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Screenshot-ing your way to copyright infringement

Which app will infringe copyright law next?

Few things in life are able to keep up with the pace at which technology evolves. This becomes clear whenever the latest flavour of the month app clashes with existing laws and legislation. While the former is able to be altered, deleted and re-released almost at will, there's no quick solution for altering decades-old legislation. 

This is particularly true when it comes to copyright law in Australia. It's a conflict we've seen before: a seemingly innocuous act associated with new technology trips over some part of the law that is yet to evolve. What's in the firing line this time?

Who owns a screenshot?

The latest copyright controversy concerns the popular image and video sharing app Snapchat. The premise of the program is simple, users have limited time to view the media shared by their friends or the many famous people who have jumped onboard. 

However, people are able to screenshot these images, creating a digital replica they're then free to share and keep as they see fit. It seems like a fairly innocent practice, especially as this capability is standard on all modern smartphones and tablets.

As it turns out, according to a Huffington Post interview with Dr Isabella Alexander from the University of Technology, Sydney, this isn't the case. 

"The image owner would be able to sue anyone who does this for copyright infringement," she explained. 

The discovery is yet another timely reminder to ensure any new technology practices are compliant with current intellectual property laws

The internet continues to challenge intellectual property laws

Over time, the world wide web has become a melting pot of questionable content use, creating something of a nightmare for copyright lawyers. One of the more ridiculous cases in recent years, however, concerned the creation of online music mash ups. 

According to The Telegraph, a case in the UK saw a new exception added to the list of works that don't infringe copyright. The media outlet reported that mashups were acceptable under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998, only in cases where they are funny. The amendment leaves the decision on how funny a creation is to judges. 

There's a similar act in place in Australia. The information sheet entitled Mashups, Memes, Remixes & Copyright notes there are fair dealing laws concerning creations that fall under the banner of parody or satire. 

To find out more about the more interesting aspects of copyright law, contact the team at Alder IP.