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Seven Copyright Myths Exploded

Oh dear. Before I even start I feel the need to warn you that this is going to be really dull. In fact, to be on the safe side, and bearing in mind Health and Safety, I’d better state here and now that this blog may cause drowsiness – so please do not read it whilst driving or operating machinery.

I didn’t even want to write it really; researching legal guff really isn’t my thing at all. So, why did I? Well, I did it because I’m constantly astonished at the number of professional trainers who are, presumably unwittingly, regularly breaching copyright law. Given the penalties that exist for copyright infringement, I felt that this stuff, boring though it is, is important.

So, I filled myself with caffeine, did some research and set out to clear up seven common copyright myths. Here they are:

Myth 1:
It’s OK to use images downloaded from Google Images in my PowerPoint and handouts.

False. Google Images is merely a search engine that searches websites for images. Google does not own the rights to any of the images displayed and cannot therefore give those browsing and finding the images a licence to use them. Ownership of the images found in Google Images remain with the websites they were found on, or the original creator of those images.

Using an image found on Google Images in PowerPoint is therefore a clear breach of copyright unless you have the image owner’s permission to use it. We created Trainers’ Images to help trainers avoid this trap.

Myth 2:
It’s OK to show film clips or television clips in training events.

False. That is, not unless you have a licence from the owner to show it. But there is good news here. Two organisations provide licences that cover a number of works:

The Motion Picture Licensing Company Ltd (MPLC) ( 
This organisation offers the MPLC Umbrella Licence® which grants permission from over 400 major Hollywood studios and independent producers under one blanket agreement.

Filmbank Distributors Ltd (Filmbank) ( 
This organisation offers a more limited public video screening licence (PVSL) agreement for a lower number of producers. There are also licences for specific businesses, such as hotels, ferry companies and events organisers.

Myth 3:
It’s OK to play music in my training sessions.

False, unless there’s a PRS licence in place. With the advent of accelerated learning, suddenly everyone began playing music during their training events. But you cannot play commercial music publicly, even in an office with just a couple of employees, without a PRS licence. The good news for trainers is that if you are running a training event in a venue that already has a PRS licence, for example, a hotel, you should be covered by that licence. But always check with the venue that they hold a PRS licence. For more information, go to

Myth 4:
If it doesn’t have a copyright symbol it’s not copyrighted.

False. The Berne copyright convention means that in general copyright exists on every original piece of work whether or not the copyright symbol is present.

Myth 5:
Everything on the Internet is in the public domain and free to use.

False. There is a common misconception about what public domain means in copyright law. A work will fall into the public domain only when copyright expires, which is normally many years after an author’s death. Being accessible to the public is not the same as being in the public domain.

Myth 6:
It’s not a breach of copyright if I change a decent percentage of the words or adapt it?

False. Sadly, it’s not as simple as that. In terms of ‘fair use’, the term usually applied to quoting from another’s piece of work, there is no magic formula as to the amount you can ‘quote’. As a general rule if by copying you could reduce the commercial value of the original work (by for example, reducing sales of that work) there will be a breach of copyright. If you adapt someone else’s work, this is called a ‘derived’ work. The author will have a claim on any money you make from the derived work.

Myth 7:
It’s difficult to bring a case against copyright theft.

False.  Again, this isn’t the case. Action following copyright theft is usually taken in the civil courts. Whilst in criminal law, the accused is innocent until proven guilty, in civil law it is only necessary to prove that it is likely, based on the balance of probability, that the defendant is guilty.

So, here’s some good news to cheer you up again. Glasstap’s materials, found in Trainers’ Library and Trainers’ Images are developed and owned exclusively by Glasstap (except the articles which are included with the author's permission). If you have a Library+ Glasstap licence you can use any materials in Trainers' Library with no risk of copyright infringement. And if you're a Gold customer, you've got access to all of our images too which, again, you can use without risk. Now, don’t you feel better?

Finally, to suitably adorn my posterior (cover my backside) I’d better point out that I am not a solicitor, have no legal training and that before acting on any information in this blog, you should seek professional advice. I will not be held liable for any losses etc. etc.

November 8 2012Rod Webb

Rod Webb

Hi David,

I have to admit, I didn't know about the Advanced Search function in Google images. And yes, you appear to be right - you can filter those that are free for commercial use. A very useful tool.

I'm afraid I have no influence over the BILD, but it's something we can consider for our members. Great idea - I'll look into it.
November 18 2013 Rod Webb
Great article Rod and very helpful.

A question about using Google Images - My understanding is you can use the advanced search function to specify the rights of the picture and can select images that have free use under creative commons ( Is this your understanding?

Also, a number of organisations have set up standard umbrella agreements with MPLC and PRS. This would be a great thing for The BILD to consider doing on behalf of members.

November 18 2013 Previous Member

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