Time to talk about something that might end up being the bane of our existence for when we use other peoples content, Intellectual Property law. I'm not a lawyer, as much as I might want to be, but I know enough to be able to work out that his is a big headache. Hopefully this will explain stuff.
What is copyright
Basically, copyright gives a creator (that could be you) a monopoly on a creative item, like a story, song, movie, or game. Copyright is pretty specific in what it covers - it covers a specific application of an idea, but not the idea itself. If you want to write a story about an orphan who goes to a magical boarding school, then there isn't thing one JK Rowling can do about it - as long as you don't copy the Harry Potter stories too closely.
Given that Wikia is US based, and thats where we're sticking everything, its worth mentioning that there's all sorts of "Fair use" stuff that allows you to use copyrighted material in certain circumstances, but for the most part if its your copyright, you're in control, people can't use it without your permission.
So whats this "Public Domain" thingie?"
Public Domain is basically everything that isn't copyrighted anymore. For the most part, things have to be really old to be "Public Domain", although a copyright owner can choose to release their work into the public domain.
You can use anything in the Public Domain however you like. A good example of this is the "Keep Calm and Carry On" meme that recently took the UK by storm. This was based on an old poster intended to be posted as a morale booster during one of the world wars. It was originally designed in 1939, and copyright expired on it 50 years later, putting it in the public domain. Now anyone can recreate the design, or adapt it, transform it, build upon it, and can even charge for it (although the changes that people make to it would be copyrighted). Part of the reason why this meme was able to take off was its public domain status.
For items that we can confirm 100% are in the public domain, we're free to use these as much as we like, however we like.
So what is in the public domain
That is the question. It depends on what it is. From what I've been able to work out, the rules on USA Copyright are typically this:
- Just about everything created before 1923 is now public domain.
- For something created before 1978 but after 1923, if you registered the item with the copyright office, you get 28 years of protection. In year 28, you could register it again for another 28 years but this reregistration was extended to 95 years. If the item was created after 1964, this reregistration became automatic. Checking for this reregistration is fairly simple for items created after 1950, so between 1950 and 1964 is a sweet spot we can check for public domain status on.
- Anything after 1978 is life plus 70 years for people, or for corporations 120 years from creation or 95 years from publication (whichever comes first). So we'll almost always need a license for that.
There are some exceptions... One big one for us seems to be that items created by US Government Employees as a part of their work aren't subject to copyright. It seems this may cover US military bands performances
Great, so we can use old radio shows from the 50's if they aren't registered?
Sadly, it seems this is wrong.
The Public Domain Sherpa indicates that US federal copyrights didn't cover sound recordings until 1972. Sadly, this doesnt seem to make an open season. There are still a whole raft of state and old common law protections on these. These were supposed to expire in 2047, but thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Sonny Bono, its not going to hit until 2067. I don't know about you guys but I'll be in by 80's then. I can only hope we're around in some form or another then as it's going to be a massive party.
So in short, if you see a sound recording of an old radio show that says "Public Domain", its probably wrong, if the Sherpa is right.
- So, unless we can track down some rights owners and get their permission, we can pretty much forget about using old shows. If we create some great quality original content, I think we'll have an easier time convicing them we're worth taking seriously.
As I talked about once before on Nukapedia, Using Music is expensive. Music is covered by two copyrights, the composer's right, and the performers right.
- If you want to play, say Maybe by the Inskpots, you'd need the permission of whoever owns the composer right, and whoever owns the performance right
- If you want to play Maybe, but have it done by your friends band instead, you just need the composer's right, presuming your friends band (as the performer) is happy with you playing it.
- If you want to play a song written and performed by your friends band, then you just need your friends bands permission.
Of course, this presumes that the work still is in copyright... If you've got a song written before 1923 you don't need the composers' permission as its Public Domain... However you still need the perfomers' permission.
What does this mean for us. Good question. On one hand, using music is easy as the music companies have gotten together to create organisations that effectively do bulk licenses for composer and performer rights. We don't need to work out who owns the current Inskpots rights, we just need to deal with the collective societies.
The bad news is, I can't afford a license. Hopefully as and when we move into a streaming operation and have wikia's support this might be something the can do for us. Until then, for the test transmission podcasts, we're on our own.
There is however, a third option
Creative Commons Licenses
You might have heard of Creative Commons before, and if you read all of that legalese thats on the site and you were presented with when you signed up, you'd have heard of this term - The Wikis you contribute to all have Creative Commons licenses.
You'll remember before that I mentioned that people can put things into the Public Domain, well CC is sort of, kind of but not really a more organised way of doing that.
Creative Commons licenses allow people to reuse and share their work. Sometimes there will be limitations placed by the original creator as to if it can be used for commercial items, if derivatives can be made, or if they need to be credited. You can distribute their work, subject to that original license, as much as you like.
You'll Often see these as a code, such as CC-BY-SA which probably appears at the bottom of this page.
- The CC indicates that its a Creative Commons License
- BY means that if you're going to use or distribute the work, you have to credit or attribute the original its creators. So if you wanted to use this page somewhere else for example, you'd have to mention I wrote it.
- SA means Share Alike, which means anything you do with this work, must be done under the same or similar license.
CC-BY-SA is great if you can find pieces that use this, as we can use them without a problem - as long as we mention who did it, and make our work CC-BY-SA.
There are some other codes you might see in these, here's some to look out for as they may be trouble.
NC - Non Commercial. This one might be a problem. Although we're not intending to make money, this site does for someone. Before using this stuff, we should contact the copyright holder for permission to use.
ND - No Derivatives. This is also a potential problem. We can't edit or expand upon the work, we can only use it as originally presented. Not sure if this means we can include it in a compiled podcast or not. Either way, before use, its probably a good idea to get the copyright holders permission.
Okay, so you mentioned Trademarks in the title, whats that?
Trademarks are like brands, or product names. Theres restrictions on how they can use used, you can use them to identify someone elses product, but you can't name your own product with a similar mark without permission... So I can't go out and sell the JunkRadio iPhone... However if JunkRadio had an iPhone App, I could say that.
When it comes to Copyrights and Trademarks, we know Bethesda is tough on unauthorised usage as they did go after that Scrolls game... On the other hand Fallout: Lanius seems to be doing well (presumabliy with permission).
What I'm getting at is using overt Fallout Content could be a problem. I am hoping to get this sorted so we don't have to worry so we can use stuff from in game - perhaps a Captain Cosmos series, or "The New Adventures of Herbert Daring Dashwood" could be possible if we get an okay from them - but I'd like to have something with us that I can use to show that we're serious before looking at this.
So, in the meantime, General wasteland okay (but don't feel like you have to be married to the apocolypic theme, any golden era of radio pastiche is welcome), General 50's okay. Specific things that only appear in game (Ghouls as they are in Fallout as opposed to their more classical form, the Navarro Base, etc), should be avoided.
Look, I know that this is a lot to take in, so here's the TL:DR version:
- Unless its made before 1923, we probably can't use it without permission.
- Unless you know the people involved, getting permission is likely to be either tricky, or expensive, or both
- If its CC license with BY/SA, Brilliant, snag it and feel free to use it (And don't forget to attribute it).
- If its a CC license with either ND or NC, get the owners permission first.
- Once we can prove we're "Serious", we'll try and work with Bethesda, and other big content owners to try and use their stuff.