Copyright and Copywriting Singapore

Understanding copyright and copywriting Singapore: ownership over written material is fairly simple. While this insight is in no way a substitute or alternative for proper legal guidance and should not be treated in any way as legal information, it serves as a quick primer on how copyright law functions.

The Copyright Act of 1976 came into effect on 1 January 1978 and was subsequently followed by several amendments. The Berne Convention, to which several countries are signatories to including Singapore, fosters the standardization and uniformity of copyright law across member states. While the convention is responsible for such standardization worldwide, countries themselves have their own copyright laws that at times supersede the laws prescribed in the Berne Convention. Essentially, any piece of text, copy, story, database, or script that is created after 1 January 1978 is automatically covered by copyright laws as long as it exists in some tangible form such as print media or electronic storage. A piece can exist solely on a website but it is still protected by copyright law. An email sitting on a server is also protected by copyright law but an impromptu public talk that is broadcast without being recorded is not covered.

The author of a piece of work (copywriting or otherwise) is the owner of the copyright unless the author gives up that right to another entity. Copyrights can be transferred and willed to another entity, in which case the copyrights to the piece of work may be owned by someone other than the author or authors. The standard duration of a copyright lasts for the length of the author’s life plus seventy years. For two or more authors, the duration is the lifespan of the last surviving author plus seventy years. Other copyright durations can be eighty years, ninety years, and one hundred and twenty years, depending on the type of work. After the copyright has lapsed, and if there are no transfer or ownership issues, the work usually becomes public domain, as is the case with the works of William Shakespeare. However, if a writer adapts a play written by Shakespeare, then the copyrights to that adapted work belong to the writer and are not public domain automatically.

A piece of work that is copyrighted bears the symbol: © which affirms the copyright. To type this symbol on a Macintosh, press Option and G together. To type this symbol on a Windows Computer type these three characters: ( C ) Microsoft Word will establish a copyright symbol. Alternatively, hold down Alt and type 0169. In most cases there are no prerequisites to register works with the copyright office, but it is always advisable to talk with the Intellectual Property Office in Singapore and to a copyright lawyer. When a client, in Singapore for example, hires an agency from another country to do its copywriting, copyright issues should be addressed at the outset. Ownership of the copyright must be established and agreed upon before hand. Cases where works are made for hire are treated differently from cases involving individual and joint authors. Under the ‘works made for hire’ system the law regards the employer as the owner of the copyright and as the author, even if somebody else is actually doing the writing. A copywriter writing a tagline for an advertising agency in Singapore is not the owner of the copyrights to the tagline. The advertising agency owns the rights, unless a separate agreement exists that details terms different to standard copyright law.

Similarly, if a client hires a copywriting agency to do its copy, both the client and the copywriting agency must agree on the terms of copyright at the outset of the project. Hiring a freelance copywriter poses the same issues. A freelance copywriter may be covered under the individual or joint author system and would therefore technically own the copyrights to the work unless the freelance copywriter proactively declares the work as being made for hire. Unfortunately many clients in Singapore and across the world face copyright disputes owing to vague or undefined clauses on copyright ownership. Quantico Copywriting has extensive knowledge of copyright issues and works in an ethical manner to educate and protect clients from copyright disputes. Copy produced for any purpose is a proper asset and should be guarded by the client and the copywriters. Or, to put it another way; solid copywriting must always be protected by solid copyrighting.


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