a smaller business may be looking for exposure within local or regional media, a single license can be granted directly from those publishers.

However it’s more than likely you’ll be looking for a licence that covers multiple titles. For example, an NLA license allows copies to be made of articles published in newspapers or magazines either in print or online, while a CLA license may be more suitable if you wish to re-use content from books, journals and electronic or online publications. The problem is that there are many overlapping areas covered by the different agencies as this graphic demonstrates:

Copyright and Newspaper licency Agencies - clear as mud?
Copyright and Newspaper licency Agencies – clear as mud?

If you plan to appear on TV, regardless of whether it’s regional or national, the Motion Picture Licensing Company will allow you to copy and share content from movies, TV programmes, or any entertainment video, without violating the Copyright Act.

What this all proves is you may in fact need more than one license, so to find out more about different licensing bodies, visit the government’s website here.

4. Will I need to pay for a license if I work with a PR agency which distributes cuttings?

The chances are you will, but the amount could  vary from an agency to agency. Because of the nature of the work PR agencies do, you will struggle to find one that doesn’t hold a license already. For a PR agency to share their work, which is often press coverage, externally to clients, a media consultancy license is necessary. PR agencies usually employ external media cuttings services for collating coverage which in return makes it easy to deliver it to the client. However, you have to remember, that if you choose to further duplicate and share the received coverage yourself, you will most likely need to purchase your own license.

Other questions?

It’s likely you’ll have some unanswered questions and this article is intended only as a very rough guide. For up to date advice, please contact the relevant licensing bodies directly.


Post by: Ralph Savage / Website:
A business journalist by trade, Ralph Savage represents a series of B2B clients on media and marketing matters. He provides strategic PR advice, media training and consultancy. He also ghost writes regularly on behalf of FTSE 250 CEOs, leading counsel and senior professionals including solicitors, accountants and brokers.